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This article was originally published in issue #60
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Following on from the success of Ben’s critically acclaimed albums, 'Time Has Come' and 'Live At The Royal Albert Hall' The new studio album marks a point in Ben’s career where he feels he’s really found himself as an all-round guitarist, singer and songwriter.
Internationally acclaimed guitarist, singer and songwriter Ben Poole released his brand new studio album 'Anytime You Need Me' via Manhaton Records last month, and with an upcoming UK tour scheduled in support of the record, Guitar Interactive Magazine editor Jonathan Graham sits down with Ben to discuss the writing and recording process for the new album, plus we get a close-up look at the blues-rock artist's touring rig for the 2018 live shows.
Following on from the success of Ben’s critically acclaimed albums, 'Time Has Come' and 'Live At The Royal Albert Hall' The new studio album marks a point in Ben’s career where he feels he’s really found himself as an all-round guitarist, singer and songwriter. The best representation on a studio record so far of the attitude, energy and excitement that he brings to his live shows. The album is a melting pot of rock, blues and soul but with a pop sensibility in the songwriting allowing it to feel accessible throughout. The overall sound showcases a lot of grit and a swagger, with special emphasis on guitar tones and instrumental performances from everyone who played on the album.
On 'Anytime You Need Me,' Ben was ready to do something harder hitting and more guitar based than his previous album, 'Time Has Come.' The main focus was still on writing great songs but with far more focus on Ben as an artist. He kept the team small and avoided having too much outside influence on the direction of the music. Ben co-wrote the album with his two writing partners, Wayne Proctor and Steve Wright.
“We basically locked ourselves away regularly over a period of around six months at a studio in the hills of North Wales writing and demoing the majority of the tunes on this album from scratch”, says Ben. “It’s the first time I’ve worked in this way and, though it was challenging to force myself to conjure a creative mindset on cue when in a room with two other songwriters whom I’d never written with before, I think the results are really rewarding. I’m extremely proud of this album. This is who I am.”
Drum, bass, guitar and vocal melodies were crafted carefully at the North Wales studio with the idea that if the songs sounded interesting and exciting in a basic three-piece format, then the overdubs would be minimised and would merely be the icing on the cake. Says Ben, “Rather than having multiple layers of guitar parts, one of our main aims was to always try and just have one big sounding guitar part to run through the whole song…which in turn would give it a performance element and a live feel.”
"Anytime You Need Me"
This song along with Found Out The Hard Way were actually the last two songs that we wrote for the album during our final writing session in February 2018. For me, one of the interesting things about this album was that we were always bouncing a lot of ideas backwards and forwards. This meant that as we went along, we had a good idea of how the album was shaping up as a whole, and what kind of songs were missing. This gave the album a balance with regards to tempos, emotional content, lyrical content, style and instrumentation. We wrote 'Anytime You Need Me' because we needed something uplifting, and hard-edged, with positive lyrics. The message in the song is clear and simple. It’s about being there no matter what for those people that you care about; be it friends, family, or your partner. The guitar solo was a first take which is often the case as that’s when instincts are usually at their best. There’s not too much overthinking going on. I’m really happy with the end result.
"Take It No More"
This was the very first song we wrote together back at the tail end of August 2017. That first writing session was basically a test to see how the three of us would get on together in that kind of potentially high-pressured situation of song-writing. It ended up being a real success, and we came out with this song and Further On Down The Line from scratch in just four days. As with all of the songs the three of us wrote, we fairly meticulously crafted every part together including the bass lines and vocal melodies. On the original demo of this song we actually tracked the drums to another riff I’d written, but then I came back to it with the new riff you hear which just seemed to sit and groove amazingly. I knew I wanted to approach this album with some more aggressive tones and riffs and I think this track demonstrates this perfectly as there was nothing this hard-edged on my previous album.
"You Could Say"
The main riff in this song was something I’ve been playing around with for the past couple of years and provided the basis for the song. However, this tune in particular certainly took a lot of work to get to where it is now. We spent a hell of a lot of time working on the main vocal melody, but as a result, I think it’s one of the best melody’s I’ve ever written with a lot of interest both melodically and rhythmically.
"Found Out The Hard Way"
This was the final song we wrote for the album, and the basis for it came from a song I had written many years ago but never properly recorded. We stripped it back to a very basic chord sequence and then re-built it from there, to a point where it is not even recognisable to the original. That’s how these things go sometimes, and even if it seems like a hard pill to swallow at the time, I’m thrilled with how this song turned out. On my previous albums I had other people sing backing vocals, but on this album, I chose to do it all myself. I’m extremely proud of the harmonies on this track in particular. I’ve also always loved moving the harmony from major to minor and vice-versa and this track is a perfect example of that where it goes major into the chorus which creates an emotional lift.
"Further On Down The Line"
Wayne and Steve had a kind of rhythm idea for this before I came in and put the main riff idea in and we built the song up from there. We had a kind of early Lenny Kravitz sound in mind, mixed in with a cool 70’s vibe. Hence going for the fuzz and vibrato tones going on with my guitar parts. Lyrically it’s about getting away and chasing a better life.
I’ve always been an Eagles and Don Henley fan but had never considered covering a song like this until it was strongly suggested by Steve and Wayne to give it a try. It actually ended up being a lot of fun. We dropped the key a little to a point where my voice sounds better than ever, I think, and it was cool to take two big solos and work on making sure it never sounded tired or boring and built as the song rolls on. Some huge fuzz sounds here. The vocal chants were done by me out in the studio hallway with a mic set up at the top of the stairs many metres away and layered up several times.
"Start The Car"
I’d actually never even heard of Jude Cole until Steve Wright told me about him and about this song in particular which Jude had a hit with in the 80’s. I thought the song was badass as soon as I heard it, even if the original production is a little dated now. The original has literally everything but the kitchen sink thrown onto it in terms of instrumentation and I thought it would be awesome to do a stripped back blues rock version of it with the basic four piece line-up of drums, bass, guitar and keys. I also thought it fit really well in terms of lyrics, as well as style, with the rest of the songs we had written.
"Don’t Cry For Me"
This song was written by Steve Wright. As soon as I heard it, I felt confident that I could put my own stamp on it. A relatively simple song melodically and lyrically, it allows for so much interest to come from the dynamics and emotion expressed from every player on the track, be it the drums, bass, Hammond, vocal or guitar.
"Let Me Be"
Lyrically it’s a song about that one person in your life who you’ll never be able to see eye to eye with, no matter how you might try. You’ll always just have to agree to disagree with them. I’m really proud of the work we did on the lyrics of this song in particular. The first of the two heavier songs tail ending this album, with more fuzz tones along with an octave pedal to give new lows and highs to an already big sounding rhythm guitar.
Initially, I thought about having this as the opening track on the album, but then decided it might be a little too much on the heavy side. Instead, it’s the big closing statement of the album. The main idea came from a song I’d written a few years ago, and we had actually been playing live for a while. We stripped it back to basics, changed the rhythm into this 6/8 feel inspired a little by Jimi Hendrix’s Manic Depression, and built it all up again from there. Lyrically it’s about following your hopes and dreams and ignoring those people who doubt you in your life.
1 Anytime You Need Me
2 Take It No More
3 You Could Say
4 Found Out The Hard Way
5 Further On Down The Line
6 Dirty Laundry
7 Start The Car
8 Don't Cry For Me
9 Let Me Be
10 Holding On
To celebrate the brand new release, Ben will embark on a 14-date UK tour in November and December 2018. Tickets for all shows can be purchased via benpooleband.com/live.
November/December 2018 UK Tour Dates:
21st November - Latest Music Bar, Brighton
22nd November - The Stables, Milton Keynes
23rd November - Old Schoolhouse, Barnsley
24th November - The Meeting Room, Elland
28th November - The Beaverwood Club, Chislehurst
29th November - Oran Mor, Glasgow
30th November - Cafe Drummonds, Aberdeen
1st December - The Green Hotel, Kinross
5th December - Früit, Hull
6th December - Real Time Live, Chesterfield
7th December - The Ropewalk, Barton upon Humber
12th December - Half Moon Putney, London
13th December - The Musician, Leicester
15th December - The Railway, Winchester
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