Last month Sydney based artist Ben Ransom released the second single, Mamma Said off his forthcoming album, ‘Brand New World’. Recorded between Nashville and Sydney, it will be his most definite album to date.
Ben Ransom has traveled, toured and performed all over the globe with a style that is a blend between country, blues and pub-rock. Since 2001, he has worked with and supported top Australian and International recording artists, along with appearances are just about every major music festival around the country.
Over his two studio albums and one ‘live’ recording, he has notched up three National #1s and multiple top 10 charting singles along with many award nominations.
The COVID 19 pandemic has turned the music industry into a bit of a tailspin. How have you been spending your time in isolation and have any music plans been affected by corona?
Everything [laughs] – the whole year got wiped out! I had festivals booked in [and] tours up in Queensland. I had one show [in August], which was the launch for the new single, and it was the only show I’d done in five months. It was fantastic to get back on stage. The next thing I’ve got in the calendar is not until March next year – that’s how bad it is! That’s another big festival, the Country Rocks festival in Bungendore, and a huge line-up of fantastic artists. Tickets are selling fantastically. I think people want a bit of normality back in their lives, but I think it’s gonna be a long time before it’s back to anything like it was pre-COVID. Anyway, we do what we can with what we got.
When I finished school, I went to uni and did anaesthetic nursing. I work in theatres and then gave that up to do music but kept doing little bits and pieces and then went overseas. When I came back, I was doing casual agency spots here and there to fill in holes because the music industry is so fickle. I’ve been lucky because I’ve been able to jump back in and keep the money coming in to get through the lack of live shows in the whole period we’re in at the moment. In a nutshell, that’s what I’ve been doing.
I read a quote where you said, “There’s no substitute for live performance” but given the situation we’re currently in where that is no longer possible, I was going to ask how you’re managing to connect with your fans and make an income from music during this time. However, you’re lucky your anaesthesiologist job is considered an essential service, as not all musicians have the luxury of a fallback, even though I imagine it’s not what you wish you were doing.
No, it’s not at all! It’s great little side gig, but it’s not what I wanna do – I wanna be a rock star! [laughs]
A lot of people are doing Facebook live and that kind of thing, but it’s nothing like going to a live show and that energy you get from the crowd, so I haven’t done a lot of online stuff during this whole period.
What I have been working on instead is new music. I’ve been writing a lot and getting the singles ready for release, because the album is finished. I’ve also started my own line of beef jerky. That’s been a heap of fun and something completely different. It’s my own recipe and it’s all done by hand by me. That idea was to sell it at concerts, festivals and shows but we’re going to sell it through the website. It’s made to order, and the orders have been coming in, so I’ve been busy pumping that out. We’re up at 4am most mornings getting it prepared and then, when I get home, packaging it up. It’s good.
You mentioned that you want to be a rockstar – how do you define a rockstar?
Jumping around the stage with your hair on fire, thrashing about on the guitar, swinging from the rafters, that kind of thing [laughs]. Country is a big umbrella that encompasses the whole genre of country music. I fall more towards the rockier end of the spectrum. I was a product of a lot of stadium acts have that big, epic visual component to it. I like that. I’m not so much the singer songwriter.
Nearly a year ago last year, we opened for Tim McGraw at the Deni Ute Muster, performing on the big stage and letting loose. We had an absolute ball. It was a sold-out crowd, which was cool. Tim was such an awesome dude as well. He went around and said hello to everyone. It was a great experience.
What can you say about your forthcoming album release titled ‘Brave New World’?
The album has been ready for 12 months. It was due to be released this year, but everything has changed, so we’re putting out singles first and then [the album in] February 2021. It was recorded in Nashville, and we used a bunch of world class players – we had Keith Urban’s drummer, Bob Seger’s guitarist and Sting’s guitarist. The songs themselves I wrote over the previous summer.
It’s more an album about life, love and what lies ahead. The title comes from Aldous Huxley’s novel about a dystopian future. We don’t know what lies ahead, but life revolves around things like family and love. It is fortuitous the name rings a bell with the pandemic, so that was a little bit of luck [laughs].
The current single, Mamma Said is an energetic country-rock track that’ll have listeners itching to get out on the road and contemplate some of life’s questions themselves. Where did the idea for the track come from?
It’s funny, you’re on the road and travelling around, and you get time to think, and one of these random thoughts popped into my head, “how is it we get as far through life as we do with everything that can possibly go wrong? How is it that we succeed in managing getting through life. Is it fate? Is it luck? Or is it the pearls of wisdom that have been instilled upon us by those that know better, i.e. your parents?” That’s how it all started. And rather than make it some kind of melancholy retrospective song, I wanted it to be fun and upbeat. Life’s about living and making the absolute most of it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received from your Mum?
That is tricky. She used to say always wear clean underwear. I couldn’t put that in the song though – it just wouldn’t rhyme! [laughs]
The music video was shot by Electric Light Films with Luke Oldknow taking responsibility for both production and shooting. It was filmed in the NSW town of Bingara at the heritage-listed Roxy Theatre with a crew of just two thanks to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, you took on every single role in the video – from ticketing agent, band manager, huge crowd of people and more. What was it like recording such a technical shoot?
It’s not a unique concept by any stretch of the imagination, but we wanted to try and do something different. By me playing all the characters, it’s symbolic of looking back, I could have been anyone in life. Any twist and turn at any point along the way can set you off on a different path. So, we wanted to incorporate this in the video, which was a difficult thing to do.
The fact that it happened in the middle of lockdown of a pandemic, it was just luck we weren’t allowed to have anyone else, so I had to do it all myself. We had the videographer, the assistant and then there was me and 150 changes of clothes. Being a technical shoot, there wasn’t much room for error. We definitely thought we’d bit off more than we could chew when we started shooting but it was really cool.
Did you see the streaker? There’s a streaker. That’s the little Easter egg that some people have picked up on. It’s not common knowledge, but if you look closely, there’s a streaker in there. It’s in the crowd of about 150 of me. I’m glad it’s in the distance, that’s the only thing.
Were you actually naked?
Which character was your favourite to play?
I quite liked the shonky band manager. That was a lot of fun because I’ve come across plenty of those. Just, you know, your typical douchebag manager.
Lastly, I read a quote, which got me quite curious, where you said you’ve come close to death. Is that in relation to a specific story or does it link back to the lyrics about luck and fate?
It’s a little bit about the song. The premise of the song is like, throughout your life how many times have you come close to death without even knowing it and just being blissfully ignorantly unaware. That lead onto is it fate or luck etc. Just driving to work you’re taking your life into your own hands [laughs].
I was in Egypt and there could have been like 1000 times during my travels that we came close to death. I was travelling down the Nile [in one] of those old felucca boats. We pull off onto the riverbank and camp for the night, as was the idea behind this particular trip. We did that but at one point, we had to pick up supplies. I was with a group of 20 travellers, but [one of the guides] needed someone to help. So, he took me off in a little four-wheel drive, and we went god knows where! We went to this little village in the middle of nowhere. I was the only Caucasian, English speaking person in the middle of this Egyptian village, and they’re all looking at me. Nothing bad happened. We ended up getting back to the tour group hours later because we got lost. We had to flag down another boat on the river, to take us down the river, because we ended up miles away. And [the boat] had pigs and chickens and stuff on it. I was gone for hours and hours and hours because the sun was setting. And eventually, I finally met up with the rest of the tour group and they were all in a tis because they thought I’d been kidnapped. That is an example of something that didn’t go wrong, but something that possibly could have gone wrong. But there’s been thousands of stories like that!
Mamma Said is out now.
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