The Raconteurs talk Nashville

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In the course of a 70-minute interview for Paste's July feature, the Raconteurs spoke on subjects ranging from tintype photography, Mike Wallace, words that end in -eur, and cleaning gutters. But as much as any other topic, they spoke about living and working in Nashville.

Paste: You guys ended last tour and started off this go-round in Nashville. What's it like living and making music here?

Brendan Benson: Our first record we made in Detroit in my attic. But Blackbird [studios], well it's pretty big time. Detroit is not an industry town.

Jack White: I just wanted to go down South. And I wanted the Southern feel and the access to things I need to do what I do for a living. I was always getting led back here.

Paste: Would you say Nashville is a distinctive Southern place?

Benson: Not to me.

“Little Jack” Lawrence: There's a Southern attitude with people. A friendliness.

Paste: Is it the music history of the South and Nashville?

White: I get asked that a lot. It's confusing. (Seems agitated by the question) We make the comparison, if you move to Seattle does it make you a grunge band? But at the same time, all the great music of the world has come from the South. It permeates everything.

Paste: You guys work pretty tirelessly, juggling other music projects, other groups. It makes me think of a Loretta Lynn quote: "For a singer, you've got to continue to grow or else you're just like last night's cornbread -- stale and dry."

Patrick Keeler: We work a ton. Like tomorrow's cornbread.

Benson: There's hardly any down time in my life.

White: Keeps things fresh. Everybody staying so busy.

Lawrence: That's a good thing. I would know what to do.

Benson: I'd find myself wandering the aisles at Target.

Keeler: I do home maintenance. And I'd get in over my head. Alright, I'll fix the gutters. Next thing I know, I am calling the gutter man.

Paste: Jack, you once described Detroit as "the abandonment and decline of a beautiful town." Nashville seems the opposite, a place of affluence and development. How's it different writing songs and creating music in a city of comfort?

White: Well, I can't go to shows anymore. I've had that taken from me. That used to be a lot of inspiration for me, and I can't do that anymore. That's hard. Right there, it doesn't matter how comfortable I am in my own life, I've had that taken away from me. I have to force myself to get inspired in other ways.

Benson: You can move to a different town, a better house, a more comfortable lifestyle. But you'll never not be able to relate or not be able to tell a story. I am pretty comfortable where I live, here in Nashville. But I grew up in the projects in Louisiana, and I spent a lot of time in Detroit. Like the Rilke book, Letters to a Young Poet, if you were locked in a cell with nothing but a window, you'd still have your memories.