Interview of Benjamin Francis Leftwich by Sophie Pellegrini
Photograph by Pip
Hiya Ben! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Benjamin Francis Leftwich and I’m 26 years old, I just came off a long UK & EU tour and I am writing this from my room in North London. Sunday morning peace.
How did you get started in music? Why do you enjoy it?
I’ve always been totally obsessed with songwriting from a young age. I can remember sitting by the radio as young as 5 or 6 waiting for my favourite pop songs to come on the Sunday Top 40 chart… now you can just click on whatever you want to hear and hear it immediately, but it was more of a quest back then. I think what attracts me to music to put it simply is the energy in all forms of music when recorded or performed with spirit and realness. Music can make me happy or sad or angry or calm and they are all amazing energies. I listen to everything from traditional Arabic folk music, to metal, to folk, to gangster rap, and I love it all and learn from it all. I don’t think people decide to “become” a musician or a songwriter, I think they just are… and it’s about finding what that is and allowing it to grow. It’s important that we encourage this in young artists from all backgrounds as much as possible. I was really lucky that I had a father who was able to buy me my first guitar and help me get to gigs, etc. So many people don’t have this and I appreciate how lucky I am. The more support we can give young artists as a country and from a music industry perspective, the more the whole world will continue to have even better and more beautiful songs.
What’s the best part about touring?
The best thing about touring is meeting new amazing people from all around the world. Sometimes you don’t get to see too much of the actual city or town you are in if the schedule is intense but you always get to meet new people and other musicians. Your family on tour becomes totally music focused. Of course sometimes you get a day when you can chill somewhere but they are few and far between. I love touring across Canada, the music and the natural beauty are so amazing and moving. The background screensaver on my phone is a picture I took out the window of a car of a black bear by the road.
If you could give young aspiring musicians one piece of advice, what would it be?
I would say listen to as much music as possible and learn from all the greats, past and current. Try not to worry too much about the industry and don’t rush to release music, the internet can be an unforgiving place. Focus on all the beauty in melody and words and really try and be honest in your own performance and writing.
Do you remember what it felt like the first time your audience sang along with your music while you’re performing a gig? I’ve also thought that must be such a surreal experience.
Yeah, it was at a festival called Lounge On The Farm in Kent. I remember thinking it was the craziest thing and I still do to this day I think. It’s beautiful.
Do you base your lyrics on your own real-life experiences, or are they “made up”?
I think all songwriters are inspired by everything around them, you know? Personally and musically… and we take inspiration in a very humanistic way… it is what happens when that information goes into our minds that gives everyone originality and freshness or their own unique take and elaboration or statement and what they have experienced. So I don’t really think a lyric can be made up, you know? If the artist believes in it its significance within the context of the music then it kind of becomes it’s own beautiful truth.
So what comes first, the words or melody?
It really depends to be honest… either can. I tend to jam around on the acoustic guitar or with instrumental recordings on until I find a moment I love… which could be words or melody without words, it really depends. Personally, in general I tend to get melody and like 1 or 2 lines of lyrics at the same time and from there if I’m feeling it a song might be born.
As a male, do you think there are any gender-based inequities in the music industry?
Yes, the music industry is incredibly sexist and it’s pretty hard to watch at points. Many of my favourite artists are female and that includes young songwriters I’ve worked with. I’ve only been aware of this from working with women in the studio but it really saddens me. I wish I had an answer but I don’t… we need to keep supporting strong young independent female artists and respect people’s right to privacy and to not be immediately sexualised if they don’t want to be. The music industry can seem a bit “perfect” or “shiny beautiful” from the outside but we can’t let that put people off who are really talented and beautiful artistically; no matter how people look or dress or love, they should be respected on their own merits and product. So many amazing people have so much to give to music who do not necessarily fit the perceived “music industry role.” Find your own skill and passion and follow it lovingly and militantly, and believe in yourself.
Illustration by Jade Spranklen
Can you tell us a bit about your forthcoming album?
My forthcoming album is called “After The Rain” and will be released on August 19th. I’m so proud of this album and I feel like it has some of the best songs I’ve ever written. I think sonically it is a lot more 3D and dynamic… both in the production and the writing. I feel like I was more honest and less ambiguous with my approach to the songs, their spirit, and the message this time around. My tastes and love for music have grown and diversified over the past few years and I think this really helped the spirit of the record and what sonic and spiritual roads me and Charlie Andrews decided to go down when we were in the studio.
Where can we find and follow your music?