InsideOUT Cape Cod, March 23, 2012
– Ben Paterson in his Woods Hole home studio.
By ELISE HUGUS
It’s not too often that a small town is honored with a genre of its own. But Woods Hole is about to hear itself in musical form with the debut of Brother’s Rye.
Blending bluegrass, folk, outlaw country and rockabilly, frontman Benjamin Lee Paterson’s songs are quiet anthems for the year-round population; people who live hard and party harder, and don’t expect their lives are the stuff wistful country songs are made of.
Born in Wales to a folk singer mother and a Welsh carpenter father, Paterson says he was basically “raised under a bar stool.” Though exposed to folk at an early age, he became a musician almost by accident: while recovering from mono at age 13, he learned to play the guitar from a book his mother gave him; in his 20s, he picked up the keyboard while recovering from a snowboarding mishap.
After attending Montserrat College of Art for sculpture, Paterson stayed on the North Shore playing with various bands until he moved back to Woods Hole a few years ago. Anyone who went out in the summer of 2011 would have had to have been deaf if they didn’t hear his band, Silver Still Shines, playing a local venue.
But Paterson says he’s had enough of playing covers five shows a week just to pay the bills. With the help of The Ryes, featuring Topher Maffei on percussion, Josh Dayton on upright bass, and Randy Gummow on guitar, he’s recording a new album from his home studio. If the songs they’ve released so far are any indication, be prepared with a bottle of Knob Creek and your long-lost sweetheart on speed dial.
Paterson shared his thoughts on life and music over a Miller Highlife (or several) with InsideOUT before the show.
InsideOUT: What’s a typical Brother’s Rye show like?
Ben Paterson: It’s a mix of originals and some covers of the Dead, Tom Petty, Pokey LaFarge, The Band. It’s not just sad bastard country; I’m just trying to share the songs I love.
I do what I like. I’m not going to turn around and have a jam band because that’s what’s popular.
I/O: How is your musical style affected by place?
Ben Paterson: I consider myself from Woods Hole, and my music is inherently affected by that. Woods Hole has both sides: the good times, the steel drums and shellfish, but it also has that harsh, windy winter.
I/O: If I didn’t know you, I’d think you were from the south.
Ben Paterson: It’s south Falmouth. It is the south. (Laughs.)
I might not have a southern accent, but [country] is what I like listening to, it’s what I like writing.
I do have a twang when I sing. I was told by someone who’s signed by a major record label not to use it. But if I think about it, it’s too hard. It’s just what comes naturally.
I/O: But you definitely have a country element in your music. Where does that come from?
Ben Paterson: I’m drawn to country, by how open it is, how much imagery it includes. Country is from everywhere; it’s not just from one area. It originated in one place, and then it spread. Plus, there’s nothing cooler than writing a song about a freight train.
I/O: I hear you’re making a music video for ‘Start It Up Again.’ What’s the song about?
Ben Paterson: I wanted for a long time to write about my hometown, but keep it out of focus as possible so that not only people from Woods Hole are going to get it. It’s got the feel of a lot of people’s hometowns.
I/O: Is Cape Cod a good place to be a musician?
Ben Paterson: I’m in a good, supportive place right now to live and record. I don’t know if Cape Cod is the place… Part of me wants to grow old and be like Johnny Hoy; the other part of me wants to do what I do year-round.