Not every artist can say they had a sold-out tour even before the release of their debut album. But Eddie Benjamin can.
The 20-year-old Australian singer/songwriter is currently opening for Justin Bieber on the first North American leg of the Justice World Tour – a spot he won on his own.
First gaining attention in a rock band called Haze Trio – which won several talent contests in Bondi Beach, Benjamin’s hometown when he was a teenager – the singer moved to Los Angeles in 2020 His talent was also quickly recognized there, as he found a mentor. in fellow Australian Sia – and, shortly after, Bieber.
The two met through mutual friends in 2020, and Bieber dubbed Benjamin “the next generation.” The pop star might be right: Benjamin has previously written and produced for Shawn Mendes, Cordae, Meghan Trainor and Earth Wind & Fire. And now he has his own viral success.
Benjamin’s piano track “Weatherman” was one of the most used songs on TikTok recently, with nearly 20,000 videos featuring the tune. (Since joining the platform in February, Benjamin’s TikTok videos have garnered over 30 million total views.) His first single since his 2021 debut EP, emotional“Weatherman” expands on the vulnerability that Benjamin has shamelessly shown thus far – and serves as a teaser for what’s to come on his debut album, due out later this year.
The LP will mix his affinity for jazz (he’s a classically trained bassist!), retro sounds and hyper-modern sound techniques. As Benjamin teases, he’s ready to revisit the sound and production of today’s popular music. “This album is more my foresight [on] where the sound structure should go,” he says.
Ahead of the release of his debut LP, Benjamin spoke with GRAMMY.com about how Bieber helped him, his struggles with anxiety and his plans to shake up the music industry.
So how did you end up opening for Justin Bieber?
When I first moved to Los Angeles, he reached out and made sure I was okay, showing his support. He became a good friend and a mentor. And I remember I put out my first EP and he asked me out to dinner [at the release party].
Did he pass on any advice that interests you?
I certainly called him when needed. Keeping your body healthy is one of the main things. You stumble up there doing a lot. His set is also very long. The main thing was to talk about staying healthy throughout the tour, because it’s months.
Growing up in Australia, how did you get into the art scene?
My parents were artists. My father was a session drummer and touring musician, and my mother was a choreographer and dancer. So I was around creativity since I was very young. They would have records by Stevie Wonder, Prince, Bach, Mozart – an array of different styles of music.
I was never pushed into it, but I had listened to so much music when I was 11, and that’s when I asked for my first bass guitar. But it was definitely a creative environment where I grew up.
You also grew up in jazz trios playing with older musicians. How has this affected the way you approach being an artist?
I come from a jazz and classical background. I think it really structured my way of thinking about music and what I have to offer as a songwriter, because I really know how to express myself in many styles of music. Being in these rooms, learning to be a musician, messing around in front of teachers, messing around in front of people, really having to work hard to be a good player before you sing in front of a bunch of people – I think that’s really, really helped me.
You are a huge Prince fan. How did seeing him in concert growing up transform your musical career?
I think it started. I had not played an instrument before seeing him in concert. I’ve seen him slap a bass on stage with so much confidence – it was one of the first moments that put drums in my back to say, “Wow, I really want to do this.”
Did you move to Los Angeles just at the start of the pandemic? How was this experience for you?
It was definitely an interesting time, because I was cast in a lot of plays. I worked a lot. I was in the studio meeting a lot of people and then it kind of stopped. I continued to work. I was in the studio during the whole pandemic. But it was definitely a shock to move countries and then shut down the whole world.
Sia kinda took you under her wing, didn’t she?
Sia is one of my mentors. She has a studio, and when she has her collaborators, like Labrinth and Diplo, I’ve been there to work on the music.
How did you manage to write with such eminent artists so early in your career?
These people, honestly, are my friends. It happened very naturally. I never really tried to get in as a songwriter or producer. These things happened, and I don’t necessarily go to venues writing songs for other people. I like to write for others when it happens, and the connection is real.
Who do you dream of collaborating with?
A lot of them are dead – I have so many composers I would love to work with. But my dream person to sing a song with would be Stevie Wonder.
Which artists do you think influenced your first album?
I don’t think it’s just one artist. I’m very inspired by a range of artists and their recording techniques. I’m super obsessed with analog recording techniques from the 1960s, 70s and 80s and mixing them with modern textures and recording methods. Working with Mike Dean, Kid Culture and Alex Salibia has been amazing for that. We were able to really refine that sound.
Regarding the subject of the album, is there a specific theme that encompasses it?
It’s a concept album, but it’s a hidden concept album where the songs together tell the whole story. The best way to describe what the album means to me is [that] these are all extreme and pivotal moments in my life in song form. So the storyline is just extreme experiences that shaped my life. The album represents just a kind of end of these expressed emotions.
I wanted this kind of idea that everyone has of themselves to be represented in the album. The songs represent an extreme moment for me. It’s more about getting through those tough times and being the person you want to be.
Can you tell me about your first single “Weatherman?” Why did you choose to direct with that?
“Weatherman” was created in Malibu with my collaborator, Kid Culture. We were sitting there staring at the ocean, and I remember it was a bit of a watershed moment – musically, conceptually, and sonically all at once. We knew we wanted to have a theatrical, upbeat energy, because I felt very driven by these outer thoughts, these outer layers that we have as people. I was a bit frustrated. I really didn’t want to feel the pain of yesterday, and those lyrics made their way into the song. Then we spent the next three days creating the whole arrangement before we wrote any of the verses or the rest of the structure.
We were just tweaking a lot of sound design to make it sound exactly how we wanted it to sound. We just knew that was the start of that sound. It was actually the first song we did on the album. I haven’t given it too much thought.
Kid Culture co-produced the track. How did you get involved with him?
Funny enough, Kid Culture Instagrammed me, “Let’s Cook” with a cook emoji. It actually took us a while to meet, but when we did, it just clicked.
He just spent months of his time talking to me and being with me. I think what’s really important as a producer is spending a lot of time with the artists, and he did. I feel like you can hear that in the music. The music is very vulnerable and very real. I think it’s because we spent a lot of time together just talking.
It seems that anxiety can resonate throughout the project.
There are a few songs that tip their hat to anxiety. Honestly, I suffer from extreme anxiety – life stopping anxiety, I can’t get out of bed with my brain completely frozen. One of these days I got up, went into the studio and did a song like this – it’s one of those songs on the album.
I’m still learning how to deal with all these things. I’m not going to pretend that I have it all figured out. But music is definitely a way to express those difficult times.
What do you want fans to take away from your debut album?
I think we have a whole new generation of artists who are going to change the wave of music, and this is one of the first albums to really push that. I have a very open heart and this is a really vulnerable work of art.
I’m just excited for people to finally see a little bit of my brain. It’s not too many songs, it’s only seven. I’m already working on my next album. But I’m really excited for people to hear the sounds and hear what we’ve been working on.
What do you think your next album will sound like?
I’m really focused on pushing the sonic into a new modern place where it hasn’t been. I think music has stalled sonically, and a lot of things have started to sound the same.
I don’t want to do this. I want to stand out. I don’t want to fit in remotely, and I just want to deliver consistently high-level music for a long, long time.
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