Interview with Australian singer-songwriter Ben Mason
I’ve been a fan of Ben Mason for a long while now. I discovered his music via MySpace a few years back and I remember that his tunes were on the top of my heavy rotation list. Why he wasn’t more famous back then I don’t know: his songwriting is timeless, heavily influenced by the sixties and seventies with a soothing voice and moving lyrics.
Fast forward to July 2013. The album Holes and Corners is new on the market and can be ordered via Bandcamp, which was a great reason for me to reconnect for a short interview with him.
LAEM: I know that you’ve been around in the music scene for a while and you have had many band projects before. I have described you as a singer-songwriter before but that probably doesn’t do you justice. What’s the description for yourself that you like best and for what reason?
‘I think when people think of singer-songwriters, they think of a sad guy with a guitar, singing about heartbreak. I suppose I am a singer and a songwriter, and I am a guy with a guitar singing songs, but I’d like to think that I’m not really that stereotypical “sad guy”. I like to write lots of different kinds of songs and use lots of different sounds to make my music. I like lots of melody and harmony in my songs and for them to be about all kinds of topics’.
LAEM: Holes and Corners is the title of your recently released record. If you had to describe the sound of the album by comparing it with five albums of other artists, which ones would make your list and why?
‘Parsley Sounds by Parsley Sound. I really love the lo-fi feel and beautiful melodies on this record. They sound like they come from deep inside someone’s heart. I listened to this record a lot when I was recording Holes and Corners, so I hope some of that comes through.
‘Spirit Stereo Frequency by All Night Radio. I really like the smart pop songs these guys make then cover with layers of atmosphere and left of centre production. That’s kinda what I was aiming for.
‘Insignificance by Jim O’Rourke. This is a breakup album full of venom and spite. I love it. It’s short and sweet too. My album isn’t that hateful, but it’s a breakup album and is short and sweet too!
‘Canzoni by Fabrizio De Andre. Amazing folk songs with great 70s production and a little bit of a medieval feel. Everything I aspire to!
‘Golden Brown by the Stranglers (not an album, just the song). This has been one of my favourite songs for as long as I can remember. I love its cyclic feel and the call and response that goes on with the instruments. My song, Breaking Up, Breaking Down was heavily influenced by this song’.
LAEM: Speaking of other artists, it’s quite common for musicians and bands to cover songs every now and then, but you choose to release an entire cover album (Odyssey and Oracle by the Zombies)! Where did that idea come from?
‘A good friend of mine, Dave Depper, re-recored Paul McCartney’s RAM. He did it as a project to get better at recording. He did such an amazing job that it inspired me to try it as well. I wanted to get better at recording as well as learn how to play piano. Odessey and Oracle, being my favourite album of all time, and being full of great piano parts and plenty of vocal harmonies, seemed to be the perfect album for me to cover’.
LAEM: I have always been impressed with your acapella work, in particular, since it’s a rather exotic way of doing music. I know that it has been used in commercials and so on. How did the passion for accapella start and what do you like most about it?
‘I’ve always been a fan of vocal harmonies. It must have been from listening to the Beach Boys on long family drives. My former band, the Smallgoods was heavy on vocal harmonising, as is everything I write nowadays. I think there’s something really special and moving about hearing human voices make music without instruments getting in the way’.