INTERVIEW: Alec Benjamin
American singer-songwriter Alec Benjamin is really starting to make quite the name for himself. His latest single ‘Let Me Down Slowly’ has already raked in over 22 million streams on Spotify and the momentum hasn’t seemed to stop building. He first gained attention when he self-booked himself a European tour playing in parking lots outside concerts by the likes of Shawn Mendes and Troye Sivan. This saw his social media status boost almost instantly and had him heading back to the US with a new direction and following. Uploading covers and original tracks to YouTube he continued to grow his fanbase and impressed with his honest storytelling. I recently chatted to Alec Benjamin about his vulnerable storylines, his versatile sound and about when he got dropped from a label. Check out the chat here;
TB: You first sparked momentum in the industry when you self-booked yourself a European tour performing in parking lots outside Shawn Mendes and Troye Sivan shows. Now that’s not an easy thing to do. Did you find that most people were interested in hearing you or were more walking past?
AB: To be honest, it was an interesting experience and I learnt a lot from it. I found that most people were really friendly and receptive and I think the reason I kept doing it was because it worked. People are going to a concert to hear music so why not listen and witness new live music while you wait.
TB: Did you ever have any of the artists reach out to you when you were doing this outside multiple shows?
AB: No, that hasn’t happened. That would’ve been cool though.
TB: When you came back to America after building yourself a bit of a profile overseas did you feel like you were more confident as an artist with the vision you had/wanted?
AB: I definitely felt more comfortable as a performer because I had played so many times in situations that weren’t the most ideal. So I think when you get the chance to perform on a proper stage with a proper PA and house lights that you do end up feeling a lot more confident. Like, if I can perform a show where no one really knows me then this shouldn’t be too hard.
TB: You refer to yourself a lot as a narrator and your original songs hear you opening up a lot about your life and your ideas. How do you get yourself to a place where you’re comfortable creatively to be so open and vulnerable with producers and listeners?
AB: I feel like getting to talk about things and share my emotions with people is kind of cathartic. So it’s not really hard for me because I like being open. I know that’s a bit of a cheap answer but it’s true.
TB: What has been your most vulnerable moment as a songwriter? Is it a released track or an unreleased track?
AB: I find the most vulnerable and hard part of a song isn’t writing it but it’s actually putting it out and having people listen to it. The hardest part is learning how to collaborate with different people which can be really scary because I have to open up to someone I don’t know very intimately. But I would say my most vulnerable song would be ‘I Built A Friend’.
TB: ‘Let Me Down Slowly’ hears you realizing that the end of a relationship is near but asking for the person to be kind and let you down slowly and not ruin the connection you had. It was a very emotional and candidly honest moment. So when you write these songs are you aware of how the person you’re writing about may react? And has anyone you’ve written about ever approached you about the song?
AB: Surprisingly no one has ever approached me but I don’t ever think about how they will react to be honest while I’m writing the songs. I know it seems cowardless but it’s true. I’m writing songs for me, so I never think about it. But now that you’ve asked me I’m thinking about it.
TB: ‘Let Me Down Slowly’ has gained an insane amount of international attention, already raking in over 18 million streams on Spotify after a month which is an incredible feat for any breakthrough artist. How do you comprehend that, that many people are listening to your songs?
AB: I actually don’t and I don’t think I will until I can see the people in person and play live. It’s actually really hard for the human brain to comprehend that unless they get to see it manifest itself in the venues. So to be honest it hasn’t hit me yet but I’m very excited.
TB: You’ve released another new track called ‘The Boy In The Bubble’ which has this really cinematic way of storytelling along with this bold and intense production. In contrast it’s very different to ‘Let Me Down Slowly’ so when you’re in the studio working on music what is inspiring you?
AB: Well I guess I hope the songs not only just convey how I’m feeling lyrically but also sonically and melodically. And because ‘Let Me Down Slowly’ and ‘Boy In The Bubble’ are about two completely different things it makes sense in my head that they wouldn’t sound the same. I don’t think its ever intentional but I think it’s just cause the subject matter of the songs are just so different. I’ve never really thought about it so it’s just happened that way.
TB: You were once signed to a label and when you handed in your album to them they dropped you. That must have shattered your confidence completely. How did you pick yourself up to keep fighting?
AB: I didn’t really have a choice cause I dropped out of school and decided that music was going to be my thing so I couldn’t really back out at that point. And I don’t think I wanted to because I love making music so I just figured out a way to keep going. And I put all of the songs out on youtube so people could still listen to what I created and I could start fresh.
TB: With artists like Shawn Mendes and Troye Sivan and Justin Bieber breaking through to mainstream success thanks to social media do you think it’s made it easier or harder for you as an artist to stand out commercially?
AB: I think it’s always hard because there are so many great artists making and releasing music. But I don’t really think about it because I just like making music so if only a couple of people listen then that’s okay because I get to still make it. But I really admire, Troye Sivan, Shawn Mendes and Justin Bieber as artists but my music is very different so I think there’s a place for all of us.
TB: And I have to ask, when are you going to come down under to Australia and come visit us?
AB: I would love to go to Australia soon and if I cant go in the next couple of months then I will go to an Outback Steakhouse so I can just feel like I’m there *laughs*.
TB: *Laughs* I love how overseas people think we actually eat at Outback Steakhouses
AB: I actually haven’t eaten at one before but now I’ve said it I think I have to *laughs*.
TB: What’s the number one thing you wanna do when you do finally come to Australia?
AB: I would love to play a show, that would be rad. But I’ve always wanted to visit the Opera House ever since seeing ‘Finding Nemo’. That’s one of my favourite movies! ACTUALLY! I wanna go to P Sherman 42 Wallaby Way too *laughs*.
TB: Let’s play a little game when you answer these questions with the first thing that comes to mind.
AB: Let’s do it!
TB: If I could create a supergroup with any artist it would be…
AB: Paul Simon!
TB: Most mornings I…
AB: Hit the snooze button
TB: The most unexpected thing on my rider is…
AB: I don’t put anything on my rider so I guess that is unexpected
TB: The emoji that best describe me is…
AB: The anxious face
TB: My guilty pleasure TV show is…
AB: Pawn Stars!
Alec Benjamin’s new single ‘Let Me Down Slowly’ is out now