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Austin musician returns to spotlight after near-death experience

(Photo: CBS Austin)

Austin musician Ben Kweller disappeared from the music scene after he and his family nearly died. His unintentional hiatus from the spotlight would last six years, but it is now finally coming to an end.

CBS Austin’s Courtney Schoenemann sat down with Kweller about his struggle to pick up a guitar and his big return to life as a musician.

“I'm almost starting over in a lot of ways. I’ve been gone for so long,” Kweller said.

The reason behind his abrupt departure from the music scene only recently shared publicly.

“It's kind of horrible,” Kweller shared from his ranch in Dripping Springs.

Kweller said a 2013 vacation to New Mexico nearly killed his entire family.

“We stayed in this little cabin and in the middle of the night my wife Liz got up and said, "Ben get up something's horribly wrong I feel horrible." I stood up and collapsed to the ground,” Kweller said as he recalled the traumatic events.

A wall heater leaking carbon monoxide in the cabin poisoned all of them.

“It was just the scariest night of my life,” Kweller said.

First responders said that he, his wife and their two kids were 15 minutes away from never waking up. They all spent 24 hours in the hospital on full oxygen trying to rid their bodies of the poison.

“That's really where this all started of me going away because after an experience like that we all got back to Austin and all of us were like zombies. I call it mush brain,” Kweller said.

When they returned to Austin, Kweller's passion and love for music was gone.

“I really got depressed so I was dealing with that and weeks turned into months and months turned into years and before I knew it..”

Kweller said before he knew it, nearly six years passed, but his fans never left his side.

“I'd be walking down Congress and someone would be like ‘Oh my God dude what's up Ben Kweller where have you been’?” he said.

During his time away, Kweller still privately writing songs, stockpiled nearly 50 of them.

Last year, a call from a friend sparked what he calls his "re-birth" getting him back in the studio for the first time.

“The first cords it makes me want to tear up. I was like wow okay maybe I can do this recording thing again,” Kweller said.

And he did, cutting an entire album's worth of new songs.

“Musically it's a fun combo of 90s, grungy guitar meets modern day digital sense and live drums,” Kweller said.

Now, he and his band mates are getting ready to hit the road with some of the strongest music of his career.

“The hibernation is over,” Kweller said. And like a line out of one of his classic songs “I’ve come full circle” He’s finding purpose again coming back to the person and artist he once was.

Kweller’s first tour stop kicks off at Club Dada in Dallas on February 11.

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