‘You guys have been fucking amazing!’ said 22 year old Benjamin Francis Leftwich after another sold out show. The Yorkshire born singer-songwriter had the audience transfixed in the cosy basement of Komedia. The dimly lit venue created a haunting atmosphere, even more so when Ben performed without a microphone. It’s not often a man and his guitar can silence a room, putting aside the claims that a band would be needed to accompany him on tour.
His stripped-back performance included a selection of tracks from his new album, ‘Last Smoke before the Snowstorm’, with a few new songs dotted throughout. A rare moment involved Ben playing the electric guitar for his ambitious cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Atlantic City’.
Having just confirmed what will be his largest show to date at London’s Shepherd’s Bush empire early next year, the last few months has seen Ben become part of pop culture; vibrating off the new folk trend already seen through the likes of Laura Marling and Mumford and Sons.
When did you realise you wanted to pursue career in music?
I don’t think of it as trying to pursue a career in music, I just really like writing and playing songs. I’m really pleased with how things are going but I’ve never been like, ‘I want to be in the music business’.
Where do you get inspiration for writing songs?
Other music. I love listening to music, whenever I get free time I’m always listening to my iPod. At the moment I really like Lana Del Rey, she has a beautiful voice. And I listen to Bruce Springsteen every day. The reason I picked up a guitar when I was young was from listening to that kind of music. I don’t really consider myself a guitarist as such, but I use the guitar more as a way that I can write songs.
What is your new album, ‘Last Smoke before the Snowstorm’ generally about?
For me it’s just about everything that moves me and that I see around me that means something to me in the time that I was writing the album. Themes like love, religion and loss, it all means something to everyone but I’ve got my own way of interpreting it. I’m really passionate about it and I’m really proud of the album.
How’s the tour going, is it as you expected?
Yeah it’s going really great, I’ve been really blessed I think, I didn’t expect it but I’ve had a week and a half of sold out shows. It can be quite tiring but it’s so rewarding when you see people come to the gigs and the response you get.
How do you prepare for gigs, do you get nervous at all?
I don’t really get nervous, I just kind of chill by myself, play a bit of guitar and sing and just try and get in the zone.
You seem pretty grounded and down to earth, but has anything changed for you since you’ve been in the spotlight?
Well some people do, but someone who treats you differently because you’ve had a bit of success in music, well they’re never going to be your friend. I’ve got a good group of friends, a lot of people around me that I really trust. I’m lucky I get to go home and see my friends sometimes and chill.
What’s next for you?
More touring, in the new year we’re going to Europe for 2 and a half weeks, play a couple of festivals, we’re going to Switzerland, Germany, France, Netherlands, Amsterdam. We’re going to Hong Kong and the states before Christmas.