Independent country singer and songwriter Ben Donovan talks about the debut album release in 2015:
“I grew up in Virginia, raised on country and bluegrass music. I also sang in church. Mom’s family reunions turned into all-afternoon picking sessions. Dad always had “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo” on in the house. I started the band when I was living up in Burlington, Vermont while going to college there. It started as a pick-up thing; we’d play country standards in bars on Saturday nights. It’s kind of an uphill battle, in those parts–country music, roots music, just isn’t part of the vernacular up there, so we needed to be the loudest, weirdest thing in town if we were gonna get anybody’s attention. So I went online and became a reverend for $18–now we weren’t just playing badass country music, we were saving your goddamn soul too.
We recorded the debut album Reverend Ben Donovan and the Congregation (released August 2015 by Future Fields) in the dead of winter in Burlington, in a studio above a bar and across from the divorce court. Tracked about 20 songs in two days. We’d make a couple passes at a song, step outside for a smoke, walk into the bar for a shot, then back up to the studio. Sing, smoke, drink, repeat. We didn’t sleep much. Figured the best way to do the songs justice was to record them the same way I’d lived ’em–fast, dirty, sincere, and with little regard for my own health.
The songs reflect the music of the honky-tonk heroes I grew up on–guys like Hank Williams, Buck Owens, Gram Parsons–but aren’t trapped under that tradition either. On this record, you’ll hear everything from old-fashioned juke-joint country to loud, badass rock and roll, to old-time gospel standards. Drinking songs. Traveling songs. Degenerate love ballads. There’s something for everybody. I hope y’all dig it.”
“As for San Juan Peaks”, specifically:
“San Juan Peaks is about a breakup I had a few years back, told through the story of a road trip we took across the country right before things went south. It’s a song about how two well-intentioned people can grow apart, and how sometimes the worst heartbreaks aren’t necessarily anybody’s fault–it’s just the way things go sometimes. You learn a lot about somebody when you spend a month or two living with them in a Honda Civic, and they learn a lot about you. Sometimes you learn a little too much.”