Local singer-songwriter Ben Simmons recently released his second EP… We asked him about his song writing process, his favourite type of cheese, and what it’s like to produce an EP during a global pandemic!
Describe your music style in three words?
Soul infused songwriting.
Who are your main influences?
My all time favourite artist is John Mayer and all time favourite band is KALEO! I tend to discover and listen to artists who aren’t of the mainstream. More bands/artists like The Teskey Brothers, Ady Suleiman, Jacob Banks and Mingo Fishtrap. One of my more recent discoveries is Patrick Droney, a singer/songwriter originating from New York. Out of all the artists running through my playlists, I would say he has inspired me the most, especially during the making of Aligning Fires!
You recently released your second EP – how do you feel?!
I honestly couldn’t be happier that the record is finally out for the world to see. The response so far has been absolutely incredible… I find it so comforting to know that what I’ve written about is seen as a collective experience. I’ve always wanted to inspire others by writing stories that are relatable to people who may be lost, people who may have just found what they’ve been searching for, or are still searching for pieces of themselves. The tracks within this record are some of my most personal writings to date. They bring up the difficult conversations you have with yourself, they address the scenic routes we all take to avoid the grey areas and they all explore who I was, who I am and who I want to become.
How long was this process from start to finish?
The overall process from the first written word to the last recorded note spanned roughly 2 years, although the idea of the record came to me much earlier. I’ve always wanted to write about myself in a reflective light and almost treat it as a series of chapters that I can genuinely be proud of. Furthermore, 20 years of memories, thoughts and reflection lie within the Aligning Fires EP, so it’s been a long time coming for sure!
How different was it to produce this during Covid?
Production was difficult to say the least for not being able to make visits to the studio, but negatives aside, it was almost a blessing in disguise, as the record went through multiple changes during the pandemic. I remember taking a step back during the first lockdown and evaluating 4 songs that I, at the time, was adamant would be in the final product. Something was off. I had a feeling that I could do better. So I removed 3 out of the 4 songs and the only song that remained in the final product today was track 3 – Only Gone and Fallen In Love. The title track ‘Aligning Fires’ was written in late 2019. I wrote a ton over lockdown, including the 2nd track ‘Wait A Minute’ which was written in 45 minutes, the 4th track ‘Foolish’ and I had whisperings of what was eventually the 5th track ‘Amsterdam’. ‘Amsterdam’ went through multiple changes during the writing process, as at one point it was going to be an acapella introductory track titled ‘Let Me In’. It was later changed to the name seen on the record. It was also originally written on the acoustic guitar and during lockdown, I remember having a lot of time to think about the track, and eventually made the decision to learn piano so I could transpose it onto the one in my room. I sent over the piano version to my producer working on the record with me, and that evening, ‘Amsterdam’ was born.
What were the best and most challenging parts of the process?
One of the most challenging parts of the process was to stay true to myself and these writings. I find it so easy to stray and sometimes, it’s easier to imagine a scenario instead of remembering an event and drawing experiences from that. Due to the metaphorical sense of this record, I never wrote A B and C, I would jump in and out of colours and have moments of mindfulness on frequent occasions. So much of this insight is really difficult to put all into one song, knowing full well that a series of tracks together revolving around similar subjects would be better to work towards.
The best parts by far are the moments in the studio, watching these songs become reality. When I was a kid, I had (still do!) a big imagination, and during school it was really hard for me to get what I was thinking down onto paper, I have a feeling this is why I write a lot in metaphors. I’d like to think I’ve achieved that goal with this record.
Do you have a favourite track?
All 5 tracks from the Aligning Fires EP are my favourite in some way! The title track is the most impressive lyrically, with a key change appearing towards the end of the song. ‘Wait A Minute’ was my favourite to write for sure and is the quickest song I have written to date. ‘Only Gone and Fallen In Love’ was the most technical, layering multiple voices within the chorus to capture that gospel soul sound. Also, sharing that experience with some of my friends who came in to help sing with me on the track was a blessing. ‘Foolish’ was my personal favourite to record. The process from start to finish, musically, just screamed ME!! ‘Amsterdam’ was the most personal song to record. Letting a good thing die can be difficult to convey and the song needed the utmost love and care from start to finish.
What was the last song you listened to?
State of the Heart – Patrick Droney
What are your hopes for the future?
I try my hardest every day to take my music to new heights, to continue chasing and beating my expectations. My dream one day is to have a team of managers, a backing band and others that I can call my family and tour the world, playing my music live to as many people as I possibly can. Playing the main stages at festivals and living my life to the fullest, knowing full well that this is who I want to be.
What’s the best season of the year?
Autumn!! I’m a bit of a winter baby and there’s nothing quite like the colour pallet that autumn brings!
Favourite type of cheese?
Halloumi, halloumi, and halloumi.
If you had access to a tardis, where/when would you go?
I’ve always been a fan of space and the incomprehensible size of the universe. I would have to take a trip out to the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall, the largest known structure in the universe, weighing in at 10 billion lightyears across. I would open the doors and sit a while, or maybe forever, knowing me definitely forever!