It’s been five years since the release of his debut album, Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm, but Benjamin Francis Leftwich has made his much awaited return with his upcoming record After The Rain. To be released on August 19 via Dirty Hit, the album features some of the “most intensely personal” songs he has ever written due to the unexpected passing of his father.
Now back on the road, ahead of his album release, everything is looking up for him once again. Now back in Yorkshire, to play a set at Holy Trinity Church as part of Live At Leeds, Gigslutz caught up with Benjamin Francis Leftwich…
With such a large break between now and his last record, a lot has changed both mentally and physically for the musician. “I think the album, sonically, is a lot more 3D,” he begins. “Working with Charlie Andrews on production was an amazing blessing. I think I’m just a better songwriter now! The message is a lot tighter on this album, the sound’s better, the guitar’s playing better, the vocals are better and I think the songs are a lot more beautiful.”
Ben continues, “it’s not just musicians, everyone grows as a person. Your perspective on things and your idea of what honesty is and means changes. Sometimes the first thing that comes into your head, you go ‘that’s me being honest’, but actually we know we’re idiots and need to sit down and reconsider.”
Even with just ‘Tilikum’ released off After The Rain, it’s still clear in the lyrics how much deeper this album goes. With the video matching the ‘sense of loneliness, desperation vs future and hope that Leftwich feels in the song, we ask how lyrically he’s developed.
“I think I understand the craft of songwriting a bit better this time around not that necessarily is a necessity to be able to write songs,” he says. “The first album is a bit of a blur for me but this time, I feel like I’ve crafted the songs a lot more as I’ve considered things a lot more. It’s always so different with songs as sometimes you’re sitting down jamming and they come, sometimes your mate gives you an idea, sometimes a family member gives you an idea or sometimes you just spend a week crying into a notepad!”
Since starting out, the acoustic guitar has been his main instrument and continues to be on his forthcoming record. “I love it, it’s definitely my roots and my home,” he explains. “My rule is always to do what’s right for the song, I’m not too bothered about genre really. I play it because that’s what I like playing. I definitely was more up for using moments of production and sonic colouring to accentuate certain emotions this time round.”
Currently on a 24-date tour around the UK and Europe across two months, Ben explains how he deals with long stints on the road: “it’s a deal you make with yourself as a song writer when you’re starting up. You kind of go ‘I’m going to throw myself into this mad life as long as I can and as long as I can believe in the songs’.”
“Obviously there’s technical things you learn along the way, like learning to pack a suitcase and doing your washing a bit better, but I take it as a blessing. I go until I physically cannot anymore. I take a few lucky charms with me, and I’m lucky enough to tour with my tour manager Joe, and tech who I see as one of my best friends.”
After a short apology to Joe and an assurance he still loves him too, talk moves onto plans of a full band accompanying Ben after the summer.
“Playing with a band is just different, the energy in the set is different,” he says.” If you’re playing solo, you have total control. You can read the energy in the room and read people’s reactions a bit more and then work to it. When you’re with a band, you’re confined. Of course the dream when you’re in a band situation is to be able to read off each other so the energy is flowing, but it’s hard and easily said than done!”
With his at Holy Trinity Church just a couple of hours away, Benjamin Francis Leftwich only conveys excitement over playing the “perfect” and “iconic” venue. “It’s always amazing playing Yorkshire shows, like it’s my home and my roots are here!”
“I’ve spent so many nights over the years coming back here and it’s so humbling. It’s great this festival has taken off in such a way as it’s a great thing for the city and the artists from here. Hopefully it’ll prove the stimulus we all need.”
“Festivals around a city are so much more hectic; everyone’s running around and that’s the romance of it! You can see loads of sick bands in one day, in loads of venues and it’s just a sonically varied dynamic across a day. It’s a madhouse in here and I find it beautiful.”
Ending our chat with talk around his favourite places to play, it leads Ben to reminisce over his time touring in Canada. “The music, people and scenery in Canada are amazing!” He begins, and then gets distracted over showing pictures of a bear they encountered on the side of the road (believe me, it’s a sick bear).
“Obviously it’s a treat getting to play shows in places like that as they’re beautiful, but the best gigs are when the energy is right in the room. You can’t really tell until you get up there and start going. I judge if a gig’s gone well or not by if I love it it and if the music connected in the best visceral way. That might be in Canada or that might be tonight!”