Waiting to fly to China on a tour that lasts till February, Benjamin Francis Leftwich tells us about his album After The Rain and his unusual way of finding new local talent. He plays Academy 3, Manchester, on 27 September, Wardrobe, Leeds, 28 September and further dates across the country.
Tell us a bit about your sound and your influences.
I’ve always loved songs from as far back as I can remember. My dad played the Beatles and Nina Simone constantly around the house in Yorkshire where me and my sister were living with him. I feel really lucky to have had these influences informing my creativity from such a young age. My tastes in music have widened and opened as I’ve grown up. I think this happens for most people. In my teenage years I fell in love with many songwriters, like Ryan Adams, Fionn Regan, PJ Harvey, Bat For Lashes, Jose Gonzales. For me these kind of people are the godfathers and mothers of songwriting for my generation. I fell in love with Springsteen and Tom Petty in a big way around this time as well. Right after finishing college I fell in love with hip-hop and rap and I still listen to that music more than most other music. Drake, Kanye, Mobb Deep, Madlib, Joey BadA$$ and J Cole are all on heavy rotation in my house. I think like any songwriter I am influenced by any of the music that I love that connects with me. In terms of my sound I would say that my rule is to do whatever is right for the song. Working with Charlie Andrews on After The Rain was a real blessing. He has become one of my best friends and is one of the best musicians I know. Having become more open to production techniques and the magic of a studio really helped inform the sonic of After The Rain, but my rule in general in terms of sound is to do whatever is right for the song.
How have you evolved as a musician over the years?
I have grown up a lot and more importantly my tastes and appreciation of all different kinds of music has widened and diversified, which has been really useful to my own creative output. My tastes are wide. This week I have fallen asleep to the Memoirs of a Geisha soundtrack, Mobb Deep’s Infamous album, Drake’s Views and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. I love music and I need it playing at all times.
What are you up to at the moment artistically?
I am on tour until February so my days at home are few and far between. I’m writing this from a plane about to fly to China for a show. I am working on new music and am collecting new songs for the future all the time. I just released 13 new songs on my new album After The Rain. I’m really proud of this record and so grateful that people love it.
How do you stand out from the crowd in a saturated industry?
I just create the songs that I do and I love them and love sharing them with people. I’m concerned only with artistic purity and focus and nothing else. People stand out when their songs connect, I think.
What’s on your rider?
Haha, many things. At the moment a lot of fruit and soups. There’s always beer and wine, etc and snacks such as hummus and pitta. We also ask for recommendations of brilliant local artists on our rider, which is one of my favourite things about it, and we have discovered many beautiful artists this way.
Tell us about your worst live show.
Haha, that’s a difficult question. Probably a show on the other side of the world whilst breaking up with a girlfriend back at home. Emotionally that is always very intense. But the intensity of the road and the emotional pressures of touring a lot in a way serve to bless people’s creativity and, in a sense, the suffering of creatives is a beautiful thing.