Young West Country singer-songwriter Ben Howard is drawing alot of attention ahead of his Old Pine EP release on Communion. Recently aired on Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 show, Old Pine is a moving folk song with a modern twist, with intricate guitar picking and building percussion that complement Ben’s soft but distinctive vocals. The single is the title track of a four track EP showcasing Ben’s talent as a guitarist and lyricist and provides a taster for things to come. We caught up with Ben to find out a little bit more about the man behind Old Pine.
Old Pine is available is available to download here.
HYH: Where do you draw your inspiration from when writing, music and otherwise?
Ben: Mostly from my surroundings, people who come in and out of my life, and musically I think it’s hard not to draw on other musicians as influences so a whole host of other artists. The likes of John Martyn and Bon Iver are on the record player quite a lot.
HYH: You have an interesting playing style, mixing finger picking with harmonics and rhythmic tapping, where did this come from
Ben: I’m generally pretty hyperactive so I’m sure it’s in part due to table tapping as a kid. I like to learn stuff and it seemed to be a pretty interesting thing to try and take on board.
HYH: You’ve got to play with artists such as Jason Mraz and Fink who are also renowned for their playing style, how was it touring with these guys?
Ben: I’ve had some great tours with Fink through Europe. Probably the first time I visited most of the clubs and venues on the continent was with Fink. I’ve got some really memorable shows of the early days when it was really exciting just to be travelling round and playing to decent crowds of people. Amsterdam and Berlin for the first time were a total trip! The Jason Mraz stuff was a totally different scale: America at it’s boldest and brightest. Again some really fun times but it was intense. Lots of screaming people, fast food and marlboro reds.
HYH: Fans of you music will know of course that this isn’t your first release. Can we expect more of the same from your debut ‘These Waters’, or is the ‘Old Pine’ EP and future releases going in a different direction?
Ben: We recorded These Waters over two days as fairly inexperienced musicians so everything we’re starting to put out now is a lot more thought through. The first ep has a certain charm I think you get when you don’t plan stuff and a rawness that captured the essence of my music for sure. In terms of direction I like to just play what comes out, there’s some folkier jangly numbers on the new Ep then some rockier stuff on the upcoming album so it’s always a mix up. I like to think I’ll always evolve musically, and I guess that comes back to the learning I mentioned earlier.
HYH: From what we’ve read you’ve got a big passion for both music and surfing, do you try and keep a balance between the two or does music come first?
Ben: It usually balances out ok, I can’t make a living out of surfing so music often takes the driving seat. I try to surf as much as possible, especially when I’m home but it’s hard to get in the water as much as I’d like.
HYH: Zane Lowe recently played ‘Old Pine’ on his show, how was it hearing your track played out on Radio 1?
Ben: Yeah, very exciting. I was in Newcastle just starting a five hour drive and Old Pine came on. Very surreal and something I’ll always remember for sure.
HYH: Your currently on tour up and down the country for this EP, can we expect to see you at any festivals this summer?
Ben: Yeah, I think we’re playing some surf festivals and some more mainstream ones, not entirely sure on the schedule yet but we’ll be out and about. Really looking forward to the summer, sunshine and beers is top of the agenda right now.
HYH: All the best with the EP!