Benj Heard: A “Super Human” Talent
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Last time Progressive Man heard from Benj Heard he was working on music for his indie duo, The Likes of Us. While he’s still actively working on music for The Likes of Us, he’s taken a shot at solo stardom with the release of his debut EP, “Without A Parachute.” Benj speaks with Progressive Man about his genre shift towards pop music, his incredible fan base, and the significance behind the name of his new EP.
Hey Benj, it’s been a few months since we last spoke with you and Katrina about The Likes of Us. Since then you’ve gone ahead and started a solo project. What prompted you to branch out and go at it on your own?
Hey thanks for having me back! You know, it was really Katrina that gave me the final push to make my solo project happen. I’ve been working towards putting out an EP for about 2 years, but some other more pressing project always got in the way. I’m glad I finally stopped everything for a minute and took the time to release this project. It’s been a long time coming!
So is The Likes of Us on hiatus or are you two still making music together?
Oh no, we never stop! In fact, we write together almost everyday! We just released a new music video for one of our songs, You Found Me, and we’re playing at two festivals at the end of April!
While there are a number of elements similar to the music you made as The Likes of Us, your solo debut has taken on a bit more of a pop feel to it. Was there any particular reason for gravitating towards pop?
I honestly really enjoy pop music. True story. I love hard hitting drums, syncopated vocal rhythms, cinematic strings, and any song with a good hook! I think I naturally gravitate towards pop music, with a bit of soul.
Now that you’ve released your EP, what’s next? Are you going to be lining up show dates to support it?
I’m really going to focus on building a fan base and getting the music out there. One of the songs on the EP has already been featured on the MTV show “16 and Pregnant”, and I would like to get some more placements like that with the other songs. So keep your ears peeled while you’re watching your favorite show
What was the song writing process like since you were all on your own this time around? Did you find it easier or do you prefer collaborating with others?
I still wrote most of these songs with other people, so the collaboration process is still very important, even for a solo project. I did write a few of these on my own, and, overall, it’s much more difficult. Granted, you only have your opinion to worry about. But then again, you only have your opinion to worry about, so striking creative gold is seemingly rarer (spellcheck confirms, “rarer” is a word!).
Your new EP is called “Without A Parachute.” Is there any significance behind the title?
Oh man. I’m going to try and keep it short. Without A Parachute is actually a lyric from SuperHuman, where I said “What if I learn to love like I’ve nothing left to lose? Nothing left to slow me down if I jump without a parachute”. That song was probably the most difficult song I’ve ever written, primarily because of the concept. It asks the question, how would you love if your heart was unbreakable? I’ve heard that people are the most successful in gambling when they are only risking their winnings. That is to say, they take risks as if they aren’t risks at all. But that isn’t courage. Courage is loving someone, knowing full well that they will certainly let you down at some point. But what would happen if you knew what was at stake, but charged ahead as if you were invincible? The point of having a parachute is to slow your descent before you hit the ground. When I fall for someone, I don’t want anything to slow me down, not even if it could save my life.
I was blown away! I have something to confess: I wasn’t done mixing and mastering the EP when we launched that campaign. I thought I had another couple of weeks, or maybe a month. Facebook likes are hard to come by. Needless to say, I had a little panic attack when I realized I had one day to do final mixes. The day we hit 1500 likes, I started mixing at 6:30 in the morning and uploaded the EP at 3:30 the next morning. I didn’t even have time to have artwork made. Katrina, being the brilliant artist that she is, put something together on the fly at about 2 am just before we uploaded!
Of course, the number 1 goal of almost any musician is to garner more fans. Do you feel like social media has been an effective way of spreading your music or are you more a fan of the old-school “play shows to get fans” mentality?
I am 100% in favor of social media! I can sit down and play these songs on the piano or guitar in a live situation, but I always feel like people are missing out. I know that seems backwards, but I create music as a producer and arranger with a clear vision, and when you hear the song live, you’re really missing giant chunks of the experience. I’m very meticulous in my production and arrangements, and I really want people experience that when they sit down in front of some good speakers and just listen.
Do you have anything you want to say to all of your fans?
THANK YOU!!! Not original, but heartfelt nonetheless! It’s such a reward for me when people get excited about my music. As promised, I will be shooting some videos in the near future, so stay tuned!
Where can people go to find your music?
Thanks so much having me on ProgressiveMan.com!!!!