Up Close and Personal With Benedict Benjamin

This week, Huw Stephens, the voice of new music in the U.K. and beyond via his nightly show on BBC Radio 1, sits down with singer-songwriter Benedict Benjamin (real name: Ben Rubenstein), newly solo after stints in a couple of bands—The Mariner's Children and Peggy Sue. Next up, hear Benjamin's astonishing performance of "Thin Skin," recorded exclusively for Sweet at The Social in London, but first, Stephens had a few questions.

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Huw Stephens: I'm very excited to hear the song you're about to play, how long have you been playing for?

Benedict Benjamin:  As Benedict Benjamin, for about a couple of years—but I was in a few bands before that.

HS: And you have your debut solo album on the way called, "Night Songs." Tell us about the songs on it, were they all actually written or recorded at night?

BB: They were recorded very early in the morning in a church. We had to record really early in the morning, because it was the only time we could get in there. It was like £7 an hour when we booked it early in the morning. They were all written at night when I had insomnia; I was working at night in a cinema and walking home at like, two in the morning. 

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HS: And what do you write and sing about?

BB: Well you'll have to listen to the album to find out.  

HS: What about the song that we're hearing though today, "Thin Skin."

BB: It's about wishing I was a lot less of a dick than I am.

HS: Hahaha. It's a very personal, honest song, it seems. Are all your songs about certain times and people in your life?

BB: Yeah, it's kind of the most direct set of songs I think I've ever written in that way.  

HS: What's it's like to be an acoustic singer/songwriter/performer in London? Is it a good place? Is it an easy place to play and find gigs in?

BB: Yeah it's a good place and there's lots of music going on. It's a tough place to live 'cause it's so expensive and just getting more expensive. I know a lot of people trying to do music who are really considering moving, which is a real shame. I'm pretty sure in a few years there will be hardly any people here doing music because of the cost of rent and price of living.

HS: Where are you from? Are you London born and bred?

BB: I am, yeah, always.

HS: So you'll stay here. You'll be the only musician in London!

BB: Hahaha.

HS: It'll be like, you and Coldplay!

BB: Haha, oh God! That'll be an interesting competition on a Friday night. 

Benjamin playing the Islington Assembly Hall, April 2015

HS: Coldplay! They don't even live here anymore, do they?

BB: They're like, Oxford, aren't they?

HS: I thought they were like, L.A. or something?

BB: Oh yeah, probably.

HS: High-flying cities!

BB: Hahaha.

HS: Hey Benedict, thank you for coming to play for us today.

BB: Thank you! 

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