Interview: Ben Caplan

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It was love at first listen when I heard Ben Caplan’s beautiful, raspy voice, and before delivering a stand out performance that might end up being my musical highlight of 2016, the charismatic Canadian took the time to talk to this nervous Norwegian.

You were quite young  when you started writing your own songs, what got you into music?
Just a natural interest I suppose, it wasn’t anything in particular or a model I tried to ambulate or anything like that, I’ve just always loved music, both listening to it and playing it. When I got my first guitar at 13 it kind of just escalated from there. One of my brothers used to mess around on an old Casio keyboard and harmonicas and stuff like that, and they would all be blasting music from the stereo before going to school in the morning, so I guess I got a bit influenced by that as well.

I’ve seen a few places you’ve been compared to Tom Waits, is that someone who’s music you listen to?
Absolutely, I listen to Tom Waits and he’s been an influence on me, but I think it sort of gets played up in a larger degree than I think is accurate, perhaps because people dont really know who or what else to compare me to, as we’ve both got that voice that’s got a bit of scruff to it. What I like about Tom Waits though is that he is hard to pin down, and I guess the same thing goes for myself, where we dont really stick to just one genre, although we can probably say that Tom Waits has created his own genre that is just ‘Tom Waits’.

 

A lot of your music almost seems like it’s from another time, what inspires you to make the sort of music that you do?
I try to let the songs dictate what they will sound like, I’m not trying to be the next whatever, I just let my melodies flow when I’m writing, and allow the music to go into whatever direction it’s playing in. Because I listen to so many kinds of different music, that manifests into my own work.

Touring both as a solo artist and with a full band, what do you feel is the main difference between the two?
It’s a lot more fun touring with a band. I do most of my writing keeping them in mind, and some of what I enjoy the most is the whole puzzle of figuring out how to arrange it with the band. Before the UK tour we did two weeks in Holland where we played as a five piece band, and then we stripped it down to four because the budget is a bit tighter in the UK. After the UK we’re back to a five piece, then four piece, and then a duo for a couple of shows.

So you have to adjust the songs regularly depending on how many people you are touring with?
Yeah we’ve got the core progression, then there’s the melodies and the harmonies. If we’ve got the violin we’ll sort of arrange the songs after that, and if we dont we’ll let the bass play a little more melodically, and if it’s just me playing solo my vocals will take over some of that territory. I love that process of re-inventing what the song is.

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