Interview: Benny Walker

If Ben Harper and Pete Murray had a love child and raised it on a hearty diet of soul, blues, country, folk and good old fashioned rock – it might sound a bit like Benny Walker. This talented Victorian just seems to go from strength to strength the more he tours and the more he writes. Between the great first single, Will There be a Light, and the addition of harmonies from the divinely talented Deline Briscoe and Emma Donovan, I’ll be grabbing his new album, Through the Forest, for sure! Lately Benny Walker has been roaming the country like a musical vagabond bringing audiences his new material and gearing up for Through the Forest’s March release. Benny recently took time out of his busy tour schedule for a little Q&A with us.

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Your new album, Through the Forest is set to be released on 6 March. Tell us a little bit about your experience writing the new album and what we can expect from it?

The new album is a little darker. The lyrical content comes from and goes to a darker place.

For people who might be new to your music, how would you describe the Benny Walker sound?

I think people get drawn there by the initial things you hear on listening. Acoustic guitars, a voice, or a good groove and then the more they listen the more they find.

How will the new album differ from your previous album, Sinners and Saints?

There’s a lot more harmonies on the new record. Both my own voice, Deline Briscoe’s and Emma Donovan’s. Even the Producer Shane O’Mara is on a track or two. I always try to grow all aspects of my music with every record: writing; singing; playing guitar, and the production.

Will There Be a Light is a great summer single. Despite its simple and cruisy feel, there seems to be a lot actually going on in the song. Did you deliberately design it that way or was it something that happened a bit more organically?

I guess it does have a cruisy sort of feel. I love southern rock (among so much other stuff) and I think Will There Be a Light has that influence. It has 4 or 5 different chord structures in the song including a key change, so there is a bit going on musically. On top of the chord changes there are some amazing harmonies from Emma and Deline, the rhythm section is kicking butt. Garrett’s pedal steel doesn’t repeat a single phrase for the whole song, Tim’s organ playing is fantastic and some layered guitars on there too.  We always try to serve the song in the studio. So, we try not to add anything that doesn’t need to be there or better the song.

You’ve been very busy recently playing shows. How have the audiences been responding to the new material?

It’s been received really well. It’s always nice for me to have some fresh material to play too.

Your career seems to have built gradually, in small increments. You must be pleased with the momentum you have at the moment but was there ever a time where you thought you might not get to this point?

No, I always want to be moving forward one way or another. I know where I stand in my own mind and what does and doesn’t satisfy me. I definitely have aspirations to push it all forward a lot further but I still feel extremely lucky to follow my passion as a career.

You’ve supported and played with a bunch of great and diverse artists like Tex Perkins, Uncle Archie Roach, Mama Kin and Tim Rogers. Whats been a highlight for you so far?

They all stand out for me but, the biggest rush was Tim Rogers and I performing Blackfella/Whitefella with Blue King Brown at Sidney Myer Music Bowl for the Apology Concert. That was a privilege and a massive buzz.

You play a really broad range of shows from afternoon community gigs in the park, the Apology concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, regional gigs as well as bigger gigs like for AWME. As an artist, how do you prepare for such a diverse range of gigs and what do you get out of playing such a variety of shows?

No matter where I’m playing or who I’m playing for, I try to put on the best show I can in that moment. Preparation is key. If I’m confident in what I’m doing then I can hit the stage and put everything into the delivery. I learn something from every show too.

You’ve got plenty of gigs coming up. Any show that you are particularly excited about?

The Melbourne and Taronga Zoo shows with Dan Sultan will be a lot of fun. Also, I’m taking a 9 piece band to the National Multicultural Festival in Canberra, February 14 and 15, in preparation of the launch shows.

Benny Walker’s new single, The Fool, is out now and Through the Forest will be released on 6 March.

You can find Benny’s tour dates at www.bennywalkermusic.com.

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