Having chatted to Ben Mckelvey twice in as many years, we thought it would be nice to have another catch up just before he left his house to go on tour with the mighty SCOUTING FOR GIRLS. We chatted about life on the road, his second album and his new Live in Southend album which is due to land on December 8th, read on for more.....
Ben, this is the third time we’ve chatted and looking back on previous occasions, you were on the road with Wet Wet Wet and Mike and the Mechanics. You’re touring with Scouting for Girls in November and December, how would you say your act has grown since starting to work alongside such industry heavyweights
You learn a lot on the road. I feel more confident as a performer than ever before. You learn how to work the crowd, learn how the logistics of tours work etc. Ironically the more I tour, the more I feel at home on the road. This reflects how I feel when I walk out on stage; completely at home.
You like to keep yourself in shape and you often blog about your routines whilst on the road, how do you manage to keep it up when you’re on tour?
I think the main reason I am able to keep up the intensity of training on tour is simply because I love it. I find local gyms whenever I'm on tour and have even taken a portable gym with me on one occasion. The late nights and general lack of sleep can be tough, but for me training is essential. It's the best way I can start my day and gives me some time to myself in the early hours of the morning. It's therapeutic to me.
LIFE & LOVE IN ENGLAND is your debut album which is available now from all good record shops….. I hear that you have nearly finished album number 2, when is this going to be available, what’s it going to be called and will there be any opportunities to hear any of the tracks ahead of the release date?
I'm extremely excited about the second album. At the time of writing I have finished 9 tracks and hope to get the whole album finished before Christmas. There is no set release date yet but you can expect it from Spring 2018. I'm keeping the title to myself for now but I'll let you know as soon as we have everything ready to go. As for hearing some new songs, I can confirm there will be two new tracks in my live set for the Scouting For Girls tour.
Would you say it was easier or harder recording the 2nd album?
The songs weren't harder to write but there was a couple of false starts in the studio. I started recording and then moved to Brighton which delayed things. Then I went on tour through the winter so a bit of momentum was lost. Once we had found the sound we were looking for and the time to be in the studio we smashed through the days which was really exciting. It's the most confident I've ever felt recording and as a songwriter in general. I think people will love this second album.
Have you been road testing any of the new material on your more recent dates?
I tried out some new tracks live when I toured in Europe supporting Mike + The Mechanics and they went down great. The two that I tried out will hopefully be the first two singles from the second album.
Are you ‘hands on’ when it comes to being in the studio or do you simply turn up and play?
I'd say I'm pretty hands on. I like to be a part of everything that happens when we start creating the record. Having said that, every time I have asked my producer if he wants a hand setting up the mics he says that I just get in the way!
Who are you working with for the 2nd album? Have you worked with this person/team before?
I'm recording with Jake Robbins. He was the producer for my debut album plus a couple of EPs I have done and in all honesty I didn't even consider using anyone else. He's the best guy I have ever worked with in a studio. Plus I really can't imagine anyone else putting up with me for 10 hours a day in a small room.
You’re playing a full band show on Dec 15th at the Dublin Castle in London, I think the only time I’ve seen you with the full band was when you supported Wet Wet Wet, do you get a chance to play with the full band very often or are you mostly a solo performer?
No, I only tour solo now which is why we are doing a special full band show at the end of the year. For the immediate future, the only way that I can tour constantly and promote my music is by touring solo. The logistics just get too complicated. Having said that, what I'd like to do is a couple of full band shows every year around Christmas time. We'll start in London this year and see how we go.
Do your songs sound drastically different with the full band behind you? Which do you prefer, solo or band?
I think the songs just become a fuller version of a solo show. They become more dynamic with other instruments involved. It's always more fun playing with my band on stage. Those guys are my best mates.
You’ve achieved a lot in 6 years (Europe, USA, played with some megastars along the way), way more than other artists can ever dream of doing, what would you say has been the highlight of the journey so far?
There have been a lot of moments when I have pinched myself. Especially when it's taken over ten years to get there, you step back and reflect a lot. If I had to pick one highlight that I would relive over and over again it would probably be standing side stage at the Royal Albert Hall. The lights went down and I walked out to 5000 people and played my songs at arguably the most iconic venue in the world. It doesn't get much better than that.
You’ve played all over the place, UK, Europe & USA, do you find that the audience react differently to you depending on which country you’re performing in?
Yeah they do. Some crowds are more reserved, some are more excitable. Some take longer to warm up but then end up being crazier than the ones that warm up quick. You definitely see a difference. Luckily they were all a lot of fun to play.
How does Ben McKelvey relax?
He doesn't. He's still working on that.
You spend a LOT of time on the road, what 3 essential items couldn’t you live without whilst away from home?
1. Pre-workout powder. I don't like tea or coffee so this is my energy fix when I need it. I realised this when I was away in Europe. We got into a hotel at 3am and were leaving again at 7am but I needed to train as well. So I slept for a couple of hours, then trained, then got back on the tour bus. It was very much needed. Plus if you are flagging a bit before a show this is a great pick me up.
2. Noise cancelling headphones. Not only does it sound better watching Netflix late at night in your bunk on the tour bus but it drowns out the snoring crew or band members. And believe me, with 16 of you on a bus, it can get loud!
3. Vocalzone throat pastilles. I've used these over a couple of tours now and they are absolute life savers. Late nights, travelling and obviously singing every night can really hammer your voice. Since I've started using them, I haven't lost my voice once on a tour. And they taste good!
You release your Live in Southend album on 8th December, can I ask why you chose this particular show? Did you consider a montage from other shows on the same tour?
I'm an Essex boy so it had to be Live In Southend! That gig meant a lot to me and when we were listening back to it I just thought, I'd love to release this. So I did!
So, let’s fast forward to Spring 2018, assuming your 2nd long player is out, what’s next for Ben McKelvey? Will you be touring the new material?
We are currently sorting out some more support tours for Spring 2018 and looking at solo shows. I plan to tour the new album even more than my debut.
Any festival appearances pencilled in for Summer 2018 that you can confirm?
We are booking them as we speak. As soon as I know, so will you!
Lastly, would you rather live with a gorilla that can do the housework or a dog that can tune your guitars?
As much as the gorilla would be helpful as there is nothing more boring than housework, I'd have to go for the dog. Probably my two favourite things are dogs and guitars so that would work well for me.
We'd like to take this opportunity to wish Ben all the very best for the forthcoming tour with Scouting for Girls and hope to catch up with him again next Spring after the release of his much anticipated second album. In the meantime, tickets for the SFG tour are available HERE and you can keep up to date with his whereabouts by clicking on his social links below.