Michael Green Interviews... Ben Kelly
Originally posted on July 5th 2017 here is a Q & A with singer-songwriter Ben Kelly. We talked about his experiences in music.
Where did it all start for you getting into music?
When I was 12 I first heard “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns ‘n’ Roses, I realised that I really liked all guitar-led music. After subsequently playing Guns ‘n’ Roses’ greatest hits so many times that my Dad officially stopped being a fan, I began playing music at age 13, starting with bass guitar and enrolling in Saturday morning music school. I became suitably proficient in the instrument for my parents to happily buy me a six-string electric guitar the following year at Christmas, and then a cheap acoustic guitar a year later. I began singing at age 13 as well, when we couldn’t find anyone willing or confident enough to sing for our music school rock band. When I was 18, I took on various roles in a local production of Les Miserables, and undertook training to become a bass singer. Eleven years down the line, I’ve yet to be persuaded to stop! Who are your influences? I have a wide range of influences ranging from classic rock and heavy metal to blues and even country, so it would be impossible to list them all here. When it all started at age 13, I was very heavily influenced by Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy, both as a bass player and as a frontman. I wanted to emulate his energy and his panache as a bassist – albeit translated to a heavy metal /thrash band that I was in at the time! From the same band, Gary Moore and Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy were key influences in my guitar playing, as has been Ritchie Blackmore; Slash; Angus Young; Jimmy Page; Robert Johnson; BB King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. As far as my vocal influences are concerned, I would have to pick Paul Rogers; Danny Bowes (Thunder); Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes); Sammy Hagar; Leslie West (Mountain) and Elvis Presley. All the singers listed here, in their own individual ways, possess the gritty; gravelly vocal delivery that I strive for.
With songwriting where do you tend to get your inspiration from e.g. how do you start your songs & what’s your process?
I don’t follow a set process for writing my own material, as it often tends to take a life of its own. The genre is never pre-set, given my wide range of musical influences and tastes, but I usually write the chord sequences or the riffs first and then write the lyrics. The themes and lyrics of the songs are almost always about real life events that I’ve experienced. I happen to be one of those people who often find themselves, rightly or wrongly, embarking on various absurd escapades, and so the songs are often either tinged or wholly saturated with humour. On the opposite side, sometimes I draw upon somewhat sad situations such as failed relationships or deaths in the family. The results are always varied, and I enjoy that aspect of making my own music. Often the person who is most surprised with the completed result is myself!
How important do you feel it is to listen to current music as well as music from the past?
Your influences are your influences, irrespective of what era they originate from. Where I would never list the likes of Kanye West or Taylor Swift as my influences and would never listen to them out of choice, a cast of thousands of people across the world would site them as influences and would never listen to Thin Lizzy or Robert Johnson out of choice. If an artist makes music that takes your interest, then it matters not what era the musician comes from.
Do you feel it is important to watch other acts perform and to watch other live music?
Being a longstanding patron of Bedford Esquires, I have been immensely lucky to have had the opportunity to both watch and play alongside a whole host of acts that I would otherwise never have heard of. All the events I have attended, both as a patron and as a featured act, have been truly exhilarating and a blessing to have been present for. As a performing musician, I feel it is my duty to support the live music scene of my own hometown and the hometowns of my musician friends. Other musicians should all take the same approach, simply because there is no better feeling than belonging to a community such as this.
Finally, what tips do you have for anyone starting out when it comes to song writing and performing?
If you’re starting out as a musician, the best advice that I could give is practice; practice and practice some more. Identify what it is that you would like to achieve as a musician and cultivate it, but it also pays to keep an open mind and be on the lookout for influences from genres that you wouldn’t normally listen to. Formal training isn’t always necessary, but it will certainly help. In addition to supporting your local music scene, break the mould and head out of town to perform elsewhere as well. Build as many connections as possible and maintain them.
Have at least one social media outlet to keep people informed of your progression; upcoming gigs and maximise your overall presence. Also, indulge in a variety of leisure activities, as it will inform your personality as well as your approach to music. Finally, don’t take it too seriously. Allow your progression to be as natural as possible, and don’t attempt to keep up with anyone else. If you exert too much pressure on yourself then you won’t enjoy it as much, and there’s no point in attempting it if you’re not going to enjoy it. Good luck to all of you!
To find out more about Ben, click the links below.
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