[AltWire Interview] Singer-Songwriter Brandon Ben

Brandon Ben is a singer/songwriter from Toronto, Canada. He recently released an EP titled Songs from a Basement Apartment and is now starting to work on a full-length release. Brandon is a multi-talented instrumentalist, formally studying the double bass, with talents in playing piano, bass guitar, and other instruments in a variety of styles ranging from classical, to jazz, to pop music. Brandon has spent most of his music career backing up other artists as a bassist, but is now breaking out on his own as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist.

AltWire contributor Hannah Schneider, who also curates lesser known artists for her music blog Unheard Gems, recently sat down with Ben to discuss a variety of topics. Check out her interview below:

AltWire [Hannah Schneider]: Just to get to know your background story, can you tell us a bit about yourself and when and how you first knew you wanted to pursue music?

Brandon Ben: I got into music on my own at a young age. When I was around 12 years old, all of my friends began playing guitar, so, I decided to start playing bass guitar so I could be in a band. Over the years I began picking up different instruments and getting really interested in pursuing music, and I eventually went on to study study music in University. I studied music education in my undergraduate degree, and majored in the double bass. Currently I’m finishing up a master of music therapy, and during this training I started to play a lot of guitar and began to work on my singing. I realized that people generally enjoy listening to me sing, so, I started to write music and perform, and here I am now!

AltWire [Hannah Schneider]: How would you best describe your music and style in one sentence?

Brandon Ben: DIY singer/songwriter, indie folk with nylon strings.

AltWire [Hannah Schneider]: You just released your EP Songs from a Basement Apartment this January, can you tell us a bit about that EP?

Brandon Ben: Well, during the summer when I realized that I had some type of affinity for playing guitar and singing, I decided that I would try to write, record, and release a project as an experiment. The EP is just that, songs from a basement apartment! I wrote, recorded, and mixed everything by myself. The EP is a representation of me in a way, so, by listening to this EP you’re getting to know me without meeting me in real life.

AltWire [Hannah Schneider]: Where do you get inspiration to write your music? What is your writing process like?

Brandon Ben: I get inspiration from events that happen in my life, my friends, relationships, breakups, or I just make up whatever comes to my head! Usually, I make up a chord progression, and try singing over it just to see what comes up. Interesting story about the first track “Set You on Fire”, I literally improvised some of the lyrics as I recorded the track in one take. I liked it so much I kept it.

AltWire [Hannah Schneider]: Is there a song on the EP that resonates most with you or was the most moving to write? Why?

Brandon Ben: “The Way It Is” is definitely the most meaningful, I wrote it when I was feeling pretty low and decided to just spill my thoughts into the song. It serves as a marker when I look back at how far I’ve come in life.

AltWire [Hannah Schneider]: Any ideas for new music? Similar style and feeling to SFABA or do you think you want to try some other ideas or styles?

Brandon Ben: I am just starting work on a full album, it will definitely have a similar feeling, but I want to do more. As in, add more instruments, more layers, and perhaps some features too. I never want to ditch my DIY attitude, but I want to be more professional for sure.

AltWire [Hannah Schneider]: Are there any artists you are inspired by or who have influenced your music or the way you want to write music?

Brandon Ben: Sufjan Stevens, Jack Johnson, and Bright Eyes are big ones for sure. Those artists feel very human to me. I like to take bits and pieces from different artists I listen to. I am also super influenced by rap music in general, mostly because of lyrics and structure of the songs. I think it’s very interesting to play with rhyming, pacing, syllables, etc.

AltWire [Hannah Schneider]: Because I’m all about finding and sharing smaller or “Unheard” artists, do you have any “Unheard” recommendations that we should listen to?

Brandon Ben: Gosh so many! I recently found a singer/songwriter named Okay Mann from Winnipeg Manitoba. I don’t know him personally at all, but came across his music on Spotify and I love it. Also I have to shout out artists I know personally, check out Romancer, Crown Lands, and The Funny Funk Band if you’re looking for new music.

AltWire [Hannah Schneider]: Finally, where can people find you and your music?

Brandon Ben: I go by @brandonbenmusic on Instagram, twitter, and Facebook. You can download by EP from brandonbensings.bandcamp.com for free. I’m also on every streaming service there is (Spotify, apple music, etc.) just search Brandon Ben, I’m the only one! Soon I’ll be releasing a new track, and I’ll be donating all the revenue to a charity, so look out for that!

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