Ben Lee turned 33 this year, but he's been making music for more than half his life. Lee was just 14 when his band Noise Addict was signed by The Beastie Boys' label; after that, his high-school years were a balance between final exams and touring with the group. Lee eventually left that band and embarked on a successful solo career. His newest album is titled Deeper Into Dream.
"Dreams are something I've always been fascinated by, from when I was young," Lee tells Weekend Edition Sunday host Audie Cornish. "They just seem to be this common denominator, where we all get thrown nightly into this existential mystery."
The new record is packed top to bottom with the language of dreams, but one element sums it up best. Peppered between the songs are testimonials: unnamed people describing moments from their own dreams, which fly by in rapid-fire montages. Lee says he harvested the stories from people in his life.
"I went through a phase," he says, "where everyone that came through the house — I have a little studio at home — I said, 'Can you tell me a dream?' And then I started emailing friends, saying, 'Can you send me a dream?'"
Deeper Into Dream's concept is esoteric — and, Lee admits, perhaps not destined for broad commercial appeal. He says that suits him fine, especially now that he's a husband and father.
"After this many years of making records, the bottom line is ... I'm not Justin Timberlake," Lee says. "My job is not necessarily to cater to millions of people at a mass level. So I make these records that are about what I'm interested in.
"Hanging out with a baby has actually made the world more volatile to me," Lee adds. "When you bring in a new generation, you start feeling the clock ticking on your own. I have been feeling that it really is my duty to myself to make records that reflect where I'm at now, because no one's going to do that except me."