Welcome to TFFT’s latest feature, which is nothing like Desert Island Discs in any way…
We’re talking to some of our favourite upcoming and established artists, and delving into their greatest influences and inspirations, to see how bands, records, tracks and even friends and family have impacted on their work and music
To kick things off, we caught up with acclaimed folk and jazz musician Ben Somers, who releases his brand new album, Poor Stuart on September 7th – more about the record below, but first, here are Ben’s 5 Biggest Influences…
Steve Somers (Dad)
I’ve been immersed in music since birth, dad claims I was pretty much born in the dressing room. Dad has always been a very active musician having played and toured with The Settlers, Lonnie Donegan, Diane Solomon, Glen Campbell, Phil Everly, Johnny Cash and many more. I was present at many of his gigs as a youngster and when I began playing the sax (my first instrument) at 16, all of my music lessons were with dad in the car on the way to college or to one of his gigs. Theory lessons or practising harmony singing. We still play together frequently and get an enormous amount of joy playing with him.
I heard a lot of Willie Nelson growing up and frankly found it evoked a strange feeling in me. I have to admit to finding it so sorrowful that I found it too difficult to listen to. It wasn’t until later, after a breakup that I suddenly understood it. Willie has all of the joy and sorrow of life in his singing and songwriting. He has been a constant companion for many years now.
I began playing the saxophone at 16 and very quickly became hooked on the sound of Sonny. There are many captivating aspects to Sonny’s playing, his beautiful, big sound, his commanding time feel and swing, but most of all the way he improvises chorus after chorus trying to find the centre of the tune. There are many interviews with Sonny online and in every one of them he comes across as extremely thoughtful,l lucid and centred in his musical concept. He is a constant inspiration.
I fist heard Bruce play at Walthamstow folk club in 2010. I was instantly captivated. Bruce has a way of playing and singing (very often solo) that takes you away, wraps you up so you can’t hear anything else around you. His dedication to whatever tune he’s playing has been an enormous lesson, to stop and commit to the moment and to give everything to the piece you’re playing at that instant. Over the last few years Bruce and I have gotten to know other, teaching together at Sorefingers bluegrass and old time camp. He is a very giving musician, always willing to share and during a jam session always makes all involved as comfortable as possible. If you haven’t checked him out do it!
I’ve been a fan of Mac’s (Dr John) for a long time. I’ve always loved his soul and irreverence for perfection. His music makes me smile, cry, shout all at the same time. I sat in with Mac on sax whilst on a blues cruise in the US with another American blues singer. Mac’s musical director then booked me and the horn section to play the O2 in London with them a few weeks later. The parts that I was sent for the horn section to read were a random collection of scribbled out parts obviously scrawled out by various pickup horn sections. I instantly disregarded them and transcribed all of the original parts form the old records and it was worth it as the band commented on how they hadn’t heard the music played like that since the 70’s. The gig seemed to go in the blink of an eye but I did get to hang with the doctor, although it was pretty difficult to understand most of what he was saying, that accent is in no way affected!
Ben Somers’ new album, Poor Stuart, is a polished and accomplished collection of twelve pieces, heavily influenced by American, Scandinavian and English roots music
Showcasing masterful musicianship, the album effectively harnesses elements of folk, bluegrass, traditional and in parts jazz, moving effortlessly between instrumentals and vocal led tracks, which, like all good folk music, are filled with compelling story-telling, delivered by Ben’s smooth and distinctive vocal
“Although sometimes complicated or sophisticated this album is strongly rooted in traditional and honest music like folk and country which I grew up on,” says Ben. “Overall I hope that all can hear the honesty that I’ve put into making this record. It is a direct representation of many of my passions and it’s real people playing real music.”
Take a listen to the title-track, via this wonderful live recording…
“We recorded all the instruments in two days,” says Ben on the album’s recording. “I like to work this way. I find having too much time to stop, talk and go back to things can be detrimental to the honesty of music which relies on each individual performance and has a lot of improvisation. In a working environment like this it can be high pressure but this often leads to a stronger bond musically and personally.”
Catch Ben live this September…
1st – The Hermon Chapel, Oswestry
2nd – Didmarton Bluegrass Festival
3rd – Isis Farmhouse, Oxfordshire
4th – The Green Note London
5th – The Bank Eye, Suffolk
6th – The Louis Marchesi Norwich, Norfolk