Benjamin Booker is an American musician, singer, songwriter and guitarist. His music has been described as “a raw brand of blues, boogie and soul”, and by The Independent as “frenzied guitar-strumming and raw, soulful vocals that are hair-raising in intensity.
Benjamin’s new album ‘Witness’ has been heralded as a huge artistic leap – drawing on everything from the writings of James Baldwin to Freddie Gibbs to William Onyeabor’s 70s African psych-rock. We caught up with him ahead of his headline shows in London and Manchester…
When did you first start making music?
I started writing music towards the end of my time at the University of Florida in Gainesville. I don’t really remember why. I was living with a couple artists (painters) and a musician and I thinks i just felt inspired to create.
What is your favourite song to play live?
The first track off of the new album, “Right On You” is always fun for me, especially since I’ve added parts for the live show.
What is your favourite album of all time?
Oh boy. Right now I’m torn between Jorge Ben’s Africa Brasil and Tom Waits’ Mule Variations.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
There is an artist called serpentwithfeet who is one of my favorite singers working today. I would love to write for that voice.
What has been your favourite song this year?
Probably Vince Staples “Big Fish.”
What should people expect at one of your gigs?
Sweat, guitars and four people who love playing.
What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to?
I saw Nick Cave at the Masonic Temple in Detroit and wanted to just stop making music after because if was so good. I’ve never seen anything like it.
What music icons inspire your sound today?
Tom Waits and Mavis Staples are two big ones.
What music did you listen to growing up?
I grew up listening to Gospel music almost exclusively until I was a teenager. Then I got into regional punk bands from the south like This Bike is a Pipe Bomb.
What was the first song you played on repeat?
I remember being obsessed with “I Swear” by All-4-One as a kid. There was also a video for “Will You Be There” by Michael Jackson on the Free Willy VHS I had that I rewound and rewound countless times.
What was the last piece of music you bought?
I bought an Arthur Russel instrumental album at a record store called 606 in Chicago.
What 4 songs you can’t stop listening to right now?
“Just Like a Baby” by Sly and the Family Stone
“These Foolish Things” by Lester Young
“Black Steel” by Tricky
“Can You Feel It” by Time