Dan Auerbach Talks Parenting, Fashion and Why Fighting Is for Pussies

Black Keys and Arcs frontman shares life lessons

Black Keys and Arcs frontman Dan Auerbach shares life lessons, parenting tips and fashion advice. Credit: Illustration by Mark Summers

You work a ton, and you're a lifelong insomniac. Have you ever learned to relax?
I have a hard time turning the brain off sometimes. A quarter of a Xanax helps [laughs]. And I'm a real good cook, man – I make breakfast, lunch and dinner. I got, like, a Zagat-rated lasagna that I make. And I make my own stock, make my own pasta, a great red sauce. One of the hardest things about [being on] the road is you never cook and end up eating a lot of subpar food.

You had a laid-back hippie dad. What did you learn from him that you use in parenting your own two kids?
My parents were always open and honest and real – my dad fucking cursed all the time. They didn't hide stuff from me and it's made for a good relationship. You're going to be best served just being yourself – if you were phony as a parent, they'll sniff that shit out really quick when they get older. I've been over to friends' houses where the mother will reprimand them for holding the utensils wrong at the dinner table. For me, that kind of thing always leads to the kid not wanting to spend real adult time with their family. They're being treated like a dog, so they don't want to hang out with you like a human.

You box every day – what do you get from that?
It's really addictive, but I'm still rage-filled – maybe I need to get into some kicking, too. I can't get enough rage out with just my fists, so I'm going to try to add the legs [laughs]. But I've learned the best boxers manipulate the subtleties, just like in music and art – it's the little stuff that separates the number-one guy from the number 10. Román González is my favorite, because he's such a pure boxer. He has heavy hands, which is great, and his lateral movement and footwork are incredible.

What was your favorite book as a kid, and what does that say about you?
I was obsessed with a book called My Side of the Mountain, about a kid who runs away and then lives in the woods in a hollowed-out tree. And I essentially wanted to have a hollowed-out treehouse ever since I was, like, 14. Actually, my treehouse is essentially my studio – I just realized that that's what I should name it.

What's your favorite room in your house?
I've got a room I call "the library." It's Daddy’s room. Strange smells emanate from Daddy's room, and the fireplace is on and it's dimly lit. I've got the stereo there. We listen to gospel records. I sit in there and feed the baby the bottle. And the sun comes up on that side, so I usually watch the sunrise in the morning there.

Who are your heroes – who would you still be nervous to meet?
Ever since I met Lou Reed, I don't really have heroes anymore. Or, at least, I don't want to meet them, unless I'm working as equals in the studio with someone like Dr. John. I heard a lot of Lou stories from my cousin [Voidoids guitarist] Robert Quine. Then the Black Keys were playing a fundraiser with Lou right after Robert died in 2004. So I walk up to Lou and say, "I'm playing in the Black Keys here. My cousin was Robert Quine. He told me how much he thought of you." Lou stared in my eyes, and just turned around and walked away [laughs].

What rules do you live by?
Basic rules, like, be good to people. I've never been in a fight in my whole life. On the soccer team in high school, I broke up a lot of fights, held a lot of people down. I've ducked some punches, but I always thought fighting was for pussies. You're fighting because you can't express yourself. I never want to be that weak.

You were raised in Akron, Ohio. What's the most Midwestern thing about you?
I wear the same jeans every day. In the Midwest, you get a pair of jeans and then you just wear them until the crotch splits, and then you have to get a new pair. I buy a lot of pants, but I only wear my jeans. I see myself as this person who can wear slacks, and then I never do it.

What habit would you like to break?
Habit? My whole life is a habit! My coffee, the things I eat, how I get dressed. If I start breaking habits, I'm fucking with the matrix – I'm afraid to mess with the space-time continuum. And I'm happy with myself, warts and all. All my flaws – fuck it. I'm not trying to be perfect anymore. The people who are around me like me enough for who I am. You can read as many self-help books as you want, but you are who you are. You gotta just start to accept that.