March 17, 2017 by Daniel John Johnsson

Ben Alessi

QANDA sat down with New York City-based artist and producer Ben Alessi in a conversation about the Big Apple, his upcoming EP and shitty Blink 182 covers.

So despite being somewhat fresh on the scene, you've quickly become a name that people have their eyes and ears on. How is it to be an up-and-coming artist in New York?
– It’s all still so surreal to me, the craziness of working toward some big dreams surrounded by the talent and hustle of New York City, it’s all some organized chaos to me still.

However, I do feel my team and I have been working very hard together for the past two years in making every idea and word come to life, bigger and badder as we go along. So yes, it is fucking incredible to be doing what I love and to be making others happy along the way, but it’s also the work and time put into evolving as an artist that should be accounted for, bettering yourself and your skill set while keeping your humility.

When did you first start to play music?
– I remember taking lessons on piano and guitar as a kid, starting around 8 or 9. And I’ve always liked to sing, but it didn’t quite click until I was over at a friend’s, on a school night, covering songs like “I Miss You” by Blink-182 into a shitty, computer mic. The whole world of recording and writing music was so new and exciting to thirteen year old me, so I made it my life.

What was it that led you to explore electronic compositions?
– Shortly after I wrote my first couple of songs on either my guitar or a piano, I aspired to have my very own way of recording them. Once the beginning of my freshman year in high school came, I had saved up enough money to purchase my very own MacBook – and with it came GarageBand. After taking the leap, I dove head first into the realm of electronic composition, so many new sounds! With it, my production-ear was born.

What musical influences do you have?
– I would say my musical influences and the songs I listen to are an eclectic mix that also tend to translate into my own works. Immediately, I have to say Amy Winehouse, Bob Marley, Bon Iver, Lorde…but my the spectrum is really wide.

Melodies matter to me, from the Max Martin world to Andre 3000 to the obscure stuff I find scrolling through SoundCloud late at night. But, how an artist tells a story – not just the lyrics but how it’s told, the nuances, I also find entrancing. I’m not much of a studier, I just feel and let it soak in. Maybe all these inspirations jumble inside me somewhere and it helps push out a kind of crazy mélange that, well, I guess then is me.

Three songs you can't be without right now?
– "Sip It Slow" by EMI, "Green Light" by Lorde and "Human" by Sevdaliza.

You just recently released your new single "Only". What is that song about?
– “Only” came from a really tumultuous place of unrequited love, and the track focuses on that broken heart, dealing with it in a toxic, dysfunctional way. With love comes pain, and we all try and numb that in a different way.

Following up my brighter, debut release “U”, this one is really an anthem for the broken down, when the end is in sight and you know you should get the fuck out, but there’s something or someone begging you to stay.

How would you describe it musically?
– To me, it has a cool sonic variety, leaning toward a current R&B feel with a constant dark Pop and Electronic vibe throughout.

Who did you collaborate with in the making of it?
– Although I usually like to produce and write for the majority of my compositions, I couldn’t pass up working with someone as insanely talented as REO. He delivered such a delicious dark and emotional instrumental on the track. From collaborating with some huge names in the industry, I was humbled that REO truly took the vision of “Only” and brought it to life in a way true to its essence.

Previously you;ve worked with Swedish producer Albin Tjernberg, how did that come about?
– Albin was also another I couldn’t pass up. It really started by email and dm’s, sharing ideas and unfinished tracks back and forth. When I heard his unique production style I knew it would be perfect for the bright and bubbly world of my first single “U”. The sounds he created painted a vivid, technicolor picture that I knew I had to be a part of.

My first EP reflects on ‘kinds’ of love. Love young people like myself experience, contemplate, and explore, from the crushes, to the lust, to the dysfunctional, to the crazed, and even familial and self-love.

Who else would be a dream to collaborate with?
– Well, I do have quite a few on my list, but I would absolutely love to work with Alex Crossan, Joel Little, Stromae, Banks, and Sam Gellaitry to name a few.

Have you ever performed in Sweden, if not, is that something you would like to do?
– No, I haven’t. But playing in Sweden sounds like a fucking party.

New York naturally has a very vibrant music scene, what are some of your own favorite NYC acts?
– There is such an unbelievable amount of talent in NYC, truly the biggest melting pot of music and culture I’ve ever experienced. Dev Haynes from Blood Orange and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are some local favorites that standout with their minimal aesthetics and sonic individuality.

 What are your favorite venues to perform at?
– Rockwood Music Hall and Ludlow House would have to be my top favs. Both are smaller, intimate settings but the most fun I’ve had playing shows. I wouldn’t turn down Terminal 5 though !

 What has been your most memorable gig so far?
– Definitely playing at Ludlow House recently. The room was packed and the vibes were amazing all around. I’m psyched that I’ve been invited back already and I can’t wait to play there again.

Do you prefer smaller more intimate gigs or larger arena concerts?
– Smaller, more intimate. Even when I get around to the big venues, I’ll always find ways to do intimate, surprise pop up shows in smaller venues.

How do you approach songwriting? Is there any partiular process or setting in which you feel the most creative?
– My songwriting process is different each time. Sometimes I’ll start with a beat or some keys or guitar and other times I’ll start by humming melodies. I always put the lyrics in last though. I find it’s best to write once the groundwork is laid out. Even if I have lyrics in mind, or if there’s something I’m passionately wanting to say, I find the music first.

Where do you find inspiration?
– A lot of my inspiration is pulled from growing up and the relationships I make, romantic or not. As a 21-year- old living in our society, I feel like there’s always something that needs to be said. Writing songs gives me the voice to speak in a way words alone couldn’t.

Living in a place like New York City has ultimately made me very grateful, pulling constant inspiration from my surroundings and the people I love. Or loved.

In what ways have the city of New York inspired you?
– It’s almost impossible not to get inspired here. The lights, the people, the noises. Every little thing sparks creativity. Sometimes I like to just walk around with my headphones on and let my mind run free. It is both therapy and inspiration.

How does one best spend a Friday night in NYC?
– Maybe hit up a bar, roll a few j’s with friends, eat some dollar pizza. The usual.

So last year you announced that you are working on your EP, what can we expect from it?
– You can expect a fucking rollercoaster. A whole lot of love, a whole lot of fuck you. Some growing pains mixed with newly-found independence, and much more. I think you’ll like it.

It;s due this spring, are there any release date set yet?
– We might have a happy delay, so no release date yet. Adding some final touches to make it sparkle…

So everything's pretty much is recorded then?
– Everything is already written and recorded, but two songs are still to be mastered by the incredible Emily Lazar. Just need to finalize a cover and then it’ll be pouring out your speakers.

Where did you record it?
– Everything was recorded here in NYC at Big House Publishing’s studios, mixed by the talented JD Heilbronner.

Is Only a part of it, and if so, does the song gives a good idea of how the EP will sound as a whole?
– “Only” will be on the project, but it definitely doesn’t dictate the overall sound of the EP. It’s hard to describe the entire body of work in a simple phrase or “sound” - you’ll just have to listen once it’s here!

So I'm really looking forward to that and I'm guessing many readers will as well as they listen to "Only". Is there anything you'd like to say to them before they press play?
– Love fearlessly, but be wary. Be wary, but don’t overthink.


Ben Alessi is a New York City-based american singer, songwriter, record producer and multi-instrumentalist signed to Big House Publishing. In 2013, Ben released his debut EP "War" which showcased his artistic development over the past 5 years. His new single Only is out now on iTunes and Spotify.


Follow Ben Alessi at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine.

And don't forget to check his official site out. And his vids at Youtube. He is also on Soundcloud.

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