- Words Sam Pollard
- Photography Hanifah Mohammad
- Fashion Doug Broad
- Haircare James Catalano at Evolved Artists using Vernon Francois
- Groomer Tariq Howes at Avenue Male Grooming using Babyliss Pro
- Production Studio Notion
- Location Wolf & Badger Studios
With his dreamy debut EP 'D.R.I.S.T.', singer-songwriter Karl Benjamin is issuing a call for connection.
Ever the perfectionist, Karl Benjamin spent a long time honing his craft and finding his sound as an artist. When he finally felt ready to introduce his music to the world, the coronavirus pandemic was unfolding across the globe, and he was going to have to wait a bit longer. Now though, the brakes are off, and Karl has finally arrived.
The Brighton-based, West London-born musician and model entered the new year still riding high on the release of the smooth “Apricot Sky”, which dropped in November. He followed up with two more stunning singles, “Moon”, and “Friends” early this year and tied the three together on his debut EP in March, along with previously unheard track “Mortal”.
The EP, titled D.R.I.S.T., is a glorious showcase of Karl’s introspective and soulful writing. There is a personality running through these tracks that you can’t help but get caught up in, each one beautiful and vulnerable in its own way. Collaborating with some of his favourite producers including PRGRSHN, HYNLU, Courage and Dan Holloway, he has created a body of work with an intimacy rarely found in a debut, projecting his inner monologue to the world. Karl explains: “I’ll always feel like I have a connection to these songs. They’re going to hold a special place in my heart for a long time,” and there’s no doubt his fans will feel the same way.
- Cardigan Lacoste
- T-Shirt Uniqlo
- Trousers Weekday
- Scarf Stylist's Own
- Jewellery Talent's Own
How are you and what have you been up to?
I’m OK thanks, I’ve just been working to be honest with you. Trying to make as much music as possible. I’ve got a session after this interview. I’ve just been going through the process of releasing D.R.I.S.T., and it was my birthday last week which was a lot of fun.
Happy birthday! And congratulations on releasing D.R.I.S.T., what has the reception been like so far?
It’s been really good, man. I didn’t think the reaction was going to be bad, but I wasn’t expecting it to be what it was… With the tracks being added to radio playlists and stuff, I didn’t expect that to be happening for a while, if at all. It’s my first release! It’s just been a crazy experience.
What was your creative process like whilst writing the EP? Was it difficult trying to create during the pandemic?
I’ve actually had these tracks since before Covid happened. I basically just work with all my favourite producers, and each song on this project was written in one session. We’d come to the studio with some ideas and just build quickly from that, the connection was there with all of the people I worked with which is really great. It’s a good feeling to be able to walk away from a session with a song and be like ‘Cool, we created that today’.
The title of your EP stands for ‘Deep Rooted Insecurities & Shy Tendencies’, which I feel contrasts the honesty and emotion that can be found in your lyrics. Were you ever worried that you were putting yourself on display or making yourself vulnerable?
Sometimes, but I try to think about the brighter side of it, that someone might hear what I’m saying and make a connection with it and for them to realise they’re not alone. There are a lot of people who are scared to admit what’s going on in their head and for me it’s important to think about what my music could do for others. It’s about creating a connection and sense of community through what I do.
Do you think that writing so personally has been a therapeutic process for you?
Yes, 100% yes. It has definitely been therapeutic for me. I’ve always been someone that has been a bit more of an introvert and protective over my thoughts and feelings. But making all of these tracks has been this honest journey and has really showed me that I have something within me [that] helps me put my feeling into my writing, you know? I’ve never been able to express what’s been going on in my head properly, I do it best through music.
Which one of your songs means the most to you?
It would have to be “Moon”. Every time I listen to “Moon” I’m reminded about why I wrote it, and I love the reason why I wrote “Moon”. It’s about the journey my partner and I went on to become long-term best friends to being in our relationship and it working out the way it has. It’s about making that progress and the taking the steps toward something great.
- All Clothing AMI
- Shoes Converse
- Jewellery Talent's Own
Speaking of “Moon”, you recently released a stunning live version featuring Omar. Tell us what that was like?
My producer sent the track to Omar and his team so they could hear it, and we got feedback saying he really resonated with the track and the sample from “There’s Nothing Like This”. It really felt good to have that approval. It’s one thing to use a sample and you and your producer feel like you’ve done something cool, but for the original artist to co-sign it and tell you it’s a vibe feels like you’re doing something right.
Was there a specific moment when you knew that you wanted to pursue music as a career?
I think it happened when I was in college, I was working in music tech and all my friends asked me to sing for them on their coursework pieces. I ended up singing for about 12 people and it was such a fun process. From that point I was like ‘Ok, this is what you should be doing’. I had a love for it, and I wanted to live life with my music being everything and feeling that love for it.
You used to play in a band, how different have you found that experience to starting a solo project?
It’s been interesting, I’ve gone from having different friends shooting ideas across a room to it being me and one producer. It was a big jump. There’s a sense of comfortability when you’re working with a band full of your friends, you can lean back and rest on them and bounce your ideas off each other. Writing by yourself or with a producer you’ve never met before is intensely different, but it’s let me test myself more, trust my melodies and my lyrics and it’s pushed me to be more independent, which was nice. It needed to happen, I needed to explore my sense of self and see what I could bring to the table.
Are you excited to play these songs live? Have you put much thought into what your live shows are going to be like?
I’d like there to be a nice personal energy to it, just being able to perform to the people who have come to see me and develop from there. Right now, I’m just excited to play the songs for people.
Is there anything you’ve learnt during these times that you’ll carry forward with you?
Patience. I always thought I was a patient person but the last year has really and truly tested that. I’ve had a lovely year really, but when it comes to the music it was a real test. I just wanted to release these songs and let people hear what I had been working on. I had to wait ’til November, and I was so happy when the music finally started coming out.
What’s next for you?
More writing, more creating… There’s never enough for me, I need to keep working and keep creating. I’ve got some live sessions coming out soon as well which are going to be really fun, I’m excited to see what we create there.