I found “Here Comes the Light” to be a song that has anthem-quality power – to me, it speaks of recognizing and reclaiming one’s power, of getting back up after the fall. Would you mind sharing what this song means to you and what inspired it?
Ben: This one is interesting; I've had a few people ask me if I wrote it about this or that as it can apply to a few different scenarios. That's one of the best things for me about writing music. I always try to write something that's relatable to everyone. Something everyone has experienced and can picture vividly in their minds. When songs are left a bit more open-ended, they allow for more connectedness with the listener. That said, this one I wrote very specifically about my wife and me. In fact, the album as a whole tells our story. One of our biggest struggles was dealing with our mental health, and once we were able to overcome that emotionally and physically exhausting hurdle, the light came through, and our marriage quickly started to get better. The lyric "you've got a new pill to swallow" is quite literal.
I’ve read that your album Phoenix has been in the making for four years; it is both truly a labor of love and tangible evidence of your dedication to your art. What were some of the challenges you encountered during its creation, and what steps did you take to overcome them?
Ben: With any record, time and money are always two of the biggest factors I think for any independent musician. Only recently did I start building my own home studio, but until then, I've had to rely on others for recording everything. I'll still continue to work with my friend/engineer/producer who worked with me on Phoenix, but at least I have flexibility. Music as a passion project on the side can always be difficult to manage, specifically with time. Having a full-time job and a family can keep you pretty occupied. In order to work around that, I would take time off from work to record in the studio during the day or found myself staying up into the early hours tracking or producing on my own. It's not perfect, but it works.
As some may know, the Phoenix is a symbol of resurrection, life after death, and immortality in some mythologies; it is also associated with the sun. “Here Comes the Light” certainly follows these concepts – what other themes can listeners expect to hear on the album?
Ben: The record focuses on the life and death of a relationship as well as its resurrection from the ashes. It's about searching for someone, finding them, and desperately holding on. And most importantly, it's about adversity and not giving up. For me - my wife and I - our story is the phoenix.
Of the songs on Phoenix, if you had to choose only one, which resonates with you the most, or holds the greatest meaning for you?
Ben: "On My Way Home" probably sticks with me the most of any other song on the record. I have a tendency to write mostly pop music, but I love and am inspired by folk music. The emotions, the production, all of it I keep close to my heart.
Your website indicates that you began your musical career at the age of fifteen, which has opened the door to some incredible opportunities, including myriad live performances and supporting acts such as Collective Soul, Ludacris, and Simple Plan. Are you looking forward to getting back to live performances, and do you have any artists in mind that you would like to work with?
Ben: I've been playing gigs for a very long time, and in the last few years, I've continued to do so, but mostly in settings designed more for cover songs. I really do enjoy being able to play my originals for people, and I find most of the time that they enjoy it. But finding an audience for it can be difficult, especially living in a city that doesn't have a strong original music presence. That said, I have a number of artists that I really enjoy and would love to work with. Ed Sheeran certainly comes to mind as I love his writing style, his rhythms, and rhyme schemes. My favorite songwriter, though, is from Australia, Ben Abraham. Not only are his songs catchy and downright beautiful, but his performances are full of emotion that allows the listener to truly connect to his songs. His work has been very inspiring to me, and I'd love nothing more than to sit down and pick his brain.
What advice would you give to an artist that is just starting out?
Ben: The music world feels almost infinite as we swim in an oversaturated sea of talent. It's hard not to find yourself getting lost in it all and wondering how one can have their voice heard. As frustrating as that can be, I try telling myself that what's most important are those connections you make with the audience that you gain. Even if only 50 people follow you on your social media platforms or buy or stream your music, you are still impacting those 50 people - and that's a pretty stellar thing. I stopped writing and performing for several years, and now I feel like I'm starting over. In a sense, my musical journey is also synonymous with the phoenix. I took a break because I wasn't satisfied with my direction or the art I was putting out. But as I've returned my focus to writing, recording, and performing, I remind myself that my reason for doing this is my love of music. So long as you love what you're doing, don't ever give up. Because at the end of the day, even if you don't know it, you matter to someone - and that is the gift that music gives us.
Interviewed By Vanessa Siebrass