19-year-old London, Ontario musician Ben Graham is producing independent music with raw, poetic emotion. While he is a part of the Ontario rock 'n' roll scene, his values have set him a part as he chooses to lead a revolution of his own; staying true to his firm foundation in Jesus instead of following the crowd. Soul Shine had a chance to ask Graham some questions about his music, his faith, and his upcoming projects:
SS: What is your musical background? Did you train anywhere that had a profound impact on your life? What made you want to start singing and playing music?
BG: I actually avoided music classes in school, but in high school I started taking lessons privately. Learning music in a group setting didn't work for me. A lady from my church taught me piano, and I took bass lessons through a music store. I'd say they both had a pretty big impact because they taught
me theory and how to play songs I liked, I learned better since it was music I could listen to and enjoy playing. When I decided to make music of my own I wanted to express and challenge myself.
SS: Who are your biggest musical influences?
BG: Chevelle, Jars of Clay, High Holy Days, Smashing Pumpkins, and Sheryl Crow.
SS: How has Jesus changed your life personally and impacted your music professionally? When did you first find out about Him?
BG: I went to church since I was a kid, understanding God and the core values represented in the Bible gave me a moral compass that believe it or not helps me to function professionally, and not just in music. Lots of people think morals get in the way, but that's not true. Although I've been back stabbed, and publicly lied about because of them, I've avoided playing dirty to get ahead. In the work place and in music. Everything I have was earned through hard work and community support from close friends/family and people in my region who like what I do. People are a lot more willing to work with and support someone they can trust. What you put out is what you reap.
SS: Tell us more about the songs you write, was your previous work more of a cathartic experience, getting the past out of your system through song?
BG: "Cut You In" is definitely cathartic, it's sort of like 'a lesson learned' through the whole disc. The title track chronicles issues of trust, betrayal and moving on. "Live Through This" is a song I think Soul Shine readers will enjoy most. It's about living through tragedy and finding your way even when your not sure you can.
SS: What do you hope to be writing about in the future?
BG: I hope to continue writing personal songs people can relate to, I'd like to convey my thoughts more positively in the future because I've met so many great people this year and had the time of my life.
SS: What would you tell someone who wants to start a band or be a performer today, has anything in particular been a lesson learned for you in the business so far?
BG: I'd say find people with similar values and goals. If everyone is pulling in different directions, your band (or back up band) will explode. I learned that the hard way. It's still challenging to find players motivated enough to consistently perform to the best of their abilities and show up for practices…I still have to figure that one out.
SS: Do you think a musician needs a record label to be successful anymore?
BG: I think it definitely helps, I had my hand in every aspect of my release. There was a lot of paper work, organization, planning and execution involved in what I did on a small scale. I can only imagine the amount of effort it takes to co-ordinate some bigger releases.
I don't have a label or even a manager so it wasn't easy. I have a great deal of respect for everyone who has worked on a professional level and gained success in music.
SS: Do you have any stories from the road? Anything that stands out from the shows you've played?
BG: During the most recent show there were rumors flying around about my guitarist not showing up because he was in the hospital for an injury. I sat looking out the window thinking "Is Mike gonna show?" the suspense just about killed me. He did show up and it went fairly well but he had received
medical attention earlier and was visibly drained, but I was really impressed he pulled it together for two shows that night.
SS: If you could play a gig with any musician and at any venue in the world, what would be your ideal?
BG: I'd love to play with Chevelle, the venue wouldn't even matter with Chevelle on the bill.
SS: What do you want people to get from your music?
BG: I want people to enjoy my music on a personal level. My songs are about real life, things I've gone through that other people are struggling with. I work the same minimum wage jobs as everyone my age and I'd hope people would identify with me, that I'm just like them in their struggles.
SS: Any new projects or tours in the works?
BG: I have some new players lined up, I can't wait to get back to doing more shows. I'm also looking for bands outside my region to perform with, I'd love to do shows in cities like Kitchener/Waterloo, Toronto and Hamilton, and bring some bands from those areas to London, Ontario.
Watch out for my debut music video "Addiction" which should be out in October.
For more information on Ben Graham aka Ben G. please visit the following websites:
Writer: Lindsay Whitfield