Interview: Benjamin Francis Leftwich Part 1

Impact recently caught up with critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich ahead of his anticipated show at Rescue Rooms as part of his UK Autumn Tour.

You’ve played in Nottingham before?

Yeah I like Nottingham a lot. It’s lively. If you imagine as a songwriter you’re inspired by feeling places that you know have deep levels of emotion; if you imagine all the students in Nottingham and all the crazy stuff that must go down every weekend… There’s just something in the air.

I guess coming back to places where all these different people are doing all these different things, you find inspiration in that?

Yeah one hundred percent. Some great artists have come from here. I always seem to have lots of radio people that I talk to when I’m in Nottingham which is good you know?

So you’re touring right now?

Yeah, been on tour since April and going until Christmas Eve pretty much. This UK tour is a week and a half. Then I go to Europe for a month. Then America for another month.

That sounds intense!

It is really intense! Anytime I feel like complaining about it I just remind myself of how lucky I am. I’m so grateful to be able to write songs and to be able to share these songs with people and I wouldn’t have it any other way you know?

“I lost my dad in… April 2013. Really suddenly. I cancelled a load of shows around the world to come spend time with him”

I remember hearing your first album when I was still in school. Then there was nothing for quite a while and I kind of wondered why, but then I read somewhere that you’d lost your dad…

I lost my dad in… April 2013. Really suddenly. I cancelled a load of shows around the world to come spend time with him. And I had toured the first album so much globally that I was tired. I needed a change and I needed to live at home and live real life you know what I mean? Not write and release songs because I have to. I didn’t feel that I had a body of work that I was physically or mentally capable of sharing at that time.

How did you spend the time between the two releases?

It’s been five years since the album came out, and about two and a half years since I stopped touring. I spent a lot of it by myself, sat in my flat, listening to music, walking around. I was creative during all that time and I was writing with other people, collaborating with other musicians.  I was also in a pretty self-destructive state with everything in my life. The song ‘Kicking Roses’ on the album is about that; stamping down on beautiful people and energies that people were trying to offer me. In hindsight maybe I should have reached out to my fans a little sooner, because no one really knew what the fuck was going on.

“Yeah it was a difficult time. Something that can never really be fixed I don’t think”

But you do need that time and space to yourself don’t you, to process everything? In a lot of ways when you surround yourself with people you can feel even more alone.

Very true. Yeah it was a difficult time. Something that can never really be fixed I don’t think. You can learn ways to deal with it and learn ways that you can move on. Focus for a little while in a streamlined way to create music. But it’s difficult, even coming here. I can remember being in this room four years ago with the same girlfriend I had at the time when Dad passed, who a lot of the album’s about. It’s very weird. It really messes with your head and your heart to be honest.

That sounds tough. Though I feel that I wouldn’t be able to come back to something like that, that’s so painful.

I remember this room. This very room. Kissing her out there in the hallway and shit… I’m grateful for music.

Who have you been touring with?

Siv Jakobsen has been opening on this whole tour. She’s great! We choose our own supports wherever we go. I hate the word support, it makes it sound like there is a separation with amazing artists who share the stage with us. In Europe we have Travis is a Tourist from Belfast, and in America we have Brolly – a band I discovered a couple of years ago. On the last UK tour we had a different artist from each city every single night. It got pretty complicated logistically but I’m very passionate about finding new music.

Both of your albums are available on Spotify, but there’s been a lot of debate surrounding music streaming services in terms of who gets paid and how artists are losing out. Where do you stand on that issue?

I think the deal for the artists could be a lot better in the future but I think they’re a good thing for music right now. Siv who’s on tour with us right now had a million plays on one song and that’s been her way of making a bit of money. [The] thing with money from Spotify is it keeps coming in because people can repeatedly play a song even though it’s a low figure so it’s good. For mid/low-level artists it’s a really good way of sharing music and it can really push ticket sales. If you get your song on the right playlist so many people can hear it. But I do have a lot of friends actually that actively fight Spotify and go in and try and negotiate an increase in royalty rates.”

Part 2 coming soon!

Nadhya Kamalaneson

Image courtesy of Dan Marshvia Flickr (CC Search). License available here.

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