Times goes by, very faster. It was a year ago I met Ben in person. It was one of the most memorable things I’ve ever lived. I saw a man that he lives for and of the music. Meanwhile, Ben has performed at such prestigious venues as House of Blues in Hollywood, The Canyon Club, The Mint, Whisky a Go Go, and the renowned Yoshi’s jazz club in Oakland, California. With an album in the making, with a good title, “Dreams for sale”, Ben kindly agreed to chat a bit with Jack Rabbit, some kind of a review of the year behind, and, of course, the brilliant future in front. So, Rabbit, it’s your turn. Thanks so much Ben, and always happy to be with you.
Well, first comes to mind is the club, the Canyon Club. It seems to be a magic place for BBB, you’ve been playing several times there. What has the club for you and what makes it different from the rest, in case you feel this?
Well, it really is a great place to play. The crew there is so great to the bands, and the sound there is phenomenal. Some of the best sound guys and sound systems are at the Canyon Club. It is really great to play at a place so professional. I’ve been opening for many bands this year, and it’s so great to have that exposure. The Canyon Club is one of my favorite places to play, that is for sure.
Precisely, you opened for some great bands this year, with a public enthusiasm and success, congratulations, Ben! As I was saying, it was Little River Band, Ambrosia, the group you referred as “one of the first bands I listened to as a kid,” and Air Supply, for example. What it was the experience to be on stage with them? Any anecdote to share?
It is such a great opportunity always to open for these kinds of bands. It is amazing exposure, and it is very fun.
Playin’ live it’s the best way to run the band. How’s the band growin’?
We are really getting better and better every time we play. It’s really cool. You learn things every time you play. Playing live really makes you have on-the-spot decisions and on those decisions you really learn a lot.
Some covers were in your set. I love your cover of fun’s “We Are Young,” let me say. Pickin’ up the set list seems to be a difficult thing. How do you proceed?
It is hard to expand the set list, especially with covers. Covers are tricky. You never want to play it exactly the same, because then you’re getting compared to the band that originally plays it, and there is usually no way to compare. You don’t want to play it too different, because then some people might think that we don’t like the original version and “want to make it better,” and it’s almost an insult. Have to hit right in the middle, and that is hard to do.
The collaboration with the girls, the country group JetSet Get Set. I particularly love them, so it seems to be a perfect mixture having you. But how it came up the idea to join them as a guest artist and will you tour with them?
It was a lot of fun playing with JetSet GetSet. They really are a great group of musicians. It was a cool experience to play with them, and I would definitely love to play with them next time they come to LA, but as far as we have talked, going on tour together has not been discussed.
Ben, if we referred about opening for bands, next October you’ve got the chance to be with Leon Russell. What does it represents to you? Did you met him, when he was recording with Elton, right?
This is a great opportunity and I am really looking forward to it. It is going to be tons of fun, but it also is going to be very nerve-racking — for two reasons. One is that I’m opening for LEON RUSSELL. That is crazy. Leon Russell is one of the best pianist/singer/songwriters ever. The other reason is that I am playing solo. I will ONLY be playing piano (and maybe guitar on a few songs) and singing. No band. That is so different from what I am used to, and I really am going to have to put a lot of work into new arrangements for my songs specifically for that kind of performance. It will be fun though, and I am looking forward to playing this show and learning from it.
Las Vegas Elton Expo will find Ben Babylon playing his music to eltonites. How will you prepare this show? Have you thought about covering some of Elton’s tunes? Rabbit, maybe it’s to earlier to ask this………… excuse me, Ben
I am SOOOO excited for this concert. It is one of my biggest gigs to date, and my first one out of state. This is crazy. We are going to prepare our asses off for this show. As for covering Elton’s tunes, I cannot say yet.
Do you hear something about “The Diving Board” by Elton? Eltonites are so excited about the return to his classic music
I have heard some of the songs off The Diving Board, and it is really cool. Very piano-oriented, lots of keyboard pads in the background. Really cool. And even though it is sort of returning to his classic music, from the songs I’ve heard, it is also very different in some ways too. And it is produced in a way I’ve never heard Elton do before too, and it is really cool. Eltonites: you should be excited.
Ben, you are currently working on your first album of original songs, "Dreams For Sale," in collaboration with several members of the Elton John Band: lead guitarist Davey Johnstone, drummer Nigel Olsson, cellist Martin Tillman, percussionist John Mahon and the unforgettable bass player Bob Birch. When is it expected to be released?
Dreams for Sale is definitely coming along well. We have made a lot of progress in the last few months. And yes, several members of the EJ Band will be playing on some songs, but the majority of my songs is me and my band members. All I can say about the expected release date, is that it will be unexpected . . . . . . . . if that makes sense . . .
Have you penned some other new tunes for the album? “Different meanings” is sooooo good!!!
Thank you, sir! I am glad you enjoy it!
You said: "Humor is also important. If you're going through something hard, laughter can help you get through it” and remarked how humor is important in your writing. Is that so? For example, what’s “Dorky Loves Donuts” about?
Humor is very important, I will stick to that. I learned that first through the lyrics of the Ben Folds Five, and then other bands later. But humor really makes their songs relatable and enjoyable, but they still get a great message out. It is a really cool concept that I am trying to get hold of. “Dorky Loves Doughnuts” is not really funny song, (I mean unless you think it’s funny) but it is random, which could be funny, I guess. I was just bored and started writing “Dorky.” I wanted more of a instrumental type song where I could really jam and this was it.
“Contradiction”, the first single off the album, is the preview of the album, on iTunes now. I love this song, especially live. “Heaven and Hell sit side by side. Good and bad can't make up their minds, right and wrong can't understand, that peace and war battle again”. That’s strong! Life is a contradiction in his own, could it be? Oh, that was released in 2011. Would it be another recording of the song or another single is planned?
You can expect another single, but I can not guarantee it.
First it was “Goodbye Superman”, the Guy Babylon homage. Looking back now, that song grows more and more on me. It seems to be so hard to sing the song for you. Or maybe not, because although is touching it’s a nice reminder of one of our keyboard heroes. How do you feel about this song?
I do not play this song anymore, and (I’m sorry, but) it will be off of iTunes soon. This song is more of a personal song for me, and I think that’s all it should be.
Do you have any upcoming shows, for sure?
Yes I do! You can look on my facebook page for all of them!
Regards to your band current members. The fantastic Brian, warm regards to him too. And the new bassist and drummer, best to them too. Something to say to the dreamers out there?
Finally, what type of music you are listening in the moment? Could you show me your iPod, in order to learn about your preferences, now? Rabbit!!!!
Oh god, way too much! I like Conor Oberst (of the Bright Eyes), Ben Folds Five, Slightly Stoopid, Dr. Dre produces great music, The Black Keys, Aaron Parks, Brad Mehldau, Mingus, City & Colour, Coldplay, Crack the Sky, Eliott Smith, Eminem, my friends False Puppet (PLEASE LOOK THEM UP!!!!), Foster the People, Foy Vance, Gorillaz, Hans Zimmer, Herbie Hancock, Jimi Hendrix, Kate Nash, Lily Allen, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Meekos & Me, Daft Punk, Outliar, Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Radiohead, Sigur Rós, Sufjan Stevens . . . to name a few. It could go on and on.
Thanks so much, Ben, I wish you a happy summer, with a lot of gigs and continuing with your success. And you, dreamers, take a note of the following gigs, you don't have to miss them!
The Ben Babylon Band Concerts 2013
Fusion Music festival June 22
Malibu Art Festival July 28
Canyon Club, opening for Kenny Cetera August 9
Whiskey -Go-Go August 17
Elton John Expo, Vegas, Oct. 5 & 6
Opening for Leon Russell, Canyon Club Oct.18
Opening for Blood, Sweat & Tears, Dec. 13
More info on http://www.babylonmusic.biz/
Pictures courtesy of Ben Babylon Music