Interview | Benjamin Booker

BY MERHAWI HAILE

Benjamin Booker

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

American singer-songwriter, Benjamin Booker, coming off his critically acclaimed eponymous debut album, has led a successful nationwide tour and has left his mark on festival stages worldwide. Booker took some time out for us to discuss touring, the development of his short film, and social commentary in music. Read our full Q&A with the talented New Orleans based guitarist below.

Does your background and work in journalism inform your work at all?

I guess so. I wrote reviews and stuff like that and I guess when your writing your own music if you have that as a background it’s hard not to look at it from the perspective of somebody critiquing it. I guess it made me more self-critical when writing.

A lot of your work draws on genres with a long, documented history, but your work still sounds fresh. What would you attribute that to?

If I’m taking from somewhere I try not to do too much at one time. So, like if I was pulling a melody from like a blues genre I would make sure that the guitar wasn’t also a bluesy kind of guitar thing. And always having opposing influences at the same time. So I think that helps.

The majority songs weren’t very lived in at the time you recorded the album right?

No. Some of them were almost a year old, but some of them were 5 months old.

How have the songs evolved with touring?

We play them a little differently now compared than on the record. They’re a lot faster than they are on the record. I put out a live record a couple months ago, that’s closer to what we do now. It’s more energy now, and we’re a lot better at playing now than when we recorded them.

What elements do you think touring will bring to your next album?

I write differently now. It’s hard not to after you’ve been playing shows because you know now just don’t work live, which you just can’t do, which I didn’t know before because I didn’t play [them]. So there’s some songs we don’t play because they don’t really work live anymore. But the new record, everything will be stuff we can play live.

A while back you release a video/short film The Future is Slow Coming. How involved were you with developing the treatment/storyline?

Most of it was from the director James Lees, whose based in L.A. He came to me with a treatment. I wasn’t planning on doing a video for that song, but he had come up with a good compliment to the song and we ended up doing it together. We talked about it for a while and finally decided what we wanted to do and didn’t want to do.

There’s clear social commentary in it about recent events. Do you feel, in general, artists have a social responsibility with their art or that great artists are only responsible for making great art?

I guess it depends on what you think an artist is. I like bands that have a message and enjoy that kind of thing but I also like bands like FIDLAR that just like sing about drinking beer also. There’s a place for both of those.

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