Airy and emotional-inducing — Benbrick creates songs replete with big romantic ambiance that stand distinct from his contemporaries.
Paul Carter is Benbrick, a producer, singer and songwriter, whose sound is grand in every sense.
The London-based artist frequents a space between R&B and laid-back indie-pop, blending his falsetto, somewhere in the background of his eerily sound housed by a lasting and at times a somewhat mystical atmosphere that feels like a distant fantasy.
As evident on “And Now She Runs,” a pro-love anthem taken from his debut EP ‘Closer | Closure,’ in which he uses his disarming vocals to take listeners on a poignant journey. Fun fact: in 2012 Benbrick co-wrote a song for a Japanese animated movie that grossed $13million at the box office. We spoke with him about making heartbreak songs and what he spares no expenses on.
Did you choose music or did music choose you?
Well, I’ve played the piano since I was about 4 or 5. I remember when I was about 12 I played a classical piano recital and I played the whole song an octave too high by mistake. I don’t know why I told you that as the first answer… I should have said something that made me look really good, shouldn’t I? I’m not sure who chose who.
So what do you want from your music career?
I’d like to continue to make things that excite and inspire me. Eventually, I’d like to be doing more music for film.
Is that the same feeling you get from writing a song?
Being excited and inspired? It’s definitely the thing that I’m looking for. Sometimes it takes a long time to find. I normally start writing at about midnight when everyone has left the other studios around me, and it’s quiet.
What do you spare no expense on?
Probably food and coffee. I find menus at restaurants really annoying though. It just takes so long to read them and work out what’s going on. We need a new menu system. I’d spare no expense overhauling the menu system.
I was listening to ‘And So She Runs’ and the title itself conjure the idea of you in pursuit of someone. What sort of place were you coming from going into the song?
The whole EP is about my last relationship and the break up. The track before it is called ‘Stronger Than We Think’ and is about holding on, and wondering whether the girl is still thinking about me. ‘And So She Runs’ is the answer and final track, I guess it’s a reflection on the whole thing. It’s after the pursuit. I love artists like Death Cab for Cutie where the lyric can be read like a conversation or outpouring of thoughts.
What was the creative process behind turning those emotions into a song?
I normally come up with some chords and then create a basic track in Logic. I’ll e-mail myself the track then walk around London listening to it on my phone miming some lyric ideas in my head. I’ll go back to the track and make some changes, e-mail it again, put on my headphones, and try and write the lyric some more. It’s an ongoing process until I love the song. The lyrics are very important.
You don’t seem to be afraid of tackling difficult topics. I’m thinking in particular of your recent single, ‘Forever Holding On.’ Do you find that writing can be liberating or can it be a difficult process?
It’s totally liberating. Of course at points what you’re creating will resonate with a particular feeling and will stir up old memories. As you move through the process you became more and more removed. At the point where you eventually release the songs you’ve spent such a long time with them that you’re hopefully over whatever you’re singing about.
Do you think you will need other similar emotionally intense experiences to inspire future songs? I mean, when you’re in a happier space and everything is going well, are you afraid the quality of your writing will decline?
Yeah, maybe. The intensity worked for this particular EP and story but it doesn’t actually mean everything needs to be as charged. The album is actually sounding pretty hopeful lyrically at the moment.
What is the inspiration behind ‘Closer | Closure,’ both the name and EP?
I liked the wordplay. I read a book by Napolean Hill, the guy that said “What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” He also talked about going from ‘Mystery to mastery.’ I liked the alliteration. The title is about wanting someone closer, and how quickly that can turn into wanting or needing closure.
The project seems to balance a lot of heaviness with more abstract impulses. Was that something that you were consciously trying to evoke?
I was mainly just conscious of trying to create something that I loved. I recorded a lot of strings, cellos, violins and pianos. That’s balanced with programmed and played drums, synths and pads. I was always conscious about creating enough space for the vocal. It’s mixed by Goetz B, who mixed Sakura Nagashi, a track I wrote in Japan early last year, and we stayed in touch. He totally got the balance I wanted.
Where were you coming from thematically with this EP?
The whole thing is about a break up.
Given how attached you are to your music, was it difficult to work with other producers?
I wrote and produced all the tracks so I had total creative control. On the creative side the only other person I worked with was spoken word artist George The Poet. I’d seen a bunch of his work online and knew I wanted him to be involved. He came in to the studio with this rap for Stronger Than We Think that just blew me away. His first line is “I believe we’re stronger than we think, and I believe we can last much longer than we think”. It makes the whole thing bigger than just me and my experiences. You should definitely check his music out.
What’s one song everyone on the planet should own?
Arvo Pärt’s ‘Spiegel im Spiegel.’ It means ‘Mirror in the mirror’. I guess it’s about infinity. It’s beautiful.
When you’re not writing, producing or making music, what are you most likely doing?
Leaving the GoPro in different locations like this and seeing what happens.
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Words: Noel Phillips.