A few weeks ago, Australian indie rocker Ben Lee surprised the world by quietly tying the knot with actress Ione Skye in India. However, this was the first of a few new surprises from the musician, who releases The Rebirth of Venus next month. Here, Lee sounds off on specifics from his closed-doors wedding reception, the feminine mystique driving his new album and how Kylie Minogue changed his life.
Hi! How are you? Really good.
I hear you’re married now. Congratulations. Thank you so much. It’s a brave new world.
How was the wedding? It was an excellent experience. Super-intense and very provocative. It was a spiritually-charged atmosphere — amazing for the wedding. It was five hours south of Chennai, by a village. Since we go there three times a year for spiritual practice, it just felt right.
Do you think that the same principles that you and Ione practice is what also fuels your latest album? Yeah. Because you know, I look around the world and with everything going on: the environmental issues, foreign policy, the way we treat ourselves — it’s all a spiritual conundrum. For me, it’s a way we deal with recycling or the way we elect presidents. [The album] is a tribute to the feminine way of doing things in life. In this world, masculine traits are usually rewarded and feminine traits basically get punished. Like President Obama last year talking about how he went to go negotiate [overseas] – which wasn’t seen as a manly thing to do. You know, we need to have a different way to look at it.
Do you think making that distinction between traits is problematic? It’s just traditionally in psychology. They call it feminine and masculine archetypes. But [at the same time], they all go on inside all of us. So we all need to deal with that.
Generally, how long did it take to make this album? I put out another album a year ago. I had written some of these songs before that written.
Did it happen spur-of-the-moment or have you previously had the material? In a way, artistically, the album started around four or five years ago. But I started recording it last April.
Did the recording of Venus coincide with your engagement with Ione? Did those two milestones parallel each other? Yeah, I made the record a couple months after [the engagement]. It’s weird. I feel it’s a function of being young in the music industry. You’re always waiting for your big break, waiting for other people to tell you, ‘This single’s about to happen.’ And now I’m thinking, I want to get on with my life, if I have a hit, I have a hit. But I need to enjoy my life. I want to be a man. I don’t want to be a little boy waiting around for the music. In a way, the marriage and the engagement has also extended to my own independence.
In the past, you’ve collaborated with musicians like Ben Folds, Kylie Minogue and Jason Schwartzmann. Having had so much experience working with other artists, how have each of these creative processes contrasted with one another? For me, you’re constantly being challenged. If you’re a solo artist, the collaborations are really what inspire. Like next week, I’m about to go sing with Margaret Cho. I feel like in a way, I like to return to the attitude of the beginner. I want to learn. Collaborations really allow me to do that.
[With Kylie], I’ve never really worked with someone who really, quite proudly called themselves a pop artist, someone who didn’t have the pretenses of being a songwriter, but is a great singer and a great entertainer. What Kylie is is kind of like what Frank Sinatra is. She’s a classic, old-fashioned entertainer. It opened me up to parts of myself that I haven’t let myself experience – which is a love with old-fashioned entertainment. Like, you know, you gotta go on with the show. There’s something very appealing about the attitude for me that I never understood — until I met Kylie.