YORK singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich will play a home-city concert this summer, but make sure to arrive early.
He will be opening Futuresound’s 5pm triple bill at York Museum Gardens on July 18 as the first of two special guests for headlining Scottish-Italian singer-songwriter Jack Savoretti, with Irish blues and folk musician Foy Vance as the other.
First comes tomorrow’s release of his fifth studio album in 13 years, Some Things Break, the follow-up to 2021’s To Carry A Whale as Ben continues a fruitful partnership with Dirty Hit Records, the label that made him its first signing in 2011 at the age of 21.
“Given the way the music industry is shaping up, maybe I’ll release albums more regularly than I do now, but I’ll just release them when I’m proud of something, though I definitely need guidance to say, ‘time to go, it’s ready’,” he says.
“In this case, we wrote about 20 to 30 songs, done at different stages. Some artists will just write ten songs and release them all on a record, but for me, I need to make mistakes along the way, try things out, and the more I write, the clearer my goal is.”
He kept Dirty Hit in the loop all the way, as the recordings progressed with Grammy Award-winning producer Jimmy Hogarth and the album became more focused.
When judging a song, “my fear has got less thanks to God over the last few years,” says Ben. “But I’m not immune to needing friends, people who aren’t in the industry, to say what they think, feeding off their energy, because they’re less invested in the music industry politics. Ultimately, I want a song to be in everyone’s heart.”
Some Things Break was composed over two years, at locations across the globe, from Ben’s adopted home of Tottenham, London, to Nashville, Washington to Stockholm.
The recording sessions found him collaborating with fellow songwriters Mikky Ekko, The 1975’s Jamie Squire and Jon Green for an album with a broader range, both musically and vocally, combining his acoustic guitar at times with piano, choirs, drumbeats and effects in a layered soundscape.
“I do think these are the most emotional, spiritual songs I’ve done, where I thought I’d sing them in a higher range, but actually the voice has gone down – a bit of crooning! – and it’s nice to have those two voices,” says Ben, 34.
“The song always guides me, especially at the point of the vocal delivery or the choice of key. My thing is ‘whatever is best for the song’, if a friend is way better at playing the piano or Jimmy being better for a guitar part.
“Just by sheer chance, I did all the first album [2011’s Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm] in York, but now I have access to musicians all over. It’s been a long, long journey, starting 15 years ago, but I now feel God puts people in my path and I’ve got so lucky that people come my way.”
Take The 1975’s Jamie Squire, for example. “I had a message 12 years ago from Jamie saying ‘I’m a friend of Matt Healy [The 1975’s lead singer]…I really love your music,” Ben recalls. “I invited him to work with me, and he’s one of the best musicians I’ve ever met.”
Latterly Ben and Jamie have been working in London with Scottish singer-songwriter Katie Gregson-MacLeod, and Ben will link up with The 1975 pianist Jamie for his eight-date spring tour in support of the new album, opening at Leeds Brudenell Social Club on April 4.
Ben’s songwriting wanderlust took him to Nashville twice last year for three weeks each in April and October. “That’s where I met Mikky Ekko – best known for writing that beautiful song Stay, the Rihanna hit – and we wrote the most explicit song I’ve ever done, about my father [the late University of York politics lecturer Adrian Leftwich].
“I love writing songs that move people, and I was lost for so long that I feel like I’m almost making up for the time that I wasted. My diary is busy, busier than ever. I’m so lucky. I keep my head in the clouds but my feet on the ground.”
Tickets for April 4 at Leeds Brudenell Social Club: www.benjaminfrancisleftwich.com
Tickets for July 18 at York Museum Gardens: https://futuresound.seetickets.com/event/jack-savoretti/york-museum-gardens/2929799
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