About a dozen musicians play everything from banjo to violin to keyboards on Mutual Benefit's debut album, "Love's Crushing Diamond." But Mutual Benefit, a lush, chamber-folk act with elements of Sufjan Stevens and Elliott Smith, is really the vision of one person: Brooklyn's Jordan Lee.
Originally meant to be heard mostly by friends, his album is finding a wider audience since being picked up by Greenwich Village store Other Music's record label.
amNewYork spoke with Lee.
What were you thinking about when you wrote these songs?
I often try to use music as a way to process feelings that are difficult for me to process otherwise, the same way people feel compelled to write stories or keep a journal. At the time, it was how to acknowledge that life can be pretty bleak sometimes and you can have long periods of things not being good, but still be hopeful.
Who are your influences?
Lyrically, I found myself going back to the Nick Drake record "Five Leaves Left" almost weekly. ? I also get really inspired by Eastern music and philosophy. I'm pretty ignorant about it, but I really like the idea of accepting things as they are instead of thinking of them as good or bad.
How did you hook up with Other Music?
I was very reluctant to hook up with any indie label. The major indies freak me out a little bit. But with Other Music, I knew the store. They've been around for a while doing super cool stuff. They were very low key. We just nerded out about music. The way they talked about the record made me feel like they got it.