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As you may or may not know, I am close friends with a strapping young man by the name of Ben Berumez. He and I have gotten up to several shenanigans over the years, including a number of collaborations that may or may not see the light of day.
Amongst many things, Ben is an independent musician who is using the internet to publish and distribute his content. You can listen to his music over at his MySpace (http://www.myspace.com/benberumez) and ReverbNation (http://www.reverbnation.com/benberumez) pages.
I decided that I wanted to delve into the creative process of someone I respected, so I conducted an interview with ol’ Benny over email so that others could get an understanding of his talent.
I hope you enjoy, and give Ben a good listen!
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Tyk-Tok: Thank you Mr. Berumez for taking the time to conduct an interview today. Now, you are a musician who has described himself as a pop guitarist cut out of the John Mayer and Jason Mraz cloth. What is it about this genre of music that drives you to create?
Ben Berumez: I’d say that the drive comes from the desire to communicate a story, an idea, because that’s what music is all about. For me, this genre provides the perfect canvas and working space to create that story. There a lot of freedom in it, and you can play with a lot of different sounds that flirt with other genres. That’s pretty exciting, to be honest. I can’t say that I’ve ever really felt boxed in by the sound. There’s always some new way to express the story, and that’s quite a “drive” to create.
T: In terms of a song, what (generally speaking) makes a good story?
B: In terms of a story, I’m always looking for something that connects to people, but not in a broad brush sort of way. I like personal, intimate accounts of what’s going through someone’s head, or what’s been happening in their life. I also believe that the lyrics should, if possible, be cathartic in some way. I think that it’s more real if it comes from something you’re working through.
T: Your music does have a lot of emotional depth. When you use the phrase “cathartic,” is it simply the characters of the song that experience a catharsis, or does it come from someplace closer to home?
B: In some way or another, it all comes back to my own experiences, back to what I know about life. Sometimes I’ll play with “what if’s,” and romanticize a scenario, but just as often it’s coming straight from how I feel about the given situation.
T: So let’s say you have your desired characters and the story you want to convey. What is your process for creating a song?
B: Generally, I have to work myself into a songwriting session, and that session might last several days. I’ll go through dry periods, where I’m taking life in, and then I’ll go to the guitar. I usually have to write one or two “bad songs” to get the ball rolling, then I’ll come out with six or seven that I like. I find that I write songs very quickly – it all comes out at once, the lyrics and the music. I’ll play the songs for a few weeks, trying them out at shows to gauge the response. The “not-so-good ones” seem to filter out, and I’m left with the songs that I feel convey the stories that I’m trying to tell.
T: Now, you’ve been working on an album for a while now. In terms of being a creative person, what is it like seeing something like an album coming together in a tangible way?
B: First of all, it’s very exciting to see this album taking shape. To be honest, though, it’s a lot of hard work. The creative portion is sitting in your room writing songs, but making an album is very technical work. You want it to sound good, so you want to get it right, and it’s very easy to get sucked into the technical side of things. You start to worry so much about things like pitch and timing, and it’s very easy to lose the emotional connection. That’s something you have to watch out for, because if it doesn’t connect to people it’s really no good. I guess the bottom line is that it really makes you think about your work, and helps you to polish it up, technically and artistically. The songs that I’ve worked on in studio are now some of the easiest to perform live, and they’re very well received at shows. All in all, I’m really happy to see the album finally coming together.
T: Now, it’s one thing to consistently mull over a collection of songs in a studio. What you do on a normal is stand in front of a microphone and tell your own stories with music. Now, this question will betray some bias on my point, but I think it has value. What is the difference between telling your own stories and singing someone else’s prefab words, and which would you prefer?
B: I think the difference is everything, and given the choice I perform y own material. I believe that art is all about the communication of an idea, and it’s much more authentic when it’s your own idea, a personal story, that you’re sharing. I like to throw a cover in there every now and then, but my bread and butter is the original material. And while it’s great to be recording, I believe that musicians should live on the stage. That’s where it all comes together. Anyone can play a cover and get a reaction from the audience. But when you hear people singing along with a song that you wrote? That you wrote through your pain and your tears? That’s priceless. It’s for those moments that you craft the songs, and there’s nothing quite like it.