If you’re a musician and someone asks you to write their story, there’s probably a good chance that it’s going to come out in song. That’s precisely what happened when Seattle-based musician Benjamin Doerr set out to write the stories he collected from his grandfather who had come of age in France under the German occupation of World War II, then joined the Free French to fight for the liberation of his country. Though the stories may still find themselves into print in some form someday, Doerr found they initially came out as songs. Eventually those songs evolved into a band and a self-titled 11-song album, St. Paul de Vence, named after a town in Southwest France where Ben’s grandfather was stationed for a time.
Now if you’re yawning and thinking who cares about something that happened decades ago and ocean away, well… I’ll skip the cliche about those who don’t study history, even though it’s true, because the album isn’t a history lesson at all. It’s a collection of 11 catchy tunes with compelling lyrics that will appeal even if you can barely place France on a map, or didn’t know it was ever at war with Germany. It’s just even more fascinating with context. On July 16, I talked to Ben about the project from his home in Seattle about the project, the band, the album, what he’s working on now, and what’s next for St. Paul de Vence.