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Friday, February 23, 2018, 12:44 p.m.

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Songwriter Ben de la Cour takes his lumps in music biz

By Sean Clancy

This article was published February 8, 2018 at 1:41 a.m.

Jon Dee Graham

Opening act: Ben de la Cour

9 p.m. Friday, White Water Tavern, 2500 W. Seventh St., Little Rock

Admission: $10

(501) 375-8400

whitewatertavern.com

Something occurred to singer-songwriter Ben de la Cour before the recording of The High Cost of Living Strange, his forthcoming LP and the follow-up to 2016's H̶a̶v̶a̶n̶a̶ ̶M̶o̶o̶n̶ Midnight in Havana.

Maybe he needn't be so obsessive over every little sonic detail and just let his Americana-steeped songs stand on their own.

"Making an album can make me really crazy," he says. "I obsess over stuff for no reason and become completely absorbed and freak out."

Aiming to take himself and his nitpicking out of the equation, he and his band recorded almost entirely live in the studio, with minimal overdubs.

"We did the songs until we got a good take and then you have to be able to live with that," he says. "That's how all those cool Stax and Motown records were made. The recording doesn't have to be perfect, as long as the songs are written to the best of my ability. I can obsess over the songs and not the recording."

De la Cour, 32, will perform tracks from the new album as well as his previous records while opening for Texas singer-songwriter Jon Dee Graham on Friday at White Water Tavern in Little Rock.

Born in London and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., de la Cour was playing in metal and punk bands with his brother before dropping out of high school. Currently living in Nashville, Tenn., he spent 11 years in New Orleans and was an amateur boxer for about five years before concluding that a career in the ring might not have been the wisest choice.

"Funnily enough, music was my Plan B," he says with a laugh from Atlanta before leaving to play a few shows in England late last month. "My Plan A was to become a professional boxer and I'm very, very glad I didn't pursue that. I was nowhere near good enough."

Choosing to take his lumps in the music business, de la Cour released A Wasted Moon in 2010 and Ghost Light in 2011, followed by Havana Nights, all of which were steeped in what he calls American noir -- folk-laced roots-rock along the same lines as Townes Van Zandt and Warren Zevon and that has been compared to Leonard Cohen.

The High Cost of Living Strange, set for an April 6 release on the Nashville-based Flour Sack Cape label, is another collection of smoky, moody songs about hard times ("Company Town," "Face Down Penny"), thoughtful character studies ("Uncle Boudreaux Went to Texas") and the first single, the haunting, folky "Guy Clark's Fiddle."

While he records with a group, de la Cour's White Water set will be just him and his guitar.

"The band on this album and the last album, we've played together for years," he says, but as for touring, he prefers to go solo.

"I know it's a romantic fallacy, but when I was a kid and first heard Townes Van Zandt or even [Bob] Dylan, I could picture them walking down the highway with just a guitar. I don't feel like I miss a band. I like to be out there on my own, facing the unknown, with these stupid songs that I obsess over."

Weekend on 02/08/2018

*CORRECTION: The name of Ben de la Cour’s most recent album is Midnight in Havana. A story in Thursday’s Style section misnamed the album.

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