Quite a few music venues in Nashville have a capacity bigger than the population of Glenarm, Northern Ireland, a seaside village about 30 miles north of Belfast. Nashville based songwriter and recording artist Ben Glover says growing up there was a good environment for a future performer.
“I grew up in a house that wasn’t necessarily musical,” Glover says. “But a big thing in Ireland is at family gatherings - Christmas, weddings, funerals even - you’re called on to do what they call a piece, which is a song or a poem. That creative expression that you do in front of people is a way that gets a connection.”
Glover wrote songs and played shows in his home region from his teenage years on and made exploratory trips to Nashville starting ten years ago. The first one went rather well. He did his first ever co-writing and met his wife to be. The web of relationships that started a decade ago had a profound impact his most recent album, his seventh, called Shorebound.
Admired East Nashville musician Neilson Hubbard is on the project as a co-writer and producer. They are long-time collaborators and co-founders of the indie folk band The Orphan Brigade. Glover also duets with with Music City standouts including Gretchen Peters, Amy Speace and Mary Gauthier.
“Mary and I met on one of my first or second trips to Nashville and we became good friends,” Glover says. “Mary somewhat took me under her wing. We toured a lot together.” And she helped introduce him around to the creative community he knows and works in today.
Their duet on Shorebound, the co-written “Catbird Seat,” is an especially dark number featuring an ill-fated prostitute. Glover says he and Gauthier wrote the tune mostly in the car while on tour in Ireland a few years ago. “I don’t recall the motivation for the song. I think we were just trying to tell a story and we were sensing that ominous times were coming, and we were tapping into that,” he said.
Another vital relationship has been with Peters, a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer who makes a rare exception in her no-cowriting lifestyle for Glover. They composed the title tracks of her two most recent albums. Blackbirds from three years ago was named the UK Americana Association song and album of the year. The latest, covered in a recent episode of WMOT’s The String, is Dancing With The Beast, one of four co-writes by the pair including that title track. Glover records his own version of the song on Shorebound.
But the show stopper here may be “Kindness,” a solo written, stripped bare song that Glover says crystalizes his testimony to the world as an artist.
“More than all, may this be true/
May you know kindness/May kindness know you.”
In the audio conversation above, the songwriter offers a detailed take on the complexities behind the sentiment. “It’s deeper than self love. And it’s deeper than self care,” he says. “And we have to show our enemies kindness. That doesn’t mean we back down from the fight. In fact the only way to fight the good fight is with kindness.”
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