Mark Johnson found Benedict on Facebook. After watching her video for "Listen to the Sand", he knew this lady needed to be heard by a larger audience. He was lucky enough to not only receive her CD Seeds Are No Small Thing directly, but also to ask her some questions about the album and her bright future.
Mark – Benedict, welcome to Sea of Tranquility. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule promoting your new album Seeds are No Small Thing, to answer some questions for your fans. First off, please tell us about this interesting land of your birth, which has so influenced your music and creativity. (She was born in one of the most remote places on earth, a few kilometers from one of the world's biggest crater fields).
Benedict – Well Mark thank you for this interview! I was born in Argentina near a place called "Campo del Cielo". My parents and I were living in a deserted area, far from civilization. My father was an agricultural engineer who loved challenges and crazy adventures. The scents, the sounds or the absence of sound, the violent storms, the nights sleeping under the stars, the animals: everything was wild, excessive and meditative at the same time. This land shaped who I am, and what I like, I think.
Mark – Tell us about your creative beginnings as both a musician and artist.
Benedict – My first passions were theater and painting. I went to drama school and even did several art exhibitions. But the thing is, since my early childhood, music always crossed my path, on various times. My first job in Paris was a small part in an Italian Opera. That experience amongst others, changed everything, because this is how I met my dearest friend Alban, with whom I did this album. This is how I finally found a way to tell my stories. It was different, I was not like losing yourself in a character, or the strange and lonely passion you experience when working on a painting. I had those songs in my head for a long time… like kind of short movies. And they finally took shape. I wrote the lyrics in two weeks. Singing is how I reach the deepest part of myself, how I really feel connected to the ground.
Mark – The album title, Seeds are No Small Thing, sounds like the definition of a concept album?
Benedict – True. I found that title in Prague, when we were recording the strings. This was so emotional, so huge to be there in front of 40 musicians playing Seed… what an adventure! Seed was the first song written, It's also a tribute to my dad. Literally and figuratively, Seeds are No Small Thing. Look at Giant Sequoia trees! Seeds are powerful. Everything in our civilization comes from seeds. I don't know if you've heard about the Svalbard Global Seed Vault? What poetry in such a project!
Mark – As an independent artist, what types of considerations do you make in choosing which music label you would want to work with in the future?
Benedict – The relationship between an artist and his label is like a marriage! I want to share the same values with my label. I'd love to work with a loyal team, who believes in me and would promote internationally my music.
Mark – Is Benedict your surname? If not, why did you choose to use a single name?
Benedict – My parents were literature lovers, and I was named Benedict after Shakespeare play "Much Ado about Nothing". Honestly before you asked I never thought about why I chose to use just "Benedict" as my artist name. Self-affirmation issue maybe? (laugh).
Mark – Let's talk about the video for "Listen to the Sand", the first track off the album. Where did you film the video and how did you conceptualize and develop the presentation?
Benedict - Well I couldn't find a director to fit in my budget. After many brainstorming sessions I decided to think about the story I had in mind when writing and recording that song. That's how I started directing my own video. The space shots were filmed in studio, The forest/cavern shots were filmed in a crazy abandoned place near Bordeaux (France). My friend Manu Faktur, who's an artist, use to play there when he was a kid. These ruins of the Second World War overrun by the forest were the perfect set for my dream planet with blue trees and pink atmosphere. Post production was long, being at the same time behind and in front of the camera was harsh, and the video is clearly not perfect, but it is true to the story I wanted to tell.
Mark – "Exile" and all the tracks on the album have deep lyrical content. Use this or any other song and describe your writing and creative process.
Benedict - It took me 20 years to begin, but when I was ready, at last, I wrote all the lyrics of this album in a few days. I write the lyrics first. They come very quickly, usually at night, in front of my desk. We just fix some details after, with the music, that's all. Some lyrics are inspired by dreams ("Four Angels", "Salamander", "July", "Seed"). When working on these songs, it is close to automatic writing. I just wake up from my dream, take a pen, a sheet of paper, and I write. For "Gardenia", the beginning of the creative process was the intoxicating scent of a blooming gardenia. I closed my eyes and the flower whispered voodoo secrets and mysteries of old New Orleans… and I began to write them. "Cursed" was more like a play with words. "Sailing on Ice Vessels" a tribute to my hero Antoine de Saint Exupéry, and his fabulous novel Night Flight. "Exile" or "Paper Boat" are childhood memories, they're like a therapy. "Ocean" and "Sun Lag" are the two exceptions: their lyrics have been written after the music. It was different, I had to find the words hidden in the melody.
Mark – "Ocean" is my favorite track on the album. Where is your favorite place to take in the mysteries and majesty of the sea?
Benedict - I went to California last May, and I fell madly in love with Big Sur. I also love the Atlantic Coast in France: near Bordeaux, there's a place called Le Cap Ferret, with amazing sand dunes and a wild, beautiful ocean.
Mark – "Four Angels", on the other hand is a darker, more formidable track. What is your outlook on where the world is headed in the future?
Benedict - I'm an optimistic person, "keep your hope" is my motto. Some people say "wow your songs are really dark". Well, they're not as dark as the society we live in, and not as dramatic as what we do to our planet. "Four Angels" is almost word for word a dream that I had years ago, and this dream still haunts me. The Fukushima disaster, or what we do every day to the tropical forests makes me crazy. But on the other hand, there is a growing awareness, and I want to believe that an era of positive, global transformation has begun.
Mark – "Sailing on Ice Vessels" is my wife's favorite song. Is the story behind the track more personal or meant to be about society?
Benedict - I don't know, first it was a sort of challenge, because I wanted to describe the end of the hero in the novel "Night Flight" which is one of my favorites. Following the crash of its plane, the aviator is lost in the mountain. He speaks with the mountain, or with God, we don't know. He remembers his wife, waiting for him in Buenos Aires… he was used to fly, and now lying in the middle of the snowdrift, he feels like he's sailing. The mountain envelops him and he finally surrenders.
Mark – "Cursed" and "Gardenia" are solid rockers. Which hard rocking band(s) are your favorites?
Benedict - Hard rock music is my thing, strangely it relaxes me. I love Deep Purple, Metallica, Guns and Roses, The Who… the list is quite long. Queens of the Stone Age are a definitive favorite.
Mark – Which is your favorite month or season of the year and why?
Benedict - It depends on the hemisphere. I'd say summer, when the weather is really hot. But on the other hand, theirs nothing like a misty evening during the fall in Scotland…
Mark – If you could work with any artist or musician in the world who would it be?
Benedict - Peter Jackson or Josh Homme.
Mark – Your lyrics and themes are very visual. Will you make any additional videos for Seeds are No Small Thing?
Benedict - Yes, I'd love to! I even have some scenarios already.
Mark – What are the top ten songs/bands on your music player right now?
Franz Ferdinand (last album)
David Bowie (last album)
Queens of the Stone Age (last Album)
The Beach Boys (Holland)
Daniel Barenboim (Chopin Concertos)
Mark – When you're not creating art, what do you do for fun?
Benedict - I cook!
Mark – What is next for Benedict?
Benedict - Finding a distributor for my Seeds. And traveling all over our beautiful planet to meet my fans.
Mark – Is there anything that I left out that you would like to say?
Benedict - I'd like to thank you, and your readers, for supporting me and making great things happen.
Mark-Benedict, thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for us. We at Sea of Tranquility wish you much success with the launch of Seeds are No Small Thing and all that you do in the future. We the fans will be watching your star rise. ;^)
(Click here to read our review of Seeds Are No Small Thing)