“Ex-Sensitive” is, of course, an ironic title for singer-songwriter Ben Jelen’s second full-length album.
The Scottish-born artist — who’s also lived in Texas, New Jersey (where he received a biology degree at Rutgers University) and New York — dealt with quite a bit since the 2004 release of his debut, “Giving It All Away.”
His label, Madonna-owned Maverick Records, crumbled. But, more importantly, his younger sister Nina passed away in England in 2006, bringing the recording of the new album with producer Linda Perry to a halt.
“It was totally sudden and completely unexpected,” Jelen, 28, says now. “It was hard. I went home for about a month or two and then came back out to L.A. to finish this project, which was a really difficult thing to do at the time.
“I do remember very clearly there being a healing property to working on music. There was a good spirit from that, a kind of secondary family in Linda’s studio. I had a friendship with a lot of people there, so it was a good place for me to be to heal and extremely positive for me to be working on music.”
Jelen says that while fans have dug into the album for references to his sister, most of the 13 songs — culled from a batch of 30 — were written before her death. But the opening “Pulse” deals directly with it, while “Papa, Here I Go,” looks at the tragedy from a different angle.
“It’s a song about saying goodbye to my dad on a train platform, only it’s much more deep than that,” Jelen explains. “Sometimes, even harder than Nina dying, is watching my parents deal with it, watching the effect on the whole family. It’s myself and a younger sister and two younger brothers; suddenly you take the younger sister out and your family’s completely different.
“And your parents hurt in such a way you’ve never seen them like that before. Watching that was very hard, and I felt moved to write about it.”
Ben Jelen and Standard of Living perform Tuesday (April 8) at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance, $12 at the door. Call (313) 833-9700 or visit www.majesticdetroit.com.
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