Interview: Benjamin Booker

“It’s way way harder that any job I’ve ever had – musicians can’t screw around and expect to get anywhere anymore,” says Benjamin Booker as we link up with the New Orleans songwriter for a chat ahead of his Birmingham date at the O2 Academy.

He’s had a pretty successful year as they go. Signing with ATO Records (Alabama Shakes, My Morning Jacket) off the back of one grainy home-made demo, the blues man has also just stepped off tour with Jack White who handpicked Booker to catapult him from relative unknown right in front of the eagerly anticipating ear’oles of 5,000 fans a night.

It was amazing,” he enthuses. “At the end I was talking to the band and I said, ‘what the hell are we supposed to do now?’ If this whole thing ended abruptly, I’d be happy just having had that opportunity to tour with Jack and the wonderful musicians and crew he’s surrounded himself with.”

He’s a pretty feisty reputation though, Jack White…?

“There were no crazy rockstar moments at all. I read something which described him as ‘the last rockstar’ but he’s a very normal family man who just so happens to shred!”

Describing his music as ‘punk-blues,’ Booker creates traditional blues rock and roll songs with a grittier flourish to gloss.

“I pulled from This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb, Ted Hawkins, The Gun Club a bunch of delta blues artists when it came to developing the sound I wanted,” he says, inspired by “boredom and a stressful time period that gave me a lot of things to get off my chest.”

Releasing his self-titled debut album last month, Booker worked with analogue producer Andrija Tokic to lock down his sound. “He worked with another band from New Orleans called Hurray For The Riff Raff,” explains Ben. “I was looking for an analogue studio and found out that’s who they recorded with. All of the songs mean a lot to me – it was important to me not to make a record with a couple of favourites and then a bunch of filler.”

And live it’s an ever-expanding entity. Starting off just himself and his guitar, “it’s a three piece now. Bass has really changed things around and that’s what’s opened up the live show. The band will definitely grow as time goes on – I’m just looking for the right folks!”

Benjamin Booker plays the O2 Academy Birmingham on September 6. Tickets are priced at £9 advance and are available here.


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