Ben Leece is releasing his debut album, ‘No Wonder The World Is Exhausted’, this week, and it looks like the promising country/ roots singer isn’t stopping anytime soon with an ongoing tour until January 2019.
Ben has amassed a collection of ten tracks in this album that delve down into the depths of introspection and extrospection.
“This genre, roots music, was born out of oppression. You’ve got the Carter Family, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan – those were all protest songs. I still try to package it up so it's not super obvious to someone listening casually, but it's definitely something that I do.”
Ben aims to use his platform to advocate for the disadvantaged and destitute. The track ‘This Is What You Get’ tackles the tough and often overlooked subject of homelessness in Australia. “Anyone can end up here, anyone up there… I swear to God I once held a light up to the mountain,” he sings.
‘A Hole’ is a light, pop song that masks the aches of depression, while ‘Nothing (Not Anymore)’ and ‘Smoke Signals’ are political songs relating to First Nations issues
“I feel like it's not for everyone and there's certainly no criticism of anyone that doesn't use their platform to influence people, but I guess I just felt if I could change even one person's mind, I have to,” Ben says. True to his word, Ben has successfully used his Facebook profile to raise funds and awareness for Indigenous children’s literacy.
When asked how literacy affects him, Ben answers: “Yeah, reading makes a massive difference... Traditionally I've always read biographies. "I've only just started reading fiction in the last couple of years, but I've found that it just opens up your mind and broadens it instead of writing the same thing over and over.”
Country music, for example, has become synonymous with love songs. “There’s nothing wrong with a love song though!” Ben interjects.
“Love and heartbreak are such common emotions, so relatable and universal, and I guess that's why [a love song] resonates with so many people.”
Ben lauds Australian author Tim Winton among other authors as his primary inspiration. “It's the economy of their writing.
"And I think whether you're talking about songwriting or poetry or a novel, or even journalism – getting your message across in the simplest way possible, painting a vivid picture in the simplistic form, that’s the most powerful and effective way.”
And there is a simplistic beauty to the people and lives that Ben has the ability to capture – something which most likely harkens back to his country boy roots in Kamilaroi country, Tamworth, and the influence of producer Shane Nicholson.
In an interview last year, Shane told scenestr: “Producing is one of my big focuses or has been lately… [The studio is] my favourite place to be. I love all the other parts of being a musician, but none of it compares to being in the studio.”
Shane, who is a singer-songwriter in his own right, produces and features on Ben's album, playing guitars, bass, piano, organs and percussion as well as providing backing vocals. Ben calls Shane a “big deal in the realm of those things”, and says he was “super nervous about [working with him]” for that reason.
“He’s a closed book,” Ben says. “He was intimidating at first to work with because he doesn’t really give anything away… but he was really encouraging.
“He said, 'Don’t stop writing'. And I thought, 'Oh sh.t! He doesn’t think they’re good enough!' And then I found out, no, he doesn’t necessarily think that. It’s the theory that the more there is – better strike rate and all.
“But I went into panic mode and wrote 50 something songs. It was good though. Shane pushed me and a lot of the recording process was me listening to him to evolve.”
‘No Wonder The World Is Exhausted’ is released 19 October.
Fri 19 Oct - Marrickville Bowling Club (Sydney)
Ben Leece Tour Dates
Fri 26 Oct - Grand Junction Hotel (Hunter Valley)
Wed 7 Nov - Australian Music Week (Sydney)
Sat 10 Nov - Take Me To Town launch @ The Spotted Mallard (Melbourne)
Sun 11 Nov - Some Velvet Morning (Melbourne)
Sat 17 Nov - The Junk Bar (Brisbane)
Wed 5 Dec - Stag & Hunter (Newcastle)
Thu 13 Dec - Imperial Hotel (Tamworth)
Fri 14 Dec - Flow Bar (Old Bar)
Thu 20 Dec - The Wicko (Newcastle)
Fri 21 Dec - Transit Bar (Canberra)