Interview: Ben Hobbs
I won’t be the first or last person to say this: school was difficult. At no other point in your life will you feel as much pressure to fit in, to be accepted. We all react to this pressure in different ways. Some of us will have bought ‘trendy’ shoes, straightened our hair to a crisp, and fixed our tie so it resembled a sort of tiny stripy cravat as a two-finger salute to the man. Some of us will have rebelled against the status quo, striving to be different by joining a clique of inexplicably similar looking people, connected by a common love of unnaturally dyed hair and Doc Martens. And some of us, perhaps the wisest of all, safeguarded our delicate egos with a cloak of invisibility. Whatever your experience of school was, the decisions you make stay with you well into adulthood, as do the exhilarating highs and the bleakest lows of your teenage years. Singer-songwriter and producer, Ben Hobbs knows this all too well, as demonstrated by his latest release, ‘Animals’:
KM: You released your debut EP ‘Sweet Enough’ in May this year. How do you feel about the warm reception you’ve received?
B: It feels really great! It’s been so nice to receive messages from people around the globe saying they are digging the music.
KM: Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the EP? What feeling or message were you trying to convey?
B: The whole EP for me really is about pushing through challenges and finding positivity from the bad stuff. So whilst my song ‘Sweet Enough’ is essentially a love song with not the happiest ending, I wanted it to also say ‘so what are you gonna do about it?’ It’s a bit of theme for the EP.
KM: Your latest single, ‘Animals’ has just been released. It’s very emotive, and at times quite revealing and sweet. Do you ever feel nervous about releasing material that’s quite raw?
B: I do definitely get nervous about showing people my new material. It’s when I’ve been working on a song on my own and you know it inside out, and then it’s time to let someone else actually hear it. But by the time it comes to the release date I’m just excited to get it out there.
KM: In the past you’ve said that the pressures we face during our school years inspired you to write this song. Was this very personal to you?
B: Yeah absolutely. I would say I was definitely ‘guilty’ of caring too much about how I came across to other people at that age, so some of the choices I made were probably as a result of that. I had a lot of fun at school too though, I’m happy to say. Which maybe can be subject for the sequel, ‘Animals 2’
KM: The lyrics are beautiful – very simple and effective. Who or what do ‘the animals’ represent?
B: Thank you! They represent this kind of line between doing what you’re told to do, and doing what you want to do. It’s a very simplified good and bad, light and dark side. So like, the scarier animals, not kittens and hamsters. Although I do still have a scar on my hand from when a rabbit bit me 12 years ago.
KM: I guess you could say you had a bad hare day? I’m so sorry. I’m actually quite funny in real life…
Something in this track that really struck me was the contrast between the simplicity of the lyrics and the expansiveness of the production elements – was this a conscious decision?
B: I wouldn’t say it was a conscious decision as such, but I was aware of not wanting to overload the song. This was an example of me writing the full song with just a piano, which I don’t always do, before starting to record and produce it. So I think because the bare bones of it were quite simple, it left some room to be more bold with the production.
KM: Allowing that room to grow really paid off. You’ve been compared to the likes of Kate Bush, Tears For Fears, and The Police in the past – are you a connoisseur of 80’s pop?
B: Well I do love a lot of 80s pop. I’m a bit selective with the facts I actually remember though, so I probably wouldn’t win a pub quiz on 80s music. But I could tell you what Sting has for breakfast.
KM: I’m not sure I want to know how you know that. Who are you listening to at the moment?
B: I’ve made a playlist on Spotify called First Loves where I put lots of music I’ve been listening to. There’s old and new on there, check it out!
KM: That’s a very nice compilation you’ve got there. Do you have plans for another EP on the horizon?
B: Quite possibly yes… There’ll be a new song out soon though, so that’s the first step. Lots more to come.
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