The first thing you notice is the voice. Haunting and sublimely otherworldly, it stops you in your tracks with the gentlest of touches, proving that sometimes the intoxicating simplicity of a single voice is all you need to make an impact. With Benjamin Francis Leftwich, that hypnotic, breathy voice is the reason for it all. It exposes his soul before anyone even hears the lyrics, letting the listener in to Benjamin’s most intimate world in a way no interview or video ever could. It is the essence of his being, laid bare without regret for us to share. Not just your average singer-songwriter then.
Indeed, there’s nothing ordinary about this startling new talent, who is just 22 and has only just released his debut album, but who sounds like he already has a lifetime of experiences, hopes and shattered dreams invested in each song. He has, in fact, been waiting for this moment for years. At the age of 10, Yorkshire, England born Benjamin first stared playing guitar, ditching his teacher after just a couple of lessons and teaching himself from the records that inspired him instead. Growing up on a diet of Rolling Stones and Nina Simone, Benjamin discovered Bob Dylan and Elliot Smith in his teens and never looked back. By 15, he was writing songs and playing with a band on the York music scene, before starting work as a solo artist at 18 and beginning to write what now makes up his debut album, Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm.
“A lot of the songs on there I wrote when I was about 17 or 18,” Benjamin confirms. “I really wanted to get their sound right and I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to writing and recording. I’ve been working on them ever since really.”
The breathtaking results were well worth waiting for. Inspired by the likes of Ryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, Arcade Fire and Sigur Ros, Benjamin took his time creating a sound that is truly his, that reveals a little more of himself with every single breath and moment.
Benjamin has been stunned by the overwhelmingly positive reaction to his music, which has truly taken him by surprise. After releasing his debut EP A Million Miles Out throughout the UK and Europe at the end of 2010, Benjamin quickly found himself on prestigious playlists as UK DJ’s fell for his unassuming charms. Benjamin’s second EP, Pictures, followed in March 2011, and once again found its way on radio playlists and garnered high profile support slots on tours with bands such as Noah & The Whale.
On July 4th, at long last, Benjamin’s debut album Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm was released and debuted in the Top 20 on the UK album chart. The album release was preceded by his first proper single “Box of Stones” which pairs the fragile elegance of Benjamin’s stunning voice with simple, inviting guitar lines, heart-breakingly delicate melodies and lyrics strained with emotion.
“A couple of people have described some of my songs as love songs but there’s a level of ambiguity in them I think. I try not to ever focus on a central theme. I just bring together inspiration from around me and put it all into a song. Some songs are more direct, but there’s always that level of ambiguity.”
On the heels of the album release, Benjamin spent the summer on tour and appeared at 26 festivals in the UK including Glastonbury, Reading & Leeds, Green Man, Bestival, Camp Bestival and many more.
Recently, Ben completed a massive 28-date, sold-out UK tour that included a headline gig at the prestigious Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London.
Now, the US gets their chance to discover Benjamin Francis Leftwich with the release of Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm coming later this summer on Vagrant Records and accompanied by new material that is to be recorded in May.