Introducing the new storyteller of our generation, Alec Benjamin, who is a writer at heart with a tender voice that you can't help but fall in love with.
Meeting Alec Benjamin is quite like meeting with an old friend – entirely humble and polite that it can be easy to forget the legions of fans he has adopted over the years.
The gift of Alec Benjamin is that he is able to twist and spin heartbreak into pure sonic gold that every heart on the planet can relate to. What’s so refreshing about Alec is that he is almost oblivious to the sheer talent he encompasses. There is something so endearingly sweet about this Arizonian. A lover of poetry and channelling all of the confusion, heartbreak and sorrow in life into carefully crafted words within the stanzas that Alec creates is akin to a young Leonard Cohen.
It’s not surprising that there is literally an army of devoted lovers looking to Benjamin for the next track they can connect with. It just so happens that we are in luck as Benjamin has released a raw and powerful new track ‘Mind Is A Prison’ which follows Benjamin’s release of the critically acclaimed ‘Jesus in L.A.’ and ‘Must Have Been The Wind’. Already surpassing over one billion streams, Benjamin is showing no signs of slowing down as he cements himself as one of the greatest storytellers to come out of this decade.
Alec Benjamin’s latest track takes the listener on a journey by the hand as Alec reveals the most intimate and vulnerable parts of his soul. “I’m a prisoner a visitor inside of my brain / And no matter what I do they try to keep me in chains… Alone with my thoughts again / I guess my mind is a prison and I’m never gonna get out”. Even though these lines tackle a heavy subject matter – that is still very much needed to be discussed in society – the way Alec is able to tell his story and how beautifully he tells you it reaches deep within anyone’s soul who listens to it.
Speaking with Alec and listening to his tracks, it’s clear that he is following in the footsteps of the greats who have come before him. All of the great writers, poets and singers can be found within how Benjamin crafts his art. What’s even cooler is that Alex is as polite and sweet as they come. Navigating life in your twenties is not an easy task – the messiness, the hurt, the rejection… but when Alec Benjamin tells you his stories too it makes you feel less alone going through these hardships too. That’s the gift of a great storyteller.
It’s been an incredible year for Alec Benjamin – and rightfully so – after completing his enormous world tour, performing on The Late Late Show With James Corden, The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon and becoming a platform-certified artist then who knows what 2020 will bring for Alec. One thing for certain is that it is going to be sheer excellence if ‘Mind Is A Prison’ is anything to go off of.
We caught up with the guy with a heart of gold and killer smile to talk all things storytelling – start your weekend off right below!
What are your first memories of music?
My very first memory of music was my Mom, she used to listen to Billy Joel and Paul Simon a lot but my parents weren’t the kind of parents to force music on my sister and I so we used to listen to the Backstreet Boys and stuff. But, I remember the first CD my Mom got me – it was the Beach Boys ‘Surfing In The USA’ and I love that album. Then the first album I decided to buy like for myself – well my parents bought it for me – was ‘The Eminem Show’, I was like 6, so I can’t believe my parents bought me that but they did and it was awesome.
Did that spark something in you?
It definitely wasn’t apparent to me at the time how much of an impact it had on me as a person, but then when I look back it makes a lot of sense. I didn’t know you could do that kind of stuff with lyrics and I really love poetry and I think listening to ‘The Eminem Show’ for me was like a perfect marriage of songwriting and also great lyrics – that was exciting. I learnt every lyric to all the songs on albums 1 through 4, I would listen to them over and over and over and over again until I memorised the lyrics. Not like a party trick but I was actually obsessed, that’s the kind of person I am though – I get obsessed with things and I just can’t let it go.
Does writing come naturally to you or do you have a routine?
I have a routine but it’s been a little bit interrupted by touring and all that kind of stuff. I like to sit down for like an hour or two before I’m going to go, and really try and write a song and just so that I have ideas to go on. If I’m writing by myself I need to have a notepad of ideas. I went from both ends of the spectrum, I was like ‘ah man it’s all about just being inspired’, and then I realised actually no it’s about hard work. I think it’s a combination as I used to just wait for inspiration to hit and that was good but then I came to the end of the road with that because I realised if you’re going to have all this output then you also need to have that input. You have all these experiences and things to talk about so I think you have to be disciplined. You have to have to take a step back and put the pen down and feel inspired too and have new experiences.
“You have to have to take a step back and put the pen down and feel inspired too and have new experiences.”
Does writing about previous experiences feel like a release for you?
Only if the song is good. I think one of the reasons I like to write songs is because even when I was a kid I feel like I was misunderstood, I don’t know why I feel like that I just do. When I write a song and it doesn’t get necessarily received the way I would have liked it to, for example, if I put out a song and the message isn’t received I feel like ah man I didn’t do a good job communicating so then it’s not’. The process of writing a song isn’t as cathartic as it is when you put out a song and the message is received the way you intended.
Is it hard sometimes to play certain songs?
Sometimes I think the songs I wrote when I was a little younger were a little juvenile. Also, the more time you spend with a song the less exciting it is. I’ve fallen in and out of love with certain songs but I’m never embarrassed or too shy to play a song even if it’s hard because it’s close to my heart.
Was your new album tough to begin writing?
Not really because it’s what I’ve been going through so it’s the only thing I really know how to talk about. I think a lot of stuff that’s going to be on this next batch of songs is going to be about internal struggles.
Does it help to have these words about your struggles on your paper?
No, but it makes me feel better sometimes to know something cool came out of it. That feels good, like when you go through a break-up or some tough stuff with your family or whatever and you get a great piece of art out of it – it’s very gratifying because at least its been turned into something beautiful.
“The process of writing a song isn’t as cathartic as it is when you put out a song and the message is received the way you intended.”
When you’re playing live what’s the energy you want to give off in the room?
I always want to come out and be excited. I always try and give out the energy that the crowd gives to me, so it’s a two-way street. I feel very spoiled because I’ve always found the crowds that I play to, from my own perspective, they seem to know all the words and be really excited. So I always want to give the same energy level back to them.
What inspires your visuals for your songs?
Visually, I’m just not that kind of artist, I’ve always struggled with that a lot. I more like to paint a picture with words as opposed to an actual paintbrush, I’m not that kind of artist.
Who are some of your favourite poets?
I love Leonard Cohen. I consider Eminem to be a poet. I used to read Shel Silverstein as a kid – he has this book called ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ and it’s all poems. They’re sort of like for kids but not at the same time, they’re kind of mature, also Dr Suess is really amazing. Robert Frost is cool – there’s a lot of interesting poets out there. I love Kasey Musgraves as a songwriter and a poet and John Mayer, of course.
How do you plan to take some time off?
That’s been the hardest part, I don’t really have any time to do that. Unfortunately not, my schedule’s booked fully for 2020 and 2021.
What’s it like being on the road? Does it provide any writing material?
You would think that it would but it actually doesn’t. The road is like a black hole – you don’t know what day it is and you wake up at weird hours and you can’t really explore the cities that you’re in and it’s just weird. I can’t explain it, I can’t get anything done. But it’s worth it for the shows.
Hearing your lyrics sang back to you, is that always going to be a surreal feeling?
Yeah, it definitely is but it makes me nervous that my next batch of songs isn’t going to be worthy of people’s time. I’m afraid that I’ll put out music and people won’t want to learn the words to it so… I don’t know I’m worried that every time something good happens it might go away.
Is there something that you’ve learnt about yourself through writing?
If I write it I feel like it’s because it’s something I already knew about myself. I will get back to you on that, I haven’t reflected on my music yet.
What have been some of the highlights of your year so far?
Well, I think one of the highlights of my life was getting to meet John Mayer and become friends with him and I always have this thing in the back of my head that I just don’t want to disappoint him with my music so I always think ‘what would he think?’.
Has he given you any tips?
Yeah I send him all my songs and he tells me the truth and that’s cool. 100% he’s my mentor and that’s been really cool for me.
What are you looking forward to?
I don’t know, I think a lot of the best things have happened to me unexpected. So, hopefully, more surprises.