INTERVIEW: Five Minutes with Ben McKelvey

Ben McKelvey has recently released his folk-rock track ‘Wild Child’, with an accompanying video. The Brighton-based multi-instrumentalist has performed across the USA, the UK and Europe in venues such as The Royal Albert Hall, the O2 Arena and the London Palladium, providing support for Wet Wet Wet in 17 arenas, 20 dates for The Overtones, and 50 shows as support for the Genesis supergroup, Mike & The Mechanics.

We caught up with him for some insight into his musical journey, inspiration, and live shows.

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

A love of music from a young age. From 18 years old I loved the aggression and lyrics from bands like the Jam. Eventually, this led me to pick up a guitar.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?  

The idea comes first for me whether it’s lyrics or a chord structure. We then try and bring everything to life with a certain sound in the studio.

What’s on your current playlist?

Frank Turner, Brian Fallon, Bruce Springsteen, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

It’s the best part of being a musician. The feeling of the audience singing your words back to you is the best thing in the world to me.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

I actually try and keep everything fairly straight forward. I keep to one guitar tone that I love just like my favourite albums from other artists. In my opinion, the greatest songs are simple 3 chord wonders. I try to replicate that in my work.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

I’ll usually be up very early at the gym around 6 am. Then I’ll pack up the gear and get to the studio for around 9 am. Because I play all the instruments on the records we generally lay the drums down first and then build from there.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

My first live performance at my local open mic night. I remember the cold sweat just before I picked up the guitar then it all fell away and became pure joy. Never looked back since. It was a bittersweet moment because I had no intention of ever playing live but my Grandad had passed away that morning so I thought if I’m ever going to play these songs live it should be that day. Without knowing it, that was the beginning of everything.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

Beer and a towel

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Watching band documentaries and driving my car – I have a 1970 Triumph TR6 which is my pride and joy. After a good drive, I feel like Steve McQueen and want to be creative.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

I have always used Martin acoustic guitars influenced by my hero Johnny Cash. For electric guitars, I’ve always loved Telecasters with either Vox or Orange Amps after Springsteen or Paul Weller.

Any side projects you’re working on?

I’m always having a jam with friends of mine but nothing set for release yet. Hopefully one day.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

A new album and a new live band

Famous last words?

You’re only here once

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