Rhian Benson: Redefine Modern Soul

Music has always been a universal tool to connect people around the world, relinquishing background, race, sex, etc. Rhian Benson, a well traveled singer/songwriter, pulls from a variety of cultures and experiences for a universal sound that can be appreciated. Singersroom had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Benson for her latest project ‘Hands Clean.’

Release of Life in Music… “My old label went out of business so I was trying to figure out how to navigate these waters; I have never been here before. Creating an album without a music home is a challenge to say the least. Then I lost my mother around the same time as well. She had been battling cancer for about eight years so it was just a whole load of stuff happening that I was not prepared for. I found the writing on the album really helped me. Whenever you go through that kind of profound change in your life, you have to address the issues otherwise you will never move from your fear. That is what the album was about. The first songs were kind of negative. (laughter) As a worked through, I ended up with these being the last songs written. It is a statement of believing in yourself and taking the good with the bad and looking forward in life regardless of obstacles placed in your way. It was very necessary to be more direct because I was doing that for myself.”

Effect of Surrounding… “Gold Coast was very much a California album. It was very laid back, organic; a chill out album. That was L.A. life for me, it was a very relaxing place to write. London is much more hectic like New York. It is a lot more direct lyrically. Also the music scene over here is very different from America, [its] more dance oriented. I started getting into that style a lot more so then when I started working with Jonas [Rendbo] and Daniel Fridell, the two album co-creators, I said ‘what can we do to strip out all sounds that would be associated with Gold Coast?’ The organic low and horns and all that, I [wanted] something more keen and electronic. I felt that was the sound that was exciting at the time and we reference a lot of classic music from artist like Bjork, DJ Shadow and I love the Scandinavia electronic pop sounds that were around at the time.”

House Party or Club?… “House party. I think it has to do with growing up in Ghana where all partying is at home. (laughter)”

Meeting Album Co-Creator… “We were trying to figure out how to put the album together and a mentor of mine here in London set me up with a few publishers. I got to do some writing dates around the place and one of them was in Copenhagen with Jonas [Rendbo] and Daniel [Fridell]. Jonas is an artist in his own right; he has toured Europe a lot. He is very much a neo-soul artist. So it was a fit because we both had soul backgrounds. Daniel is his writing partner and an instrumentalist. We wrote “This Feels Like Home” together and it was such a beautiful easy process. Normally when you go to a foreign country to meet people for the first time, to sit down and write a song, it takes a little while to break the ice. I could see how easily we work together so when I was in the position to think about the production end of things, I reached out to them first and they were up for it.”

Being Honest with Yourself… “The easiest thing is to just distract yourself with things that don’t really matter. I can be good at doing that too. (laughter) But I was dealing with such huge issues that that strategy didn’t work anymore. I had to go to plan B which was digging a little deeper.”

African Invading U.S Music Scene… “The Nigerian music scene is probably the cutting edge in recent years. It is natural that they will be the first to dive across into international audience. I think it is really exciting… Those guys having been doing their thing for a long time. They have built a really strong fan base across Africa so I think they will do well. I think a person like Kanye, who is an artist, he is very forward thinking and always has been. He is always into the next thing staying ahead of the game. I think tapping into the sound him as well as the artist he signs.”

Inside a Marketing Box… “That concern is always there but I never see myself as an artist in any particular box. I really do genuinely mean that. To me, even with ‘Gold Coast,’ we weren’t particularly into any box either. It appeals to some neo-soul fans but it was not a neo-soul album. It appeals to some smooth jazz fans but it was not a smooth jazz album. It was tapping into all the different stuff I love. I listen to all kinds of music. I think ‘Hands Clean’ does that as well…I think by now it is clear that my fans listen to everything and I love to pull from those influences when I put an album together. I think that is a good position to be in as an artist.”

—— By: Interview By Staff


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