June 22, 2018 Interview – Ben Daniels
Nearly every kid growing up has at least one common bond with their parents. For some, it’s the love of sports, for others it is the love of film, and for many, it is a shared passion for music. Growing up the son of award-winning Actor Jeff Daniels, Ben Daniels always had an interest in music, and while he did not pick up a guitar until later in life, the foundation was already built early on.
Raised on a steady diet of the Blues, and observing his dad play guitar, Ben would eventually find his calling to pursue a career in music, quickly going onto forming his own band. A talented lyricist, Ben has consistently put out original music for some time now, and more recently, is gearing up to hit the road with his band, and dad, for some touring across the USA. An exciting opportunity for the father-son team, Ben took the time to chat about his introduction to music, working with his dad, plans for future songs, plus more.
CrypticRock.com – Growing up in a family that has entertainment in the blood, what inspired you to pursue a career as a musician?
Ben Daniels – It started at the end of high school. It was kind of the recording side I was really into, and my dad was always trying to get me to play guitar, and I never really did until college because I was kind of writing Hip Hop lyrics. Transfer that into folky songs with guitar, and once I came to him to play guitar he was thrilled, so I kind of put the two and two together. The studio side of it is what really got me started with a music career.
CrypticRock.com – Very interesting. So playing guitar came for you a little bit later on?
Ben Daniels – Yeah, probably when I was 20 I started playing guitar. I was into Hip Hop mostly growing up, so recording that style of music is where I got my start. Then I started the band pretty soon after playing the guitar, so it’s been a growing experience for myself but also our music. Ten years later, we are starting to get good finally, I feel. It’s been a long road.
CrypticRock.com – That is fascinating how it all happened. Your band, the Ben Daniels Band, has been together for some time, and you have toured around and released original music. To this point, what has the musical journey been like for you?
Ben Daniels – We just kind of record whatever we come up with at the time and don’t really think too hard about it – write songs, recording, put them out, and repeat. Now I am starting to care more about what I put out there. Not that I didn’t care in the first place, just being more careful and organized about it; putting music out that is kind of the same style instead of scratched genres. There is nothing wrong with that but I am just maturing a little bit more on how I approach releasing music, which is not as careless.
CrypticRock.com – Right, and that maturity comes over time. Your music is pretty diverse but certainly rooted in Folk Rock. Your most recent album, Travelusive, was released in 2016. Are you working on some new music, and when can we expect a release?
Ben Daniels – We haven’t recorded it yet, but we are kind of in-the-process of writing, playing live a bunch to flesh out the songs, see what sticks, and coming up with stuff on the spot too. We will probably do that through the summer and start recording in the fall. Right now I am writing constantly, so I am not going to interrupt that process. Let it get to the fall, see where we are, and start recording then.
CrypticRock.com – Excellent, and is the new music on the same trajectory as it has been? What direction are you going this time?
Ben Daniels – Some of it is a little bit odd; weird chords and kind of Beck influences. The other side of it is more bluesy, J. J. Cale, feel good Blues; nice and easy going. I don’t even know how to describe it. American music is kind of what I keep saying.
CrypticRock.com – Sounds like a good description. As far as your lyrics, they are quite vivid. Does your inspiration change as time goes on?
Ben Daniels – Yeah, I try and change it. I write down ideas that I want to talk about and sometimes I will get to that. Other times, I will just write and it seems the same kind of thoughts, but said a different way. Typically I will sit down to write with a guitar, just start singing syllables, then they turn into words. A lot of times I will write down an idea I want to focus on and try and make it into a song; basically just making the songs make sense. In my mind they make sense, but I want other people to make some sense of it as well.
CrypticRock.com – The songs come across as very personal and that connects with an audience on a deeper level. As stated, you come from a family of entertainers with your dad, Jeff, being a successful actor. That in mind, not many people realize he is also a huge music lover and musician himself. Did you have music around you all the time growing up?
Ben Daniels – Absolutely. He has listened to the Blues my whole life, that is probably one of his favorite genres. I grew up hearing that, so when I started picking up the guitar and learning these Blues riffs, it was like, “Oh, that’s been ingrained in my mind from my childhood, I know that.” He’s a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. He is always playing the guitar; if he’s not acting, he’s playing guitar. That’s not changed as I can remember.
CrypticRock.com – That is great. You have shows lined up with your dad and your band this summer. What’s it like sharing the stage with your dad and what can those coming out to the shows expect?
Ben Daniels – It’s great. For one, it’s a huge learning experience because he is so used to stage, not only with music, but also Broadway. He knows how to handle a crowd. It is great to learn, but it’s also nice to be the center of attention for a minute and just be part of the band. It’s a good learning experience on many different levels, I enjoy it very much.
CrypticRock.com – Awesome! It will be great to see you on the road with him. Your band has really melded well, playing together through the years. How would you describe the chemistry between you and the band?
Ben Daniels – I think it’s great. We just added a new lap steel player who is incredible at guitar. We are feeling really good with the way things are going right now. When the songwriting is happening and the songwriting is good enough, we all feel really good about how it’s going. We have a lot of fun, and that’s important. There are times it is not like that, so we are definitely in a good spot right now.
CrypticRock.com – Right, and since you have been playing together a while, you have learned each other’s style.
Ben Daniels – Yeah! Wes (Fritzemeier) – on tour with my dad, he will be playing mandolin – but with us he plays drums. We work together, it’s all about listening to each other. We don’t really have to talk too much, and if we do we just yell at each other and it unfolds in a good way. We play well together and we are constantly learning how to do that even better. I don’t think that will ever stop.
CrypticRock.com – That is very cool. It will be compelling to hear the new music and see these shows. When you chose to pursue a career in music, was your dad completely behind it? One could imagine he was, but did he warn you a career in entertainment is not easy? Did he give you advice?
Ben Daniels – Yeah, he was 100% behind it. I think partly because it is something he always wanted to do. I went to school for audio engineering, and out in Arizona when I was coming back, he and I were talking about that I should get a band going. He was a big influence on that. The recording side was there, I just needed something to record. I am definitely well aware how hard it is just watching him – lots of highs and lows in a career. I’ve witnessed it and I know how hard it is, how lucky you have to be, and how hard you have to work to stay at it. Nothing is guaranteed!
CrypticRock.com – Very true. Being someone who studied audio engineering, you must be very keen on the sound of recordings.
Ben Daniels – Yeah, so that’s another part of the growth of our albums from the beginning. To me it sounded like garbage, but now the songwriting, but also the recording side of it is growing and getting better every time. It’s coming into myself, the band, and my studio. It’s a homegrown little adventure here.
CrypticRock.com – It is great to see it develop. As you said, you came from a Hip Hop background and then grew up on your dad’s influences as well. Tell us, who are some of your favorite artists?
Ben Daniels – Lately J.J. Cale is someone I’ve been listening to a lot, I just love the vibe of all his stuff. Beck is great for the way he comes up with songs; starts out with drum beats and builds on that. There is a band Poolside I have been listening to a lot, it’s more dancy. I kind of listen to a lot of stuff, it’s all over the board; a lot of Blues and Bossa Nova, it’s everywhere.
CrypticRock.com – Sounds like a diverse mix. Last question for you. CrypticRock covers music as well as movies, partially Horror and Sci-Fi films. If you enjoy those genres, do you have any favorites?
Ben Daniels – I don’t watch too many Horror movies, not that I can’t handle them, but I just like Comedies more. As far as Sci-Fi, I saw Her (2013). I liked Get Out (2017), I don’t know what category that would be.