Episode 2: Brian Beken maps out some New Geography
It was probably 2011 when Brian Beken first came onto my radar: he was singing lead vocals and playing fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and more with MilkDrive, an internationally-touring, Austin-based band that was creating a totally exhilarating and unique brand of string band music. They quickly became one of my favorite bands, and I wound up recruiting all of Brian’s bandmates to play on my own debut album Helium Taxi. Brian dropped by to help engineer, and that was the first time I met him.
Several years later, I watched with great interest as he joined legendary Texas songwriter Robert Earl Keen’s band, first on fiddle and later on electric & acoustic guitar as well. Before Keen’s retirement from touring in 2022, though, the pandemic of 2020+ gave Brian the opportunity to dive into the process of making his first solo album, and it’s a thrilling contrast to everything he’s worked on to date. New Geography, released in May 2023, is a wildly eclectic album that shows multiple new sides of Brian’s expansive musical personality.
It’s a wonderful record, and I was so happy to have a chance to pick Brian’s brain about its fascinating creation. While there are co-writes on many of the songs with friends he’s made in all the phases of his 20+ year music career, he played every note and sang every word you’ll hear on it.