Belfast Telegraph

Q&A: Benjamin Francis Leftwich on sobriety, his new album 'Gratitude' and his favourite thing about Belfast

By Sarah Tulloch

Indie singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich is back with his highly anticipated third album, Gratitude, which is set to be released on March 15.

We had a chat with the 29-year-old ahead of his Belfast gig at the Empire Music Hall.

Can you chat us through some of your favourite tracks off the new album?

I’m so proud of this album. I really feel like it’s the most honest I’ve written, and created with the most clarity and focus.

I have different favourite tracks each day... I think at the moment one of my favourites is 'Gratitude', the opening track. I just feel so peaceful when I'm playing it and it really takes me back to a moment of surrender in my heart that I really needed and had longed for for a long time.

I also really love 'Look Ma!' it was the first song I wrote after treatment and it’s an important reminder to me that just because a storm stops blowing it doesn’t mean everything will be bliss straight away. I worked on this song with my brothers Joe Rubel and Oli Deakin and I really think the track sounds amazing.

There is also a song on there that is a straight up love song to my sister called 'Miracle Sister'. It’s a song I wanted to write for a long time and I’m pleased it finally came out.

I think one of the most beautiful songs on the album is 'The Mess We Make'. The song is pretty much an observation on all the chaos that we can cause ourselves by being so obsessively involved in the art and then in the road. I think it’s one of the saddest songs on the album.

You were one year sober in January - what impact has that had on your music?

I was in such a bad, dark headspace touring After The Rain through 2016 and 2017 and i really got so far away from my best self and true spirit. It’s still an on going journey one day at a time you know. I think I was worried about if I would be able to create sober, like I always told myself this b******* myth that I had to be in pain or living in chaos to be able to create or perform truly.

I know now this is not true. I think that a creative gift is in someones heart and there are easier and more self-compassionate ways to get there than to cause emotional chaos, inwardly or outwardly.

'Look Ma!' is the first song I wrote after getting clean and sober and I think it is one of the most beautiful tracks on Gratitude.

I think I am able to create from a more honest, introspective and pure place in general, in answer to your question. I am no angel and I am learning every day.

What can an audience at the Empire, Belfast expect from your show?

I will be playing for over an hour with my brother Oliver Deakin on stage with me. We’re going to play a wide range of old and new songs. I’m so looking forward to playing in Belfast again. I used to come over and play McHughs basement bar all the time and I always loved the energy and passion of the beautiful people in Belfast.

What's your favourite thing about Belfast?

I think my favourite thing about your beautiful part of the world is all the amazing music that has come from there.

General Fiasco, Bap Kennedy, Foy Vance, Rosie Carney, Blue Americans, Van Morrison, Travis Is A Tourist, Snow Patrol, my brother JC Stewart and so many more beautiful artists.

How will you be celebrating the album's release?

I am on a tour of record shops playing acoustic sets just before the main tour starts, which will be beautiful. I am playing in my home town of York at a record store called FortyFive Vinyl on March 15 when the album is released.

I am just genuinely very proud of this record and I’m at peace with it.  I wouldn’t say I am as buzzed or crazily excited as I have been earlier in my career but I think that’s because i have been through this process a few times and I am just focused on the music and anything else around it is just an extra blessing you know? I am deeply grateful to have created this beautiful album.

Also, I’m already planning and writing for new records.

What are you most looking forward to about touring again?

I am really excited to be going into this tour with a cleaner heart and mind than before. I feel genuinely grateful that people care about my music and come out to the shows and it feels really fresh to have such a wide range of songs to choose from.

I feel like I’ve grown as a performer with every time I’ve been out on tour and I still feel like a baby who is growing all the time in this game.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

Something my dad always used to say to me, “When in doubt, leave it out”. This really sticks with me you know. Also “never react in anger”.

  • Gratitude is released on March 15. Benjamin Francis Leftwich will play at the Empire Music Hall in Belfast on March 24. Tickets are on sale now.

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