Turn to Webster's and you'll find that "ripe" has a number of
definitions, most of which revolve around the concept of being ready for
use: "brought to perfection or the best state; completely matured."
No surprise, then, that Ben Lee has named his sixth album Ripe. Having spent
fully half of his life years crafting some of the catchiest tunes to be
heard, Lee is now poised to reap the same kind of mass appeal that he's
already established in his native Australia - where he's taken home four
ARIA Awards (Australia's Grammys ®).
"I think this record will connect with anyone who has a genuine love
of pop music. This isn't about using 'pop' as a means to a fast buck, or
in a condescending way - it's about how things used to be, when quality
pop records won out, and the best selling records were, simply, the best
Produced by John Alagia (John Mayer, Dave Matthews Band, Ben Folds), Ripe
represents a new pinnacle for Lee, whether it's the piano-led march against
apathy that is "Numb," the joyously charming tribute to "American
Television" or the catchy duet with Mandy Moore, "Birds and Bees,"
inspired by the Grease classic "Summer Lovin'."
"That fell together pretty easily," Lee says of the Moore connection.
"I'd been thinking a lot about how innate the search for love is for
people, and after I wrote it I went to a Mandy Moore show. Backstage she
told me she was a fan, and it just came to me that she'd be the perfect
voice on the track.
Ripe also benefits from guest appearances by members of pop band Rooney
and Benji Madden of Good Charlotte. Both bands have long been "good
mates". "That's one of the joys of being in the music game for
a long time," Lee enthuses. "You meet the occasional young band
who are still learning how to change their guitar strings, and the next
thing you know - bang! They've sold a gazillion records."
Lee's Awake is the New Sleep was the one to put him over the top: the LP
that contained the worldwide smash "Catch My Disease," heard on
shows like Grey's Anatomy to a massive Dell computer campaign.
Such an event has become a theme for Lee. "It's all about timing,"
he says. "The longer I make music, the longer I exist, I see that everything
is timing. I've ripened as a human being, and now I have a sense of readiness,
that I can contribute something I don't see anyone else doing."
"I hope this album opens people's hearts," he says. "I don't
push a particular thing to believe in or political point of view; I'm interested
in helping people discover their own feelings. I hope that Ripe touches
people and gives them hope and courage."