Ben McKelvey is a London based one-man-band who has toured all over the UK, he must have done a brilliant job as he's supporting the pop legends WET WET WET on their 2016 tour covering 17 dates in some incredible venues up and down this fair land of ours. To tie in with the tour, he’ll be releasing a brand new single from his upcoming debut album on 3rd February.
We thought it would be nice to catch up with him before he gets onto the WET WET WET tour bus and indulges in whatever debauched activities they have in store for him (I'm sure they're all a sensible bunch really!), we chatted about all sorts including what he got for Christmas, his favourite WET WET WET song and why he loves performing in America, here's how we got on....
I was sent your EPK from your PR Manager, I opened it and immediately thought that you share a striking resemblance to the late great Jeff Buckley (when he had short hair), do you often get told this?
Actually I have never been told that! But I'll take it as a compliment. He was a very good looking man.
You used to be in a pop-punk outfit called ‘Fluid Lines’, when you split up in 2011, what would you say was the one piece of advice that you took with you?
Learn from mistakes and go with your gut. We took a lot of advice from people in the industry just because they were in it. This time round I make sure I always listen to advice, but in the end go with what I feel is the right thing to do.
You played every instrument on your debut EP ‘A Hundred Thousand Welcomes’, was this something that you planned to do or did it just work out easier for you to take on all of the duties? What instruments were involved and I assume that you could already play them all?
I've actually played all instruments on every record I've done. After the debut EP I recorded a full band record called 'Everything You were Meant To Be' and did the same for my debut album which I am just about to release. At the time I didn't have a choice because I didn't have a band so I just learnt on the job in the studio really. I could play a bit of everything but recording all the parts was definitely a challenge for me. The instruments involved were the usual drums, guitars and bass. Luckily now I have a great live band called The Firebrands to help me out.
You’re supporting Wet Wet Wet on their 2016 tour, how did this come about and were you a fan of them ‘back in the day’? What is YOUR favourite Wet Wet Wet song? (we’re particularly fond of ‘Sweet Little Mystery’….)
I got a phone call while I was buying a new guitar asking if I'd like to join them. Their management liked my songs and we took it from there. It was a bit of a shock at first but playing gigs like the ones coming up is something I've worked towards since I was a teenager. I remember singing 'Love Is All Around' when I was about 5 or 6 at school so to be touring with them in a few weeks is quite surreal. I'd say that song is my favourite.
Do you play solo or do you bring a backing band with you? if so, are these the same musicians or do you tend to use different ones every time?
It depends on the touring schedule but nowadays more often than not I will have members on stage with me. Sometimes it's one or two, sometimes it's full band. It depends on the gig really. They are the same musicians each time though.
Let’s imagine you’re off to a desert island for a month, you’re only allowed to take 3 CD’s with you, which ones are going to be in your suitcase?
A tough question. But if I had to choose only three I'd go for these:
1) Eels - 'End Times' - a very important album for me and probably the one that really encouraged me to pick up the guitar and start writing. I've listened to it a thousand times but still enjoy every second of it.
2) Stereophonics - 'Keep Calm and Carry On' - one of my all time favourites and another album that was there when I first picked up the guitar.
3) Augustines - 'Augustines' - I really got into this band about a year ago and still just love this album. It was a big influence for debut album.
You’ve played all over the UK, would you say that your music is received better in one place or region of the UK? If so, why do you think this is?
I think it depends on the gig rather than the place. I haven't noticed a difference between regions as such. I enjoy going to new places and playing to see what it's like.
Christmas has just been and gone, what did the big man in red bring you?
A new iPod finally! I've still got an ancient one that has been ever so faithful to me but needs to be upgraded. The time has come.
You toured the East Coast of the States in 2014, other than the currency, the accents and the obscenely large food portions, what would you say were the major differences about playing there compared to the UK? Did they fall in love with your accent?
They do love the accent over there. And I mean they really LOVE the accent. Which is fine by me if we can get a free beer or two at the bar just by saying words they want to hear. The biggest difference I found though was at the gigs everyone really listens to the performers. No one talks while the bands are playing or really even goes to the bar. It was a good opportunity to really get my lyrics across live. Most of my lyrics are about England though so I'm not sure how much they got of that.
Social media is all around us and very much a part of our day to day lives, which platform(s) would you say have assisted you the most in getting your music out there?
I think they all do their part. Twitter is the best for engaging with fans in my opinion. But I also think Instagram is a great way to really show people what you are up to everyday. This can be really exciting for fans to see their favourite artist in the studio or on the road.
Did you set any new years resolutions for 2016 and if so, are they still intact?
I usually write a music goal list at the start of the year rather than resolutions. Playing an arena tour wasn't on there originally but that will be nice to tick off. The main one for me is releasing my debut album. I've worked so hard on this record and hope people get something out of it like I have from my favourite albums.
Your sound has been likened to Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Paul Weller (I’m certainly hearing Weller in the music!), would you say that these were main influences on you when you were growing as a musician? Which of their albums would you say had the biggest effect on you, making you want to go out and make music yourself?
I would say certainly at the beginning of my career, especially live they were all a big influence. I think the Jam 'Live' album had the biggest effect on me. I loved the energy, the lyrics and the aggression Weller could get across. At the time I was quite frustrated as a musician seemingly starting from scratch so I related a lot to that and it came out in my live performances.
If you could form your very own ‘Supergroup’ using ANY musicians, dead or alive, who’s in the lineup?
I'm not sure how the music would sound but here it goes:
Drums - Travis Barker - Blink 182 - without a doubt the best drummer of all time
Bass - Flea - Red Hot Chilli Peppers - so much energy, just amazing to watch
Lead guitar - Jimi Hendrix - I want to see him play with his teeth on stage
Guitar / vocals - Ben McKelvey - I definitely want to be in this band!
What festival plans have you made so far for 2016?
Festivals are currently being booked so they will be announced in the next few months. I always look forward to playing festivals.
Lastly, when can we look forward to new music from you?
I have a brand new single coming out in a few weeks and my debut album will be released in time for the Wet Wet Wet tour. Lots of music coming very soon!
We thought it was only fair to put Ben through our 'Quickfire' round of questions, we sat him down (un-restrained I will add) and fired them at him....
Beer or Cider? Beer
Acoustic or Electric? Acoustic
Christmas Eve or New Years Eve? Christmas Eve
CD or Vinyl? CD
Springsteen or Weller? Weller
Tattoos or Piercings? Tattoos
Night in or Night out? Night out
Festival or Normal gig? Festival
Camping or Campervan? Camping
PC or MAC? MAC
Facebook or Twitter? Facebook
God or Google? Google
Ben is supporting the legends that are WET WET WET on their 2016 'The Big Picture Tour', if you get chance, why not get yourself a ticket and come on down and support him, all dates and venues are listed below.