Interview: Benjamin Francis Leftwich talks return to North America and more!
With five years between his debut album and his album that comes out August 19th, “After The Rain”, Boston had been waiting patiently for Benjamin Francis Leftwich. While a line was down the block, I grabbed an apartment stoop to talk for a few minutes with Benjamin just minutes before the doors opened to his sold out show. Here for an limited run of just eleven dates or so across the US and Canada, the crowd was on fire. The room was captivated by Benjamin as he performed for a little over an hour. He encouraged the room to sing along and kept thanking the crowd for coming out. “Thanks for fucking waiting for me to come back to America. I really appreciate you coming out,” he said after he performed one of this bigger tracks, “Stole You Away”. Read our new interview below and hopefully we’ll be lucky enough to have this talented gem back in Boston soon!
I know you sold out the show last night in New York to start off the tour. Maybe how was that show to kick everything off?
Yeah it was amazing. Ilove New York and it was amazing to play. The energy in the room was really good. I’ve never sold out a show there before so it was cool you know. It was a good way to start the tour. Feel like a star.
Then I wanted to ask you, obviously this is your first album in about five years. How long has this record been in the making for you?
Three years. I would say the creative process started when I finished touring the first album which was 2013 and it’s definitely the most personal record I’ve made to date. Each song on it. I think the message is a lot clearer in this album. My approach to music has changed a lot. My taste in music has varied and widened. I’ve matured as a human regardless of whether I’m a musician or not but as a person. Your idea of what is honest lyrically changes as you grow up. When you’re nineteen, the first thing you think of is the most honest and creative flow but when you get older you take a step back and you kind of try to peel back the layers of it and really kind of learn about yourself.
And was it something where you just were writing for a while? Is it something you’ve been sitting on for a while, like having this record finished? Like how long has this record been done?
Not so long in answer to your question. I mean at the end of 2015 it was finished. In terms of me being like “Okay, I’m finished. That’s a wrap!” But that’s always the scary thing, because as soon as you finish that, as a creative you’re thinking could I have changed that or changed that? I’m proud of it and I drew that line under it where I was finishing the album. Sort of that’s it, that’s what I wanted to say. That’s how I’ve said it and that’s how I’ve put myself out there. My own story and honesty out there on the world stage. I love music. I’m in love with songs. I’m not too good at these things. I’m not a public speaker. I’m a songwriter that’s all I do. I’m just feeling good you know. I’m loving coming around the world and playing shows. It’s amazing to see people turning up. It’s madness. It’s a really beautiful thing.
Then obviously the last record for you came out five years ago. Things change, you grow up. You were touring on that record when you were like twenty. Maybe what was like the biggest thing that was different for you on this record, maybe the most left field thing?
Great question. I think falling in love with hip hop in a deep, big way that I’ve never experienced before was a huge part in it. It definitely affected my approach to lyric writing and my perception of honesty and self. Although it doesn’t sound like a hip hop record in the production, there are moments where there is a taste of it. On a song like “Mayflies”, there’s a sample at the beginning. That was made on a MPX16 which is the classic sampling machine. So that was a big thing. What else? Is death left field?
Death would be left field. I know from reading about you, you lost your father I believe in 2013. That obviously affects you and your writing.
Of course it does. When something like that happens, it affects everything in your life. I would say that’s like a road going through the desert and there are a lot of sad roads going off it which for me are songs. Not every song on the album is about dad dying but it’s all informed by how I got to those places through this massive thing that happened. When something that massive happens. It will happen to us all at some point. It happened to me and my sister a bit younger but it affects everything in your life. Friends feel the way you’re feeling, your mood, sexuality, anger, love, the way you think about music. Everything you know but you learn to cope and you learn to live and deal with it and come back out and do what you’re passionate about and for me that’s writing songs and playing songs.
I’m sure seeing his battle as well and you were so young.
That hugely affected me. One thing he always used to say, he was an academic so he was always really strong on his words, was that the message needs to be clear in the songs. That’s definitely something that has stuck with me in my approach to creating now.
To end it off, you have a lot going on for you right now. You’re back in the US touring and doing Canada as well. You picked the openers for each city.
Which is amazing.
How did you go about that process?
By making my agent and manager very, very crazy. I get sent probably about ten to twenty links for each show and I pick the one which I really love. They stood out so happy days! We do the same across the UK as well. We’ve had just different people every night and that’s a treat for me because I get to hear amazing music for free. People that are writing wicked songs and doing their thing. It’s a beautiful thing. Shout out to all of them.
Then you’re obviously busy. You have this tour, the record is about to come out. You’re going back on tour in the UK and Europe in the fall. Is that the plan for now? Just to be back on the road and touring?
Yeah just constantly touring. Just getting out and sharing the songs as much as possible. We’ve had some beautiful gigs in Europe pretty recently. Moving around, it’s been awesome. I’m loving seeing the world again. It’s beautiful and it’s inspiring. Best thing about touring is you meet amazing, beautiful people like yourself. You just hang out. It’s a beautiful night. Seriously the best.