We chatted to a fantastic singer songwriter called Ben McKelvey last year in Plymouth when he supported Wet Wet Wet on their UK arena tour, a whole year had passed and he was back in Plymouth supporting Mike and the Mechanics on their 32 date UK tour, we caught up with Ben in his dressing room a few hours before the show….
Ben, great to see you again, It’s been 12 months since we last chatted, you released your debut album Life and Love in England how has it been received?
Amazing well, originally I didn’t really know what to do with the album, there was no contract in place and then I got a call asking if I wanted to support Wet Wet Wet on their UK tour. I had to get the album ready pretty quickly as I wanted to get it out there and treat the tour as promotion for the album, I guess it’s as if I have been touring the album for an entire year now!
The Mike and the Mechanics shows are hosted at pretty big venues, have you seen your fan base growing after playing these?
Absolutely and it’s great to see that the audience is really diverse, you do get a mixture of younger teenagers, middle aged and a few old rockers who come along and that’s really refreshing. I think as a solo performer on my acoustic guitar, I can really get the lyrics across, with the album, they get a more fuller picture with the band behind it too, so in a way, they get a taster of what I can do and then, when they buy the album, they get the complete picture!
The tour schedule you’re on with Mike and the Mechanics is pretty brutal…..
Yes it is, 32 shows in 40 days, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for sleep and relaxation but you know, it’s something I thrive on, being busy and always on the go just suits me perfectly! I spend most of the days travelling to the next show and trying to catch up on sleep and social media! It is completely hectic but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
The M&TM guys have been great to me on the tour, both the band and crew have been so welcoming from day one, sometimes you know that you’re the support act and you get told that there is a ‘pecking order’ but that didn’t happen here, I’ve been received very well, they really couldn’t have been more accommodating. I’ve been invited to have drinks with them after the shows, chatted about the show and music in general, it’s quite surreal sat with these massive music icons and shooting the breeze!
Are you a fan of M&TM?
I’ve always liked them, my flatmate in Brighton is a massive Genesis fan and we spent a long time watching quite a bit of stuff, interviews, ‘rockumentaries’ about the 70’s big bands, as soon as I was told about the support slot, I told him that Mike Rutherford invited me on tour with them, he was speechless, it was a pretty cool moment!
You’re just over halfway through the tour, any favourite venues so far?
They’ve all been good for different reasons, Birmingham Symphony Hall is a beautiful venue, that was a really special night. The people at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall really looked after me, the audience is always up for it, I get to meet a lot of people on the tour and I really enjoy a good chat, I think that having fun on stage is great for both me and the audience as it puts them at ease too.
I saw on Facebook that Hurricane Doris shutdown the De Montford Hall in Leicester and you were in lockdown?
Ha yes, the roof tiles were blowing off and we were told it would be a huge risk to leave the building. The M&TM crew hadn’t arrived and couldn’t even get into the building. They ended up cancelling the gig and it's been re-scheduled at the end of March, we spent 8 hours in the dressing room and when we were given the green light to leave, we just went to the pub with the crew and had a few beers!
You supported Wet Wet Wet last year, this is a bigger tour, what would you say you’re doing differently this time around?
That was a great tour, the guys really looked after us, it was a steep learning curve and to be honest, it was the first time I’d been on a huge UK tour with a major band so there was a lot to learn. I think the basics, the logistics of touring, the stage setup, sound-checks, choosing the songs for my set, they all had to be thought about! I’ve become way more comfortable on each tour I’ve completed and I think that I now communicate with the crowd better, for solo performers it’s always a tough deal as there’s nobody else up there to bounce things off of! I am the support act and you know that nobody is there to see you, you’re just the warm up act. I will say that I’ve learned a bit more about how to do this and how to enjoy it. I think it really helps with my confidence levels on stage!
Do you feel privileged playing such nice large venues?
If I’d only been doing what I do for a short time, yes I would....but after 14 years of playing in pubs to small crowds, I feel that I’ve earned the right to do them, this is exactly what I want to do and I feel like I have earned my stripes!
Can you tell me about any festivals that you have booked for 2017?
I’m not able to confirm any at the moment, solely because I’ve got to wait for the festivals to announce their line-up first so keep checking the website and the socials for news as it breaks….
A year ago you released your album, you’ve been touring it ever since, any sign of new material on the horizon?
There’s a new EP coming out on 31st March, I’m playing a new song called "Curse of the Town" on this tour. I was flirting around the idea of doing a deluxe version of album but to be honest, I find it a bit cheeky as people need to buy the album again for just a couple of extra tracks, so I thought I’d approach it differently. The EP is called One for the Road and it’s like the second part of the album, which will be made up of 2 new songs, a very different acoustic version of an album track and 2 live tracks from the album it’s just a different approach that I prefer. 4 days after the tour ends, I’m going to be back in the studio to record it, it’s all written but there are no plans to release it yet. I need to see how it ties in with touring schedules and work out the best time to do it. I’m using the same producer and am more excited about this than I’ve ever been before, I’m really confident about the songs, I think that it’s the best work I’ve done to date. The album will be recorded in a studio in Egypt Lane in Slough and I’m using Jake Robbins (Natives, Oliver Coates) as the producer and this will be the 4th record I’ve done with him, (2 EP’s, the debut album and the second album), all the music videos have been down with him too. Jake is more like a business partner to me, he’s such a great guy.
Have you ever considered using another producer?
I can honestly say that it has never crossed my mind at all, we both went to same primary school, we grew up in different pop-punk bands, our paths crossed on tour and a couple of years later we got in touch and hooked up. We both come from similar backgrounds and he knows what I like and the sound I want to achieve. I guess we trust each other! Being on a smaller label means you have better control over what you want to put out, Jake is also an advisor to me as well, we speak almost every day, I don’t think I’ve ever had such a great working relationship with anyone before!
You love your ‘Keep Fit’, what is your Fitness regime on tour?
I carry a portable gym with me, it sets me up for the day! It consists of a collapsible bar called a ‘Pull-up-Mate’ and I train in the hotel rooms. When I get a few days off, I head back to my gym, there’s a lot of stresses and strains whilst on tour and I need a bit of a release. I think with exercising regularly, things just seem to go better and it keeps the illnesses at bay, something you’re keen to do whilst on tour!
We'd like to thank Ben for taking the time to chat to us, we wish him every success with the remainder of the tour, his new EP and his sophomore album that should be out later this year....