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Ben Around the World

At 21, songwriter Ben Kweller is young at art.

Perhaps it's just that Kweller is almost always being pulled in ten different directions. In addition to "touring [his] ass off," the youngster recorded an episode of Austin City Limits with Spoon this past December. Conveniently enough, it airs on KBDI/Channel 12 on February 6, the night before Kweller's Denver show. And after a brief winter sojourn in Argentina, Kweller spent a few days in a Nashville studio with Ben Folds and Ben Lee (Folds has leased the space for a year and plans to record two albums during that time). The trio wrote and recorded four songs together; one of those will be included on a tribute to Hedwig and the Angry Inch along with tracks by Wilco and Richard Ashcroft. When Kweller's domestic tour ends, he'll team up with Folds and Lee again for a nine-city Australian tour, appropriately called "The Bens." After that, he'll come back to New York to start working on his next album, for which he anticipates an autumn release. "I figure I should do an album a year," he says.

Anyone over the age of 25 probably gets winded just thinking about negotiating a schedule like that. One wonders if burnout isn't right around the corner for someone who's barely of legal drinking age but who was writing, recording and touring before completing his final growth spurts. When questioned about his workload in relation to his youth, the baby-faced singer laughs. "That's my life story: 'You're just a baby!'"

Keyed in: Ben Kweller gets benched.
Keyed in: Ben Kweller gets benched.
Keyed in: Ben Kweller gets benched.
Keyed in: Ben Kweller gets benched.

Perhaps it's his joie de vivre that surprises people so much. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were child stars, too, but they already look and act haggard, worn and phony. Whatever Kweller's secret is for retaining the freshness and wonder of youth, it's won him much critical acclaim and fans all over the world. He could bottle and sell it and become a millionaire -- or he could just keep putting it to music and help keep all of us young.

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