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In Studio: Ben Kweller's Country Makeover

At 8 years old, most Americans were probably learning to ride a bike, or drawing cartoons, or collecting action figures. Ben Kweller was starting his career.

That's when the Texas native started to write his own songs. And at 13, he recorded his first album with his rock band, Radish.

"That's my high school garage band," Kweller says. "It's just [that] we got a record deal with Mercury Records, and I dropped out of school to go on tour around the world. So it's just a little different."

Now at the grizzled old age of 27, Kweller has a new album, Changing Horses. And compared with the rest of his catalog — which traverses punk and singer-songwriterly pop — the new record features a new sound, one inspired by the country music of his Texas upbringing.

Kweller says he's been working on Changing Horses slowly over several years. "I guess you could say that I'm pulling ideas back from my childhood of listening to country radio back in Greenville, Texas," he says. "It was always such a big influence on me ... I've hinted at country music before, on previous songs, but never fully took it down the road all the way."

He spoke with host Robert Smith about moving from New York City back to Texas — and the music the move inspired. In between questions, Kweller gave solo acoustic performances of his country songs.

Click the play button in the image above to watch Ben Kweller perform in NPR's Performance Studio 4A. Click the link at the top of the page to hear the full interview with Kweller, starting around 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 1.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.