The heartfelt voices of Ben Leece and Lachlan Bryan team up for their 'Friends And Acquaintances' tour that resumes in Brisbane later this month.
The sweet voiced, creative friends from way back have already played two buzzing shows (last month) and are gearing up to kick off again, promising “a double dose of sweet and raggedy alt.country tunes”.
The pair have both been making their musical mark with critically acclaimed albums, numerous awards and countless Australian and international shows.
With new single 'Nothing (Not Anymore)' released last month, Ben discusses the meaning behind the song as well as the upcoming run of shows with Lachlan, naming his guitars after retired Sydney Roosters players and letting loose on weekends.
At what point in your life do you feel like something clicked within you and music became more than just a hobby? I’m not sure it’s ever really felt like a hobby. I think ‘hobby’ carries connotations of not taking something seriously and I can’t remember ever not taking music seriously.
I guess if I’m lucky to see the day come where I might be able to quit my day job, things will feel different.
Your latest release, 'Nothing (Not Anymore)' has an important message behind it, what does the song mean to you? This song for me is about solidarity. It’s about the continual shortcomings of the Australian government where First Nations politics is concerned.
For me, ahead of the election this month, there is no greater issue than the long overdue Treaty with Australia’s Aboriginal people. Australia will never move forward until we begin to deal with our past. We’ve attempted genocide more than once in Australia’s relatively short existence and each time Aboriginal people have proven resilient.
Surely the better educated, better paid folks than me aren’t blind to the significance of that alone. Instead of trying to kill off the oldest living culture on earth why wouldn’t we embrace it, learn from it, take pride in it?
To see people in the crowd singing along has been amazing. Sometimes with all the evidence we have in front of us it incenses me – I feel like I’m going crazy, so it’s reassuring to think that the sentiment resonates with others.
To see so many of my Gamilaroi friends in the crowd singing along in Tamworth was particularly special. I can see what it means to them in their faces. I wrote this song for them.
What elements of songwriting, performing and general ways of going about things have you drawn from working with Lachlan since the beginning of your friendship? Even before I met Lachlan, I admired his writing.
He cares about words and how they work together. He cares about language, about semantics. He has a tremendous economy to his writing, which is what I strive for.
As for performance, I am always in awe of the confidence guys like Lachlan have. Not to be confused with ego, it’s a certain presence that commands attention. He knows how to talk to an audience. When he plays you want to sit up and pay attention.
What is the most significant event in your life that has inspired you, influenced you or pushed you as a person? There’s been a few over the years, but most recently I attended an open mic night hosted by William Crighton here in Newcastle.
Before that night, I was content to just get on a stage and go through the motions. Watching him communicate with the crowd, draw them in that night just floored me. The most valuable commodity any of us have is time, and if someone has chosen to give that time to me over anything else, I sure as hell better not squander it.
I think audiences appreciate vulnerability, but you can’t let it get in the way. A good song is above everything else, but if you want to perform that song on a stage you better deliver it in a way that justifies a listener’s attention. William Crighton taught me that.
What is the most important part about this tour for you? The most important part about the tour is putting on good shows.
Playing with The Wildes is a big opportunity for me. I’m going to get to play to people that otherwise would have no idea who I am. It’s my job to make sure those people leave these shows wanting to know more about Ben Leece and Left Of The Dial.
How has your songwriting and performing developed over the past few years? For me, it’s about being more disciplined. You have to do the work. You have to read and you have to write.
People will talk about songs just ‘coming to them’, but it’s not entirely true. Great songs don’t just come out of thin air. They may come unsuspectingly from deep in the writer’s subconscious, but in order for that idea to manifest the writer has put a significant amount of hours into practising and honing their craft.
I am an advocate for Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. Every morning my alarm goes off at 5am and I get up and write for an hour before I have to leave for work. Got to do the work.
As for performance, I think my confidence is growing. I’m still as full of anxiety about standing on a stage as the next person, but I’m getting better.
What is the best part about doing this tour Lachlan? I think the fact that we both offer something different. We may fit somewhere inside the same genre, and while our music probably intersects at different points, we sound pretty different. These shows offer a pretty broad spectrum of what alternative country can be.
Do you have any love stories of your favourite instruments? Is there a guitar that you will pick up and have a strong connection to? I name my guitars after retired Sydney Roosters players.
I have my two main guitars which were custom built for me by PJL Guitars. ‘Artie’, named after the late, great Arthur Beetson is a Martin OM styled acoustic. It’s built like a brick sh.thouse and sounds amazing. ‘Mini’ is a Jazzmaster named after Anthony Minichiello.
I’m pretty loyal with instruments. Lots of players can’t have enough different guitars on the shelf. I have a couple others, but I really only ever play these two.
What are you most proud of in your musical career? Probably the night I opened for Tim Rogers and Dana Gerhman at the end of last year. Last year was weird. I lost my uncle to suicide the week before the lead single from my debut album came out. Highs and lows.
Tim Rogers, someone I have admired and taken much inspiration from since I was a teenage kid in the early '90s, put his arm around me after the gig. He pressed his forehead up against mine and said ‘You’re a bit good Mr Leece aren’t you’. Next minute, I’m in my car just sitting in the driver’s seat bawling my eyes out. I’ll carry that moment with me forever.
What is your best piece of advice for anyone starting in the music career or for life in general? Look yourself in the mirror and be clear about why you want to play music. If you have grand delusions of being a rock star go and audition for 'The Voice' – good luck to you.
If you want to do it because it gives you joy like nothing else can, be content just making art. I’ve had my heart broken more times than I care to remember chasing things out of my control. The only thing you can ever have control over is the art, so make what you love and let all the other rubbish take care of itself.
To quote the great Joe Pug, ‘An expensive drug habit is not a song. A compelling Instagram account is not a song. And most importantly, reverb is not a song.’
What can fans expect from Ben Leece for the rest of your shows on the tour? I work my ass off in a day job, so I don’t take these weekends away for granted.
I’ll be having the time of my life. There’ll be loose and raunchy rock & roll then raw and intimate moments as well. The band is sounding great and we’re having fun. Generally when everyone is connecting on stage it connects with the crowd.
Ben Leece & Lachlan Bryan 2019 Tour Dates
Fri 17 May - Junk Bar (Brisbane) Sat 18 May - Junk Bar @ 3pm (Brisbane) Thu 23 May - Sly Fox (Sydney) Fri 24 May - Stag & Hunter (Newcastle) Sat 25 May - Paddock Sessions (Hunter Valley) Sun 26 May - Flow Bar (Old Bar, NSW) Thu 30 May - Pistol Pete’s Food n Blues (Geelong) Fri 31 May - Caravan Music Club (Melbourne) Sat 1 Jun - Rezza House Concert (Melbourne) Sun 2 Jun - Billyroy’s Grassroots Music Club (Bendigo) Fri 28 Jun - Walkerthon – A Benefit for Jason Walker @ Petersham Bowling Club (Sydney)* Wed 7 Aug - Lizotte's Newcastle*