When the pandemic arrived just a few months after Dave Benton released his last album as Trace Mountains, the singer-songwriter decided to turn the terrible timing into a creative opportunity.
“It was certainly disappointing to not be able to tour in support of Lost in the Country,” Benton tells Rolling Stone. “But at the same time I love just jumping immediately back into the process of making a record…I feel like I hit a groove with it so much [more easily] because I had no downtime or break from writing songs.”
Over the course of 2020, Benton dove deep into the writing process for House of Confusion, the upcoming third Trace Mountains album, out October 22nd on Lame-O Records. The record, as the former LVL-UP singer-guitarist describes it, is a more questioning, inward-looking collection of songs, compared to the rock & roll optimism of Lost in the Country.
“In hindsight, I really think of that album as my mission statement,” Benton says of his critically acclaimed second album. “House of Confusion feels like it’s taking a harder look at life and getting into the nitty-gritty a little more.”
Case in point: “America,” the album’s disco-rock-inspired lead single, which Benton began writing as he finished up Lost in the Country. “It was just a song about hating my job and my life,” Benton, who was laid off by his day job during the pandemic, says of an early version of the tune.
But as the Kingston, New York-based musician wrote the rest of House of Confusion, “America” eventually came into focus: “I decided I’d stick with this theme about the false American Dream but put it in the context of a road song,” he says. “The idea is that the narrator has this disappointing secret about America that he is reluctant to share with his fellow passengers.”
After beginning with the acoustic meditation “Seen It Coming,” Benton’s new record proceeds with 10 more rootsy pedal steel country-rockers and breezy ballads about the proverbial and literal open road.
“The only way I can describe the feeling is like there’s a storm on the horizon,” Benton says of “Seen It Coming.” “That’s the kind of image that represents the whole album for me: It’s a road album, a journey. There are no answers, only questions.”
House of Confusion, Trace Mountain’s third LP, will be released on October 22nd.