Portsmouth singer-songwriter Ben Brookes goes back to his roots for second album

For his solo debut album, Ben Brookes was whisked to America to record it by a businessman who came across his music online.

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 4:13 pm
Portsmouth singer-songwriter Ben Brookes in the video for his song, The Homeless Sofa Surfer, out April 30. Directed by Tony Palmer

The resulting album, The Motor Car and The Weather Balloon, was a polished set put together with a crack team of session musicians who’d worked with the likes of Prince and Bob Dylan.

Released at the end of 2016, it gained some traction on American radio, but didn’t quite ignite.

Ben came home to Southsea and turned his attentions to working again with the indie-rock band, We Are Mudlarks.

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But with the band on hold for the past year thanks to the pandemic, Ben has been working on his second solo album.

‘I've written hundreds of songs over the past 20 years and they're just going to waste away into the ether if I don’t have this outlet,’ says Ben.

‘I might as well explore both avenues – I'm a songwriter in my own right, and a singer in the band.’

Ben has set up an online Crowdfunder campaign – effectively buying the album in advance – to help him finish it off.

‘I've got songs that I've recorded that I'd like to get out and that's why I started the Crowdfunder, to get a little bit of extra money in to finish off a 10-song album.

‘It's going reasonably well, but this is all completely new to me, and I jumped in headfirst!’

There’s seven tracks already in the can, including material recorded at Mayfield Studios in Drayton, and in Petersfield with Guy Gyngell producing, former guitarist in Portsmouth indie heroes Ricky. There’s also a hold-over from the sessions in America.

Of the latter Ben adds: ‘I don't know why we were against it at the time, I listen to it now and it's amazing, I guess it just didn't fit the vibe of the album.’

Ben is also looking at the release of the album a little differently.

‘I’m going to release all the songs individually first. I feel that all of the songs going on that album are strong enough to be singles. There isn't any filler on there – they're all bangers people are going to want to listen to.

‘So although I'm putting together an album, I'm focused on it being like a singles campaign, then come the end of it, we'll release the album as a collection of the singles.’

While he’s proud of his debut, Ben is looking to do things differently this time.

‘We were getting in 12-piece orchestras and spending hours on a snare drum.

‘It wasn't as raw as it was supposed to have sounded. I want it to sound like rock'n'roll – these songs are a lot more punchy. I've gone down the route of it being a bit more hard-hitting.

‘I love the album we did, but it could have had more welly to it.

‘The best song on that album is (final song) Shackles, and we did that in one take – all live. Why didn't we do that with all of the songs? There was a vibe, a feeling to it.’

The first fruits of the new album will be released on April 30 with the track The Homeless Sofa Surfer.

But fans of We Are Mudlarks need not worry.

‘This is my baby – with the Mudlarks, we write songs as a collective. It's a completely different kettle of fish – my songs are singer-songwriter melodic songs, whereas the Mudlarks are full-on rock'n'roll.

‘There's two contrasting feels to it, and I feel we can do well with both.

‘I did the thing in America and it did reasonably well, it definitely gave me a platform to work on, there are things we probably should have done differently.

’But when I got back here, we had taken an almost two year hiatus from the Mudlarks, we were all still friends and still talking, and we just decided, let's have a jam.

‘When we listened back to the songs we had, they were too good to let them disappear, which is why we carried that on.

‘But I don't think I was ever going to completely let go of the solo thing.

I've spoken to the boys about this and they're perfectly fine with that, they're two completely different entities and they’ve got their own things going on as well.

‘We can rehearse as a working band, but obviously there's no gigs going on.

‘We have got gigs planned for later on in the year if we're allowed back out – but that's "if"!'

To see Ben’s Crowdfunder click here.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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