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Interview with Ben Howard


Q: Hi Ben, how are you doing?

A:  Yeah all good.. at home for a few days with my sister waiting for the rain to subside.

Q: For those who haven’t heard of you, can you give a short introduction of yourself and your music?

A:  I’m a fairly happy soul that lives in Devon and writes about growing up. i guess the music’s got a pretty organic acoustic feel to it.

Q: Last year you released the “These Waters” EP, which was quite impressive. Do you have plans for another release any time soon?

A: Yes we’ve been trying to mix the touring with a bit of recording over the winter and we’re sitting down in the next couple of months to finish of the first album. Looking to release it at the end of summer so all very exciting.

Q: What can we expect from you, in terms of new music? Will you go in different directions or will you explore similar sounds as “These Waters”?

A: In terms of sound we’ll probably still keep it pretty low key- I like that rough-around-the-edges feel. The plan is to keep mixing it up and experimenting and as long as the musicality’s still improving I’m happy.. There’s so much scope to develop the live stuff and the recorded stuff over the next year or so, so I’m always looking forward to whatever’s next.

Q: You tour a lot in the UK, France, Germany & The Netherlands, basically in Western Europe. Do you have plans to take your music across the Atlantic and do a full US tour in the near future?

A:  One day for sure, we’re taking things as they come. ‘These Waters’ was originally a kind of demo and I didn’t expect the kind of praise it got so I’m stoked to be touring Europe and just playing music full time.. I’d love to go out there and do a stint- touring in the sunshine could be a beautiful novelty.

Q: Speaking of touring, you’re currently setting up for another spring tour in Europe. First you’re opening for Angus & Julia and then you also have some headline dates. What is it that you look forward to most on these tours?

A:  I love the day to dayness of it all.. you meet so many people and travel so much in such a short period of time and it’s always so concentrated and focused that it stops you thinking beyond the box too much. I love things that absorb you completely.

I’m a big fan of Angus and Julia as well so it’s a blessing to be able to see good shows every night.

Q: I can’t speak for other places, but your fame is growing in the Netherlands and I’ve heard quite some people talk about going to your shows. For those who aren’t sure yet, tell them why they shouldn’t miss your show!

A:  Because we play music that we love.

Q: You have a very interesting way of using the full potential of your guitar. How did you learn to play the guitar like that? Did you take lessons or did you teach yourself how to play the guitar like that?

A: The percussive stuff’s all self taught, something open tunings and a few different artists really opened my eyes to. I had a great guitar teacher when I was a young kid, someone who taught me that enjoyment was the real key for doing anything well but that was a good few years back now.

Q: As a singer, songwriter and guitarist, who are your biggest influences, and what makes these artists so special for you?

A: People like Joni Mitchell, John Martyn, Nick Drake, and a whole host of other folk musicians really inspired me as a boy. Their’s were sounds of such originality and clarity with such stripped back settings. Everything from the Doors to Paul Simon and Garfunkel seemed to have a lot more feeling back then and that’s really what should inspire people. I saw Bon Iver at Glastonbury at that was something truly inspirational, for an hour nothing could touch him.

Q: And in that light, is there a band or musician you would love to go on tour with? Say you could pick anyone in the world, who would it be? And why?

A: I’d go with Bon Iver just to sit and watch! Mind you I’d love to tour with Xavier Rudd again- those guys really know how to be happy and enjoy it all, it’d definitely be fun a second time round.

Q: In a lot of European countries a debate is going about the regulation of downloads and to legally determine when it is legal or illegal. What is your take on downloading and sharing of digital music? How do you see this in light of the changing music industry?

A: It’s a tough one.. we’ve created something that no doubt cripple’s the industry. I like to think illegal downloads only do real damage to the endless amounts of careless pop music though.

I like to believe a true fan of music or an artist has a genuine respect for what the artist does and has a distinct understanding of their actions. In that buying an album they are helping the artist to continue making music. It’s hard because everyone wants something to be free.

On another note I think it’s different for different artists. The majority of good music I listen to are good live performers and that’s what they enjoy doing. I think music piracy is forcing many people to look at the live aspect of the record industry as an income and in many ways that’s what sets apart good music and musicians from the fly by night pop sensations..

It’s a big issue with so many variables, pro’s and cons.. that’s just a start!

Q: For an artist or band trying to make a name, what do you think is most important to keep in mind and what is important to work at? Where do you have to put the accents to get the attention of the mainstream audience?

A: I don’t know really, I don’t think I’ve got to a stage where I can look back and give advice on that. My motive has always been just to be who I am, and play what I love- if that doesn’t get me anywhere then at least it wasn’t because I tried to be something I’m not.

Q: Okay, one more question. What is the best thing about being a musician and what is the worst thing about it? And if you weren’t a musician, what would you think you’d be doing?

A: The best thing is I can say ‘I’m working’ when I’m having a cup of tea and a cigarette and fiddling on the guitar.

I’m still trying to figure out the worst thing.

And If I wasn’t a musician…  I think I’d just be endlessly traveling.

Thanks for doing this interview with us. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions!

Thanks for doing this interview with us. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions!

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Ben Howard – These Waters [EP]
July 14, 2009

I discovered Ben Howard when he was opening for Brett Dennen during his European tour. And that night, which was a very special night anyway, however short Ben Howard’s performance may have been, he proved to be the discovery of the year for me.

Afterwards I bought a copy of “These Waters” to explore what else this guy is capable of. And what I found was an interesting collection of acoustic songs in which Howard’s vocals are shining and his excellent guitar playing is a thing of beauty.

All the songs are worth mentioning but the two stand out tracks are London and These Waters. The way Ben Howard utilizes maximum potential of his guitar and sings with flawless vocals gives the songs something extra in both rhythmic and melodic quality.

The EP starts with The Wolves, which is more uptempo and the most impressive feat of this song is the timing. The sentiment in Cloud Nine is very impressive and it was probably my favorite song during his short live set that I saw. Excellent use of the guitar! The harmonic and melodic play that goes on in London is wonderful and with a lot of feeling Howard brings his strong lyrics to life. The combination of the use of his guitar, the strong introspective lyrics and comforting yet powerful vocals make for a gem of a song that really is the crown on this EP. The more folky Move Like You Want is faster paced and the breathy, almost seasoned sounding vocals give the song a lot of character. The EP ends with a bonus song called The Fire, which has a very demo-y feel to it. The raw and personal feel to it actually adds to the song instead of taking away from it.

So all in all this is a very impressive and complete EP, especially for a young musician like Ben Howard. I am very curious to hear what lies ahead for this talented and interesting musician.

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