Discovery Music: Benjamin Booker

MUSIC

Benjamin Booker’s album, “Witness” is a groovy mix of eccentric soul and blues rock, paired with beautiful melodies and socially-conscious lyrics. As we look forward to hearing the whole thing (it releases June 2), we had the chance to sit down with Benjamin to learn about his musical and life inspirations.

And be sure to check out Benjamin’s new song called “Right On You” from his new record:

When and how did you get into music? What has the journey looked like to get to where you are today?

I’ve been into music since I can remember. My sister has always sung and used to record me and my other sister on a boombox singing. I can remember how special it felt hearing us back on tape. In between then and now I started playing guitar, obsessively reading interviews of my favorite bands, booking bands at school, selling merch for friends’ bands, and eventually writing and playing on my own.

You were named an “artist you need to know” by Rolling Stone, have toured with Jack White, and have performed on Late Night with David Letterman, Conan and Later With Jools Holland. What are you most proud of?

Honestly, I’m most proud of getting to a point where I can live the life I want to live. Nothing beats freedom.

Your new album Witness is coming out this June. Tell us about what inspires your sound and lyrics.

I was inspired by tons of new music I found over the last several years, from Sly and the Family Stone’s album Fresh to African psych-rock to recent hip-hop. I noticed I was getting more and more drawn to rhythm which you’ll hear on the new record.

The lyrics were heavily influenced by a trip I took to Mexico City for a month on my own. On the flight over I was reading White Noise by Don DeLillo. There was a sentence that said, “What we are reluctant to touch often seems the very fabric of our salvation.” I decided right then to write an album about those things I never want to touch, the things I was always afraid to talk about. Every song on the new record stems from that idea.

Who are your musical influences? Any dream collaborators that you’d die to work with?

I love Perfume Genius and Serpentwithfeet. If I could maybe just get to play a show with them someday, that’d be a real treat.

What do you love most about New Orleans? What are your favorite spots?

I actually moved to Los Angeles last fall for love. New Orleans will always be a special place for me though and I can’t say that I won’t go back some day. BJ’s in the Bywater was the bar across the street from my house and was probably the greatest bar I’ve ever been to. It became my second living room. I could get WIFI from my house! I recommend everyone going when you get a chance. It’s run by great folks! Tell them I sent you.

What’s the best advice you’ve received? What is the best advice you’d share?

The best advice I’ve received IS the advice I’d share. If you’re working a job you don’t like for 8 hours and sleeping 8 hours a day, you’re basically wasting two thirds of your life. Find something you love and you’ll live a happy life no matter how much money you make or how “successful” you become. Then, you’re doing what you want. Time is all we have. Live in the present. Don’t wait for change or you WILL regret it. This world is for risk takers.

When you’re not busy making music, what are you doing?

I haven’t always used my time wisely, but I’m trying to make the best of every day. I’m trying to read as much as I can and go on hikes in the park. I also started volunteering and teaching creative writing to kids, which I love doing. I’m trying to be better about narrowing the gap between the person I’d like to be and the person I am. It’s exhausting but the last thing I need is more regrets down the road.

I’ve wasted a lot of time because of fear or laziness. You’re stronger then you think.

What’s next for you? Tell us everything!

I’m hoping to get back on the road and get a chance to see all the people who make it possible for me to do this. I’ll see ya’ll at the shows. Let’s dance! Learn some songs and come sing with me!

PHOTO CREDIT: NEIL KRUG