Ahead of his Norwich show on 21st September, Lucinda Swain spoke to indie-folk singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich on influential experiences, the importance of family and falling “back in love with music”.
Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s story is one of success, heart-breaking loss, perseverance and the rediscovery of a love for music. His beautifully written and performed new album has been described as a “stunning record of hope”, his voice gentle and otherworldly with emotionally charged lyrics that leave the listener with a sense of both melancholy and sanguinary. Leftwich released his first album Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm in 2011, his most recent, After the Rain, released on 19 August 2016 to critical acclaim. Leftwich’s ability to express himself and comprehend the world around him left us amazed that he is still only 27.
Growing up with his sister and father, his earliest childhood memories were of the musical stylistics of The Beatles and Nina Simone. He spoke of how the melodies and structuring of these songs inspired his own work. One early memory was of his mother playing Rolling Stones classics, but she did introduce him to Placebo at age 12, which quickly became one of his favourite bands.
Leftwich spoke of how he believes as a musician you are influenced by all music that connects with you; mentioning his new appreciation of hip-hop and rap. He spoke of how his tastes have widened and varied as he grew up. In his teens he went through a big singer-songwriter phase listening to the likes of José González, PJ Harvey and Bat For Lashes, describing them along with Elliott Smith as the “Godfathers of our generation”.
His excitement for his new tour is palpable, with his love for being back on the road and connecting with people again obvious. He is especially looking forward to meeting people that his songs have connected with. Leftwich describes himself as having fallen “back in love with music in a beautiful way” and of being “really at peace with that”. Benjamin described how lucky he is to be waking every other week in a different part of the world.
Asked for his favourite place to perform he says he prefers the energy in a room rather than any particular location, but did express his appreciation of Canada’s beautiful scenery, the chaos of New York and Norwich’s charms.
When questioned about what inspires an artist’s lyrics he articulated that singer-songwriters are “all influenced by the world around them. There’s no secret trick to making music, it’s just what you experience in life: love, romance, sexuality, anger, passion, paranoia…it all plays a part, we just put it into words.”
Leftwich’s advice to aspiring professional musicians is to “always respect the amazing godfathers and godmothers who have come before us and all the amazing artists. To learn from them, take nothing for granted, learn from their musicality and ultimately create something that is honest to you and matters to you. Whether that is rap or folk, classic or playing with passion, in the end it’s all a big family of musical creativity. And you’ve always got to take it back to being a kid in the basement with your friends.”
When asked who his biggest supporters were he spoke with great affection of his sister Maddie, who lives in Australia who he talks to practically every day; Joey his Tour Manager and Fraser his Guitar Technician who he’s currently touring with. He also counts himself lucky to have a great group of friends whom he trusts. So armed with his faithful Martin guitar gifted to him by his late father he is out to conquer Europe this Autumn.
See Benjamin Francis Leftwich live in the UK on the following dates:
21-Sep-16 Norwich Arts Centre
22-Sep-16 London Islington Assembly Hall
23-Sep-16 Cardiff The Gate
24-Sep-16 Bristol The Fleece
26-Sep-16 Nottingham Rescue Rooms
27-Sep-16 Manchester Academy 3
28-Sep-16 Leeds Stylus
30-Sep-16 Glasgow Oran Mor
01-Oct-16 Aberdeen Café Drummond