Singer/songwriter Ben Mason reflects on the lessons learned in his music career and childhood that created his imaginative indie sound.
Deep diving into the memories of his childhood, Mason doesn’t shy away from the rawness and genuine nature of his music – offering guidance on the value of a second opinion and collaborating with friends in the music world.
HAPPY: Hello Ben! Where do you find yourself today?
BEN: Hi! Today I am at my house in Melbourne. I’m in the middle of some home renovation, so I’m alternating between being inside my cosy house, prepping for painting and then being outside in the freezing cold, windy Melbourne weather, staining and sanding.
HAPPY: Congrats on the release of your single The Land Where The Sun Sets! What’s the story behind the track?
BEN: Thanks! The song is probably one of the most personal things I’ve ever written. When I was writing the album, I was remembering humorous stories from my childhood, but these other memories of sadder times kept creeping back to me. A number of times I “ran away from home”, which would result in me hiding in the backyard, or in my bedroom cupboard, but that feeling of not being understood or cared about and wanting to hurry up and be a grown up so you can make your own choices – that’s what I was what I was aiming for. When I was researching the history of the area, I tried to find out what the name of our street – Kanandah – meant. The only information Google had to offer was that it is “an Aboriginal word meaning The land where the sun sets”. The video came up a treat too, Simon Fazio is very good at what he does.
HAPPY: The video was filmed in Research, a gorgeous area just outside of Melbourne… What was it like returning to where you grew up for the track?
BEN: It was really emotionally charged, actually – wandering around the spaces where I would escape to when I was a kid, listening to this song I’d written about that time. The area has obviously changed in the 30 years since I lived there, but all those feelings came flooding back.
HAPPY: What made you want to venture into the solo music scene?
BEN: I’ve always written songs, by myself and with other people, so I don’t really see it as “going solo”. More writing songs that I will play under my own name, instead of under a band name. I like to be productive, so I just keep writing and recording and starting new projects. I can’t imagine a time when I stop making music either alone or with friends.
HAPPY: Is there anything you have learned from being in a band that you have taken into this experience?
BEN: I think the best thing about being in a band is the different elements other people can bring to an arrangement. I do miss that when I write and record by myself, so I’m conscious of including others in that process. I’ve surrounded myself with musicians and producers whose practice I really admire, so I tend to step back a little and trust that they will bring their magic.
HAPPY: How does the creative process typically look for you?
BEN: It generally starts with me sitting on the couch, playing my guitar until an idea comes, then I quickly record it onto my phone before I forget it. I try to come up with a chord progression and melody first, then struggle for hours with lyrical content. I find that writing to a theme is really helpful for me too. I record as much as possible in my home studio, and ship rough mixes off to my friends for input and ideas.
HAPPY: The Land Where The Sun Sets is a track from your album Kanandah… tell us a bit about the album!
BEN: Kanandah is an album full of stories from my childhood. There are sweet stories, funny stories and sad stories. I didn’t have a remarkable childhood. It was pretty normal as far as I can tell. One idea I was trying to explore was the sense that things that happen to kids might not seem like a big deal to adults, but they are a big deal to kids. You know when you go back to your primary school and the play equipment is tiny, but when you were a kid it was huge and challenging – that kinda thing, but with emotions too.
HAPPY: What can we expect from you in the future?
BEN: I have a couple of things on the go at the moment. I’m about to complete a project with my good friend Ben Donnan. We’re re-recording the classic Bros album, PUSH, from start to finish, but in the style of The Everly Brothers. It’s called Everly Bros. It’s a lot of fun. I’ve also started writing and recording a new thing… It might be an album or an EP, I’m not sure yet. Lots of collaboration and songs centred around friendship. We’ll see what it turns out being.