Ben Seretan | I Like Your Size / My Lucky Stars II 7″
Nadeem Salaam – Firstly, congrats on the release of your latest I Like Your Size / My Lucky Stars II 7″. How does it feel to be out there?
Ben Seretan – “It feels great! I love these two songs a lot – they mean a lot to me. I have a lot of thoughts about what it means to release music digitally these days, but I think that discussion is pretty played out. I try to imagine a tiny candle placed gently in a little boat made out of a leaf – putting out songs is like putting that little candle in the dark, black waters of an ocean and setting it adrift. Maybe it lights the way for someone, maybe it disappears, maybe it just reflects against the water for a time before it goes out.”
N – There are some great jazz elements sown into your sound, in particular the drone jammed out vibe you bring with your live sound. It’s very complimentary, was that something that organically fell into place?
“One of my main priorities in the whole enterprise of playing music is getting to feel free. When I’m playing, I discover a balletic gracefulness – a liberty deep down in my body – that I simply can’t access in my regular life.” –Ben Seretan
B – “It feels like hang gliding. In pursuit of that free feeling, I’ve just made things looser and looser over the years. The songs have a very bare bones structure and can be performed 1,000 different ways – all those possibilities are the exciting part for me. All that freedom lends a certain jazzy / jammy quality. Also, all of the musicians I’ve played with over the last few years are so dang good at what they do. If I wrote out parts and kept things tight + planned, their brilliance might never fully come out. I want them to do their thing! Dave Lackner, the saxophone player, is especially impressive on “My Lucky Stars.” He’s a wonderful musician that everyone should check out.”
N – With your last EP Yellow Roses, the theme of Leonard Knight disperses through out, does I Like Your Size / My Lucky Stars II 7″ pay homage to anything?
B – “As it says in the title, this recording is “part II” of another song called “My Lucky Stars.” I wrote and recorded the original for my self-titled album using my Grandma’s old guitar shortly after she passed away. That song is usually dedicated to her. Since then, my brother and his wife had a baby they named after our Grandma, so I’ve been saying that part II is dedicated to the new baby in our lives.”
N – What do you think has changed in terms of your musical tastes and preferences as a song writer since last years Yellow Roses was out?
B – “In a fun way, I think “Yellow Roses” was kind of selfish – a chance for the whole big band to jam as hard as we possibly could on a nearly cheesy classic rock feel, a chance for me to scream my head off and bust strings on my guitar. It’s kind of a spectacle, but more about the band having fun. With these two songs and with the record I have coming out, I really wanted to do something good for someone. I want to be useful. I hope that at least one person really gets something out of these songs, which for me are sweet and empowering and a tiny little bit sad but ultimately content. Those goals have changed the music considerably, I think.”
N – How did you come upon the choice to release on Destination: Universe!
B – “Destination: Universe! is a very special place – I spent a week there mixing this record in the fall and loved working there. Victor Nash, who runs the place, is a rare-talent of an engineer and an extremely nice dude – when he suggested doing this digital 7″, I jumped at the chance. It’s an interesting format, too – usually premieres involve one song, but this was an opportunity to bundle two together. I picked the loudest and quietest moments of the record, a juxtaposition you might not hear otherwise.”
N – Are you a writer or musician first? I ask this because a lot of your songs read as poems and you’re a great poet in my eyes.
B – “WELL – first, thanks. I can’t recall being called a great poet and that is extremely encouraging! Music will always be the place I feel most comfortable, either just existing or in trying to express something. I think that the writing I do is heavily – almost entirely – influenced by having made music for a long time. There’s a rhythm and melody I’m looking for with the writing I do, especially the free verse poetry stuff I’ve been doing.”
“I’ve been writing a lot more lately – poems and short memoir essay kinda things – but it feels a little SCARY in an exciting way. When I pick up a guitar or play a piano, it feels like getting into a safe, warm bed. Comfortable, a place of confidence.” – Ben Seretan
N – I see you’re doing some international dates, can you tell us about that experience? Reflect for a moment how this has expanded or opened your perspectives as a person if at all?
B – “The international dates I’ve done in the last couple of years have been really incredible! Super eye-opening. I’ve learned a lot about PERFORMING – in short, it really doesn’t matter what words you’re singing, it’s much more that you embody a certain idea, that you play and sing with heart. Even if the audience doesn’t speak the same language as you, they’ll get it. They might even respond more to something. I think I’ve really brought that home with me. And of course, getting to hang out and talk to people from another country really opens your eyes. It’s really easy to be kind of stuck in a New York way of thinking – there’s a big wide world out there.”
N – Recently you’ve made an appearance doing some acting for a short film, is Ben Seretan a triple threat in the making? How did this come to life?
B – “It’s a funny coincidence – a coworker of mine had written a few scripts for a web series about a guy who offers his services as a cuddler (a real actual thing that people do) who also played guitar and sang. I’m a very natural casting for both of those things, haha. He asked me at work one day, I think kind of expecting me to say no. But I’ve done a tiny little bit of acting before and I enjoy it, partly because it terrifies me.
That being said – if anyone would like to cast me in something, I am willing to face my terror! Let’s do lunch, baby.”
N – Lastly, on the impact of art making for both the creators and those whom play witness, what do you think are reasons why they are important, methods they work best, and/or personal goals/visions you have acquired through both being an artist and participator of the arts.
B – “For me, making work is all about demonstrating to one’s self and the wider world what’s possible while one’s alive.”