Ben Lee spills on his ‘formative experience’ with Zooey Deschanel

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From Missy Higgins to Mandy Moore, Benji Madden to Josh Radnor, Ben Lee has collaborated with quite a number of unique artists throughout his 30-year career in the music industry.

The iconic Australian artist, who has just released his new single Parents Get High featuring Washington, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that one of his greatest passions in life is the “curation of creative individuals”.

Ben Lee.
Ben Lee has opened up about his upcoming album I’M FUN! and collaborating with Zooey Deschanel. Photo: Instagram/benleemusic

“Whether it was like, getting Liz Phair to sing on my first record, or working with The Beastie Boys’ label, or The Bens, I always think that the magic and the real blessing of achieving any kind of notoriety is getting creative people you admire in a room and seeing what happens,” he shares.

His latest album I’M FUN!, which is set for release on August 19, features a collaboration with actress, singer and songwriter Zooey Deschanel, who Ben has known for quite a few years now.

“Zooey and I actually met when she used to date Jason Schwartzman [between 2003 and 2005], and he’s an old friend of mine,” he explains.

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“This is before she was ‘Zooey Deschanel’. And I remember we actually had quite a formative experience together because I was making this music at the time that was going to be a record that you can hear called A mixtape from Ben Lee, and I was writing for different singers.

“And I heard Zooey singing around the house and I was like, ‘Oh my god, do you want to come and sing a song on this?’ and she said I was the first person to just make her feel like she could be a singer too.”

‘Jay-Z level confidence’

Ben went on to say that the New Girl star also shared something insightful with him during the early stages of their friendship that he will never forget.

“She always was a very unique person, not someone you would think of as like your mainstream leading lady type actress or performer, and she had this confidence and she said, ‘I just think there’s a lot of room at the top’,” he recalls.

“And I was like, wow. It was almost like Jay-Z level confidence that I was like, oh my god, this person is going to succeed in a major way. And also like, give me a hit of whatever you’re smoking.

“It was the best attitude, and I think it was revealed how accurate her attitude was that she cut out a space for herself in show business that didn’t exist before, and I just find that really inspiring.”

Zooey Deschanel.
‘She cut out a space for herself in show business that didn’t exist before, and I just find that really inspiring.’ Photo: Instagram/zooeydeschanel

‘We both felt a bond’

Speaking about his collaboration with Zooey, which is their second after their 2015 track You’re The Reason, Ben explains that they reconnected in 2020 “when everyone was at home just sitting on Instagram”.

“We reconnected and we thanked each other for those moments because we both felt a bond,” he says.

“And then I was making a record and I was like, ‘Do you want to sing something on the new record?’ and just sent something over to her, and she layered all these stacks of Nashville harmonies on this song called Crooked Tree. It’s really cool.”

Ben’s also teamed up with a number of his famous friends in the music video for his new single Parents Get High, including Abbie Chatfield, Thelma Plum, Will Anderson and Margaret Cho.

“I started thinking, ‘Okay, if I were to throw a digital party, like a party in the metaverse, who would be my dream guest list?’, and just emailing all these different people,” he laughs.

“And also, I’m a firm believer in the kind of people you want at your party are the kind of people who don’t say, ‘Let me loop in my manager’. They’re the kind of people who just intuitively go ‘Yes’, and that’s everyone in the video.”

Ben Lee's new music video.
Ben’s new music video for Parents Get High includes cameos from Abbie Chatfield, Thelma Plum, Will Anderson and Margaret Cho. Photo: YouTube/Ben Lee

‘Never say never’

Outside of his music career, Ben made a surprise appearance on The Masked Singer last year hiding under The Professor costume.

Although he’s praised the experience, labelling it as “totally bananas”, the multiple ARIA Award winner admits he doesn’t have any plans to appear on reality TV again anytime soon.

I’m a real ‘never say never’ type person,” he says. “I judge every opportunity independently and there are obviously all these factors that play into it like, does it sound fun? Is it well paying?

“For me, The Masked Singer weirdly resonated with the type of playfulness I wanted to embrace. But it’s not something that I’m like, ‘Well, a massive part of my world domination strategy is to conquer reality TV’. It’s not a massive passion of mine.

“But the fun of my career has been not knowing what's around the corner, so I like to keep it that way.”

Stream Ben Lee’s new single Parents Get High on all streaming platforms here.

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