Growing up surrounded by creativity in Bondi Beach, singer, songwriter and producer Eddie Benjamin spent his younger years mastering every musical instrument and process he could. After years of practice, planning, collaborating with artists such as Labrinth and connecting with the likes of Sia, this year the 18-year-old moved out to LA full-time to start releasing music of his own.
Citing influences from Stevie Wonder to Prince, Benjamin is establishing his own brand of pop-infused with jazz and breezy R&B. Whether he’s layering his effortlessly angelic vocals over a racing beat in “Fuck My Friends” or dreamy production in “Speechless”, his first few tracks have already demonstrated his range, both sonically and lyrically, as an artist. Following the release of his latest single, “Running Away From Home” — a cinematic song that captures the mixed emotions of starting over somewhere new — he’s now preparing to drop his debut EP.
Reflecting on his approach to music, Benjamin tells us about the early influences that shaped his sound, the friends and collaborators he’s worked with so far, and the personal experiences that have inspired him to write his truth.
(LEFT) Cardigan by GCDS Trousers by MARTIN ASBJØRN Necklace by DAVID YURMAN Shoes are Eddie’s own (worn throughout) (RIGHT) All clothing by AMIRI Watch by OMEGA Necklace by DAVID YURMAN Rings by CARTIER
Cardigan by GCDS Trousers by MARTIN ASBJØRN Necklace by DAVID YURMAN Shoes are Eddie’s own (worn throughout) All clothing by AMIRI Watch by OMEGA Necklace by DAVID YURMAN Rings by CARTIER
Just as you relocated to Los Angeles and got settled earlier this year, the pandemic began — how did you cope with the bad days?
Yeah, so I landed two weeks before the lockdown. I was definitely grateful to get here before the borders slammed shut or something, with the govern- ment banning all sorts of visas overnight. It was definitely a very stressful time! I feel like everyone has had hard days during these times. For me, I’ve been trying to bury myself into songwriting and production work as much as has been feasible since the start of quarantine. I’ve definitely tried to not let the kind of negative tone of the world get to me, although easier said than done, of course. I have tried to also breathe some positivity into my creativity.
How did growing up around Australia’s famous Bondi Beach influence your art?
Growing up on the beach has been a huge part of my life. Learning about the ocean and surfing has taught me so many things, not only to do with life, but music as well. Bondi is such a positive energy, and also really creative. If you go for a walk, you always see someone painting or creating something.
You’ve said before that you taught yourself the bass guitar after watching a video of Prince at just 11 years old — did you know then that you wanted to be a musician?
I’ve been around music ever since I was a baby. I grew up with my house flooded with all kinds of instruments, very diverse music playing, but it wasn’t until a little bit later (11 years old) when I grabbed an instrument seriously. My parents played a huge role in my artistic upbringing. They never pushed me to do anything and really gave me freedom. It wasn’t until I saw Prince slap the bass at my first show I went to of his, which was definitely one of my favourite moments! After I saw Prince express himself with the bass, it wasn’t a question for me. I just knew I needed to throw myself into learning how to express myself with that level of emotionality and poise.
What song was he performing in that video? As you have synesthesia, did you see a specific colour in that moment?
I can’t remember exactly what song it was, but he was slapping his bass and it ignited a pure white cream colour very similar to what I see with my own bass. It was a moment that filled my heart with an inexplicable feeling, one that I could have never imagined.
Where did you go to discover new music?
Discovering new music as a kid was a physical experience for me. I would go to the record cabinet and just explore. My parents’ musical taste is truly deep, which gave me so many worlds to explore. I also had my dad’s iCloud account, so from the age of seven I had access to 10,000 songs he knew from his lifetime. But also just exploring the internet. I would type in how I felt in the YouTube explore page and put music on, and hope that I liked what I heard.
All clothing by SAINT LAURENT
All clothing by SAINT LAURENT
A while ago, Sia reposted a video of you covering her song “Chandelier” on social media. What was that like for you?
I remember the morning waking up to Sia posting my video. It was an exciting moment. I had just landed back in Australia from Los Angeles, actually. The way it happened was I was talking to my new friend at the time, Maddie Ziegler, who is Sia’s dancer, and Maddie sent Sia the video. I had no idea she had done that. I went on Instagram and there it was! A complete surprise! A couple of months later Sia and I met and she became kind of the only family I have in the US.
You and Sia have talked about Harry Styles and his serious swagger, too. What is it that draws you to him?
Sia and I really love how expressive Harry is with his style of clothing. As artists, we connect with truthful expression. I think that how he dresses is representative of how he feels, and for me, that is the most important thing. Wearing a dress on the cover of Vogue was truly inspiring.
You released your debut song, “Fuck My Friends”, in April. Congratulations both for the song and for sharing about needing to be alone sometimes! What does the track mean to you?
“Fuck My Friends” describes a time in my life where I felt like speaking up on not feeling like I needed anything from anyone. It’s about not joining the herd, the taking of risks and finding courage through independence from other people’s opinions.
“Speechless” and “Running Away From Home” are very different in style and sound from “Fuck My Friends”. What inspired these songs?
“Speechless” was a song I wrote a long time ago, about one and a half years ago. It is actually the first song I ever professionally recorded and completed production on. It’s a relationship song that tries to capture the essence of a hard moment I was experiencing at the time, so it’s intimate and personal. “Running Away From Home” was inspired by my transition of leaving my home and coming to a new, unknown place. The record reflects on all the things that ultimately made me want to leave at a young age, and also captures how difficult it was to leave behind someone who I loved and cared about. Having a really musically diverse bag of songs is one of the most important things to me. So, stylistically, these songs have many different musical elements to them, which is something I think comes from listening to many, many styles of music. But all these first songs have a direct meaning and point to a specific time in my life. Keeping that truth of experience and musical integrity is something I take very seriously.
You’ve mentioned that you’re obsessed with old fashioned methods of writing and recording — what do you mean by that? What is your own creative process like?
I just feel the old way of writing and recording music is a little more intimate and allows the creator time to breathe with the art. But I also love the more modern approach to recording music — the drop of a pin, lightning-fast style of recording is amazing. I feel lucky to be alive in the time where audio technology is at such a high, but I’m obsessed with old recording techniques. I love finding the balance between recording drums with tape, and using amazing analog plugins to mix and match between older and newer ways of recording. We are very lucky right now, [it’s] kind of the best of both worlds — the classic techniques and the modern software all jelled into one creative process. It’s a pretty exciting time to be working in music.
Other than music, what do you do to deal with everything going on in the world right now? How do you find peace?
I’ve found meditation during these times where the world isn’t moving as fast, and studying different styles of art and storytelling to be really helpful to me. Things that lower [my] heart rate usually means it is harder for me to sit and relax, but I’ve been learning. It’s a process.
Are other art forms, like acting, in your future?
My girlfriend is an actor; I’m around a lot of actors and directors and I love all the things around those people and the creative differences between the art forms. So hey, you never know.
All clothing by SAINT LAURENT
All clothing by SAINT LAURENT
You make a prominent appearance at the end of one of Justin Bieber’s YouTube documentaries, and he’s said you are ‘the next generation of music’. How has he influenced you?
The Justin Bieber documentary was a beautiful moment. It has been amazing to be around this positive and loving person. Justin has been a really great role model as someone who has really been through so much, but come out as this beaming light of positivity who is also creating art from these really hard times. He’s been inspiring as not only an artist, but as a person. I think he dis- covered my Instagram page, then he invited me onto his Live one time. We chatted, had a bit of a sing… Pretty surreal, really. He has been extremely encouraging. He has been very generous with advice about navigating the work environment over here, it can get complex for sure.
What’s the best advice you have been given?
Keep your inner circle as close as possible.
How did you find collaborating with Meghan Trainor on her recent album, Treat Myself?
Working on Meghan’s album was really fun. She is a joy to work with, and a special person. We met at a show in LA — she came up screaming and hugged me and said ‘I need a ballad for my album!’ I had just landed in LA that night, too. Funny, we wrote a really uptempo, high-energy song the next day (“Funk”) with Mike Sabath. The ballad came a bit later. Meghan is an amazing lyricist and the melodies fall out of her, so she is so much fun to write with, so much energy creatively.
Who else would you like to make music with?
Stevie Wonder and Justin Bieber.
Recently you signed with Epic Records, why did you choose them?
I chose Epic because when I met the head of the company (Sylvia Rhone) and the A&R team, it was the perfect energy for me. Also they had worked on some of my favourite music ever — not only modern, but really classic, mind-blowing projects that I grew up listening to and idolising. So they get it, and they get me.
Do you think it’s possible to bring soul back to pop music? It feels like you might be creating a new genre of music — what do you think?
I absolutely think it’s possible to bring soul back into pop music. My background includes many different styles of music, and for me, ‘style’ rep- resents ‘feeling’. I think combining sophisticated R&B drums with the del- icate tones and warm feelings of soul to the urgency of pop music, and the traditional harmonies in Jazz, could be something really special.
What else do you have planned for 2021?
To run and create.
Alexa N Hernandez.
MALIBU GIVES Sanctuary.
Lenise Soren MALIBU GIVES Sanctuary Catie Combs, Aarron Rogers, and Mike Spitz at VOL1 Records, Nick Vinci and Derek Sherron at Republic Records.