Maxim Meyer-Horn

23 Jun 2020

Alec Benjamin: “I Just Put Too Much Unnecessary Pressure on Myself”

Releasing a debut album is a big step for upcoming artists because debut albums are seen as the most career-defining moments. American singer Alec Benjamin knows that and has been working hard on his first bigger project ‘These Two Windows’. Sadly, the timing of the album release couldn’t be worse according to the “Let Me Down Slowly” singer. In our interview, Benjamin opens up about his struggles of releasing the album in such difficult times and hopes that it sheds some light in dark times.

What have you been doing in the past few weeks?

I’m just at home in my house and haven’t been doing a lot because of everything that is going on in the world right now. My album came out in the middle of a political, health, and economic crisis, so I wasn’t really able to present it to the world like I planned to do. I’m happy that my fans have the songs to listen to, but I really wanted to promote this album a lot.

These Two Windows is a portrait of your feelings. Why does writing songs help you describe your feelings?

I think songwriting is just one of the many ways how I express how I feel. There are other ways I can express how I feel, but it’s just the one that I get paid for. I think music is just a good way for me to communicate with other people, and it’s a nice way to share what I feel. Doing it via my music gives me the opportunity to do it for a living.

The single “Mind Is A Prison” is about being stuck in your head. Did the song help you in liberating yourself from inner demons?

That song is actually one of my favorites of the album and it indeed helped me a lot. When I go through a hard time, I write a song about it, and in my eyes, it’s pretty. I just try to bring something beautiful out of something dark, so it makes me feel better about some situations. For example, when my heart gets broken, writing a song helps me to get over it a bit.

The journey leading up to the release of your debut wasn’t easy. How did it help you become the artist you are now?

I think everything I did so far plays an important part in my life, it’s just a different part of my journey. It helped me a lot in realizing how my career could work, so it wasn’t any less important than any other thing I did in my life.

You’ve always liked to make songs that are a mix between folk-pop and a little bit of hip-hop. Is that a sound you’ll continue to develop in the future?

I don’t know because I haven’t decided that yet. I’m thinking about it, but I’m not sure what I’ll be doing musically next. I’d like it to be something I haven’t done before, but I’m not exactly sure what’s it going to be.

Do you start the writing process of a song with a melody or with a lyric?

It’s different every single time. Sometimes, I start with words, and sometimes I start with a simple melody. It depends on where my inspiration comes from. By the way, I find reading books way more inspiring than listening to music.

You’re a great live performer and play a lot of shows. What’s in your opinion the magic of an Alec Benjamin show?

I think most of the people that come to the show can relate to the music. I think it’s not any more or less magical than any other show because it is about the fans that have an emotional connection to the music. What makes it special is that I talk a lot about personal things, and people come to the show to hear those things.

Apart from your great songwriting, it’s your distinctive voice that makes you stand out as a singer. Have you always embraced your voice?

I actually never thought about it. I’m born with the voice I got, and I just sing the way that has always felt natural to me.

Are you sometimes afraid of connecting with people when you’re on stage?

I spent too much time focussing on what other people think, and it’s just too much pressure for me. I got too caught up in what other people will think about my music and if they can relate to it but, in the end, I make music because I like it. I’m not making it for other people, but it’s, of course, super awesome if a big audience likes what you make. I just put too much unnecessary pressure on myself. It’s too much for me to think about. When people like my music, it’s important for me but when they don’t like it, it’s not important to me. (laughs)

The album has been praised for being the perfect soundtrack during the quarantine. Are you happy that you released it now?

To be honest, it was just such a shitty moment to put an album out you’ve worked so long and hard for. I really didn’t want to put out the album now, even though everyone around me said that it would be a good idea. For me, it was a mistake putting it out during such difficult times because there couldn’t be worse timing. I know that it’s a hard time for everybody but it’s been very challenging. I don’t know what comes next and what the future will bring because I felt lost during the quarantine. The coronavirus was spreading, my country is falling apart, and I’m just very confused by the whole situation.

I just don’t want to answer the question with “I’m so excited!” because that would be a lie. I don’t want to be disingenuous about my real feelings and be honest, just like in my music.

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