- What’s the story behind your album’s title? Everybody’s Laughing is based on a quote from Mark Twain, “the secret source of humor is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.” I took it to heart and it instantly made me think that everyone I’ve ever met is tethered together by laughter. We all have different senses of humor but we’re all laughing at something. We’re all suffering together. Reminds me to be empathetic.
- Where do you draw inspiration from when writing? There’s no one thing that I draw inspiration from. But my best songs seem to be based on real life experiences. That’s not the case for everyone or all my songs. But when I first started dating Noelle, I would try to write love songs. They were uninspired even though I was really in love. Five years later I wrote one of my best songs, "Real Love." Most honest song about love that I could conjure. All about Noelle and I. Half these songs seem to mention her name on this album. She always inspired me, I just had to find out how/why. Anything can be inspiring to write about if you take time with it and find your angle. - What’s the best advice you have ever gotten from another musician? 'Make it a classic' is one of my favorite things my friend and hero Don Duprie once told me. Sometimes I like to leave my mark on a song so much so that the listening experience gets obscured. It reminds me that a good song can be great if you use the right details, not ALL the details. He’s also said the 2nd verse is where you tell the story that the first verse and chorus allude to. I follow that now more than ever. He’s right about a lot. He was wrong about "Rock n’ Roll Song," though. He said 'people don’t want to hear about loading up the van or being in a band’. Objectively he might be right. But for me, a lot of people that come and see me play or buy my music are in a band or have played music before. Also, I used good markers in that song so it isn’t hard to put yourself in there as the main character. My buddy Nathan loves it and he’s the furthest thing from musical. Haha.
- What’s your favorite food on the road? This is a tough answer because I’ll never have tried nearly enough foods to be an authority. I LOVE eating. Mosey’s pizza in Panama City is probably the best pizza I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot. Deadhead drives in the middle of the night, the sight of the Golden golden arches of a McDonalds can be comforting after driving through the middle of nowhere, or coming out of a mountain tunnel or something.
- Do you have any touring tips? Refill your prescription for Ativan. Spare no expenses on vehicle maintenance. Keep everything organized so that load in and load out are painless and quick. Like a cowboy going town to town, taking their money and leaving. You don’t have time to be saddling up your horse on the way to the nearest Super 8. Eat as healthy as you can afford. Sleep where you can get it. Don’t be weird about naps. Take the time to talk to anyone that wants to talk to you, you’re not as busy as you think you are. These are just reminders I have for myself in my notepad.
- What’s your favorite venue and why? Any venue where the promoter likes me and wants to show me off to their friend(s). I’m doing a pretty niche thing and to have anyone who wants to be your music’s friend is incredibly lucky. To be 1000 miles away and have 4 people come to a show that give a fuck about your music? That’s absolutely magic, there’s nothing like it that I’ve found and I can’t believe I’ve been blessed enough to experience it. - Which song of yours gets the best crowd response? Depends on the response I’m going for. If I want to hit them in the heart, "Rock N’ Roll Song" made someone in a songwriters round cry once. Only time I’ve ever felt good about making someone cry. "Caroline" gets the best response when I’m in Toledo, or Ohio in general. If it’s a real listening crowd, almost all of my songs elicit both a laugh and a sigh.
- Have you met any of your heroes? If so, how did it go? I once met Michael Hurley as I was playing Nelsonville music festival. Tim, who runs the event, was showing him around. We were all watching someone play when a little baggie fell out of Michael’s pocket. It looked like weed, so Tim picked it up and said you dropped your weed. Michael snarled back “ITS TEA”. The guy that wrote the tea song! Loved that moment.
Toledo native Ben Stalets addresses the thorns in his side on upcoming record, Everybody’s Laughing (WhistlePig Records), both personal and worldly. Learning from from 60s and 70s musical influences such as John Prine, Leonard Cohen, Warren Zevon, Todd Snider, Willie Nelson, and even Prince.
His upcoming album features songs not only written with an overarching theme in mind, but when it came time for the album art concept, it was the “cult leader” vibe that gave him a sense of what the underlying vision is: Collective suffering allows us to collectively suffer less.