After an absence of 2 years Benjamin Francis Leftwich has returned with his much anticipated second album ‘After the Rain’. Chatting before his sold out gig at the Bodega Ben expresses how humbled he is by the reaction he’s received from the fans.
He conveys how much his life has changed over the past two years and that ‘people grow up so fast and the way you think about things changes.’ Despite him describing his absence as going away for ‘a sleep for a little while’ he continued to write large amounts of music and worked with hundreds of different artists before creating the album with producer Charlie Andrew (Alt-J, Money). Much of this took place whilst he lived in Sydney for four months after what was supposed to be a three week holiday, a time that Ben describes as the ‘first time I had a moment to relax after personal things and family things at home and after touring. It was the first time in a long time where I had no responsibilities.’
When asked about the inspiration for the album Ben comments that there’s a definite theme of sadness and loss running through it. ‘When sadness and loss hits that heavily it affects everything around you; your relationships; pets in your house and the way they’re feeling; your job and your confidence in your job; your faith in romance; your sexuality; the way you appreciate or diss music; the way you think about everything and how angry you get. So the songs have that theme running through it and when something hits that hard it inspires, it effects everything.’ The album has a more spiritual and geographical span than the debut Last Smoke before the Snowstorm and Ben is visibly moved when performing them, informing me that it helps if he closes his eyes which allows him to picture either a person or a place that’s involved in the initial ‘spark’ of the song, helping him ‘re-engage’ with the emotions whilst also reminding himself that he’s ‘no longer there anymore’.
It’s this raw emotional qualities in his songs that truly move his audiences and Ben relates that ‘every day for the past 3 years people have contacted me either through facebook, email or in person saying how my music has helped them. People have opened up to me about serious aspects of their lives and this personally helps my confidence as an artist and as a person. Music does that to people, and I think people who are weirded out/ twisted about the industry they go ‘uhh’ but it’s all beautiful. Whatever that music is, like for instance I was listening to a Nicki Minaj mixtape at 7am this morning and it was so sick, it moves me, it makes me happy and it’s the same when I put on the Blue Nile or Fionn Regan.’ He continued to express how Fionn Regan’s The End of History is in his opinion on of the best, if not the best acoustic debuts of all time, and that it was, in fact, a Fionn Regan gig in a 200 cap theatre outside of York that motivated him to pursue his music. He recalled being there thinking ‘if I ever got to play here it would be the sickest thing ever’. And four years later he succeeded in his dream, playing two nights at the venue. ‘Those moments are so sweet, it’s a spiritual thing and means more than a milestone or a festival or a big venue show – those things are important and I respect them but they don’t have the emotional attachment.’
Ben definitely holds a close attachment towards his Yorkshire roots and its natural landscape has often sub-consciously influenced his writing. He expresses how powerful the sea is and that ‘it’s bigger than everything, it doesn’t care and it will take you.’ This is also reflected in the artwork for the new album; a scene depicting a man sat on a cliff with high rolling waves in the foreground and then a city and mountains in the background. The artwork is the work of the artist Jade Spranklen aka Sprankenstein who has designed a different cover for each song on the album. He states that ‘growing up in Yorkshire and being surrounded by the beautiful, dark, barren, at times, coastline it does have an effect.’
Despite how mentally tiring and nervous Ben was in his return he seems to have taken it all in his stride. The show itself was truly magical as the crowd fell silent to the ethereal qualities of Ben’s voice. He continued to thank the audience and express how humble he was throughout his set, and then encouraged everyone to join him with the harmonies in Atlas Hands. The moved crowd gaped as Ben effortlessly captivated the room with a combination of both old and new songs.
The support act Sam Airey, a good friend of Ben’s, set the tone of the evening with his soulful voice and a gorgeous acoustic rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘No Surrender’ whilst sharing stories of falling in love with New York. The atmosphere created by both artists was simply magical and the Bodega was the perfect intimate setting.
Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s new album After the Rain is released on August 19th and the new song Tilikum is available to purchase and stream now.