On the Road with Aaron Benjamin Q & A
Senior Writer: Kamilah McLeod
June 13, 2018
1. What was the motivation to step out into a music career?
I never imagined doing anything else. I started writing songs when I was a kid, and ultimately moved to New Orleans because I knew that’s where I could build the sound I always imagined. My primary motivation is the desire to hear the songs in my head come to life. It’s an inexplicably awesome process that is at the heart of why I love making music.
2. Do you feel any pressure being a singer/songwriter from Detroit, Michigan?
I don’t feel pressure being a singer-songwriter from Detroit. I feel privileged to have grown up surrounded by such a rich musical culture. There’s no doubt that the Detroit sound has shaped me as an artist, but I don’t feel any additional pressure due to where I grew up. I’m just lucky to have been raised in one of America’s musical epicenters.
3. Who are some of your musical influences?
My writing is influenced by a wide range of genres. I grew up on classic rock, Motown, and acoustic singer-songwriter. It’s all manifested in its own unique way. I think my vocal melodies are most impacted by Motown/r&b vocalists like Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Prince, while my guitar sound is the result of being raised on The Who and Zeppelin. In terms of the songs themselves - the way they’re structured - I owe a lot to singer-songwriters like Dave Matthews, John Mayer. I was 15 when I saw Trombone Shorty perform at the Royal Oak Music Theater, which opened my eyes to the ways horns can interact with a rock band. That was my first real taste of the New Orleans influence. When I moved there three years later, I was exposed to brass bands for the first time (Rebirth, Soul Rebels), and that opened up an entirely new realm for me to consider in my writing.
4. How did you feel about selling out the legendary New Orleans venue, Tipitina’s?
Selling out Tipitina’s was surreal. Growing up, my parents would make the annual trip to New Orleans Jazz Fest, and come home with stories about that venue. I’ve been rocking the same Tips t-shirt since I was 14. That stage has held host to some of the greatest, most influential artists of all time and it’s an honor to perform in such a sacred space.
5. How was your experience performing at the Catch Meaning Festival at the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame in Cleveland?
Catch Meaning is an annual festival held to commemorate the lives of Alex Doody and Josh Weil who passed away during their senior year of high school. The event serves as a reminder to catch meaning at every moment; to live life to the fullest and celebrate our being here. It’s a beautiful day, and I’m grateful to be involved. This year was the third Catch Meaning. The first year was at Jacobs Pavilion, and last year was at House of Blues. This year was the best one yet, and playing at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame was as cool as it gets. It was also great to share the stage with the Ripe and the Vindys, who both put on an exceptional performance.
6. Are you currently on a record label or do you plan to be independent artist?
I am an unsigned, independent artist. Everything we’ve done - from funding/recording our debut album, to going on tour, has been facilitated in-house. I’m not exclusively committed to any singular approach to this industry. I believe in taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves, and I’m looking forward to what the future holds.
7. Why did you move to New Orleans?
Before moving to New Orleans, I made music in isolation. I sat on my bed and wrote songs and imagined the sound of a full band accompanying me. When I visited New Orleans for the first time, it was like a light switched on. I couldn’t believe the amount of talent, and more-so, the community of musicians that seemed endless. I realized that if I moved there, I would have the resources to build the band I had always imagined.
8. How did you meet this 7-piece band that combines classic rock n roll grit with Detroit
Soul and a heavy dose of New Orleans Brass? Do the band have a name?
The band came together very organically. As soon as I arrived in New Orleans, I started the building process. First it was guys on my dorm room floor, and then guys within my school’s music department. The summer after my freshman year, I played my first show with a band at a record store/head-shop called The Mushroom. Over the course of the next few years, I wrote more music and met other musicians who understood and added to the vision. I’m fortunate to play with a group of guys who come from unique musical backgrounds, and bring their own sound to the process.
9. What personal advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue this career?
Surround yourself with people you can learn from and who believe in what you’re doing. Stay true to your own vision and be tenacious in your efforts to convert that vision into a reality.
10. What do we have to look forward to hearing and seeing from you?
The debut album was released in September of 2017. We’ll be in the studio recording more music this summer, and releasing it before the end of 2018. Having already been through the recording process once, I’m excited to return to the studio with our best material yet, and a stronger sense of our cohesive sound. We’re also looking forward to spending a lot more time on the road, and bringing that sound to cities throughout the country.