Exclusive Interview with Alt-Country Artist Ben Brooks

Jean On Jean may technically be Ben Brooks‘ debut album, but he’s been kicking around the music scene for awhile, having played in bands since he was attending high school in his hometown of Selma, AL. The album, which comes out October 7th, is a wonderful showcase of Ben’s southern roots, especially because all nine songs were written solely by him. 

I got the chance to talk to Ben about how he would describe his music, what it means to him for his debut album to finally be out, his upcoming single “California” and more. Keep reading to see what he had to say!

Tell me a little bit about how you first got into making and performing music.

When I was 12, I got a fender Stratocaster for my birthday. Then I started playing with a friend down the street and just never stopped.

Was there a specific moment or person that made you realize that music is what you wanted to pursue professionally?

My Dad introduced me to a lot of cool music when I was young like Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Allman Brothers. That really had a big influence on me, and I wanted to be just like all those guys. I guess I still do.

I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey with their music. Your sound would typically be classified as country/Americana, but if you had to describe it without using genre names, how would you describe it?

Genuine, down to earth simple songs that everyone can relate to and that hopefully make you feel something.

Going off of that, who are some of your musical influences? 

Other than the bands I mentioned earlier, I’m into Jason Isbell, Rayland Baxter, Deer Tick, Sturgill Simpson, Nikki Lane to name a few. 

Let’s talk about your debut album, Jean on Jean. First off, congratulations on the upcoming release. What does it mean to you for this to finally be coming out in a few weeks?

Thank you very much. I’m really proud of this album and excited to finally release it. It’s my first solo release and I’ve been slowly putting it together over the last couple years. I wrote all the songs and recorded most of the album in a studio on Music Row called Jays Place with my friend Scotty Rollins producing/engineering.

Where did the title of the album, Jean on Jean, come from?

No matter where you are in Nashville or what time of year it is, there are always people wearing jeans and a denim jacket. Since I wrote this album in Nashville, it seemed like an appropriate title and it fits well with the whole vibe of the album.

I absolutely love your song “California”. What’s the story behind this song?

Well, thank you. I had just come back from California and started thinking about all the people that move out to Los Angeles to be a famous actor/actress or musician that you’ve never heard of because they were never famous. I wanted to tell their story because most of those people just moved back home and started a family, but I like to think they still dream about their time in the big city.

I always love hearing about the songwriting process so I was wondering if you could give me a glimpse into what it was like specifically for this song.

Sure. The idea for the song just popped in my head one day and I had been messing around with that chord progression for little while. So, I just started making up different lines and singing them over those chords. Eventually I hit on some lines that I thought were interesting and just kind of built the song from the ground up. Piece by piece, line by line. Then a few of those lines became the chorus.

Something I’ve always been curious with songwriting is how topics come to mind. Did you know what you wanted to write about going into the song session that birthed “California” or did it just come about organically once you were in the session?

Well I wouldn’t really call it a songwriting session. I just sort of slowly put it together over the course of about a week. I would sit around, strumming my guitar and humming that melody over and over again trying to come up with different lines or verses. Eventually, I would get a pretty good one and build the rest of the verse off of that line.

Were there any major changes made to “California” once you got into the recording studio, whether it be in the lyrics or something sonically?

By the time I got into the studio to record, I had the song pretty much mapped out. But I did come back a few weeks later and add the bridge. That is the only change or addition I can think of once we started the recording process.

What are some music industry-related goals or benchmarks that you’re aiming to reach in your career the next couple of years?

I would like to be touring around the world and successful enough to keep going. I haven’t really had time to think about specific goals or benchmarks yet, but as long as I can keep making music and keep touring, I’m happy. 

Lastly, we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?

I like to learn about the different technology advances in alternative energy and things we’re doing to help restore the planet. I find it very interesting and could “talk nerdy” about stuff like that all day.  

Jean on Jean will be available wherever you listen to music on October 7th. For more information, make sure you visit Ben’s website or follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Album Art Credit: Suzanne Pfeil

Photo Credit: Laura Partain  

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