This time, we get to know Bigbaldben, a rock artist based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania who started out as the lead singer for Cesspool, an adrenaline-fueled American post-grunge rock band in the mid-1990s, Ben continued writing and recording demos until the early 2000s when he and his wife started a family. Now with two older teens and a life full of experience to draw from, Ben is back making music he loves. Influenced by Alice in Chains, Galactic Cowboys, and King's X, Ben's music is heavy rock mixed with vocal harmonies that are strange and inviting.
The track "Tired of Dying" is featured in the New Artist Spotlight Family of Playlists.
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1. Tell us a little about where you are from and what you are currently doing.
I'm originally from a small town in rural central Pennsylvania. I went to college near the state capital in Harrisburg and spent some time in Nashville, Tennessee, and Philadelphia before returning to the Harrisburg area. I work for the federal government, and that's all I'm authorized to say about that. ;-) I'm happily married with two teenage boys. Thanks to my kids getting older - and inspired by those same kids - I've recently been motivated and able to spend time re-kindling my songwriting and recording. So while there are still parental and spousal responsibilities, I spend most of my free time on music.
2. What inspired you to start playing and making music?
Music has always been a big part of my life. My extended family would often sit around and play guitars and banjos and sing old Christian songs and whatnot. I took guitar lessons at a young age, but they really didn't stick until I got older and developed my own tastes in my teen years when I played every crappy instrument I could get my hands on. In college, I started writing and playing in a couple of bands where I was the lead singer. I enjoyed performing, but writing was another level for me. I love the expressiveness and the ability to share feelings through music and lyrics.
𝟯. Who are your biggest influences?
It varied throughout the years, but I was in college when the grunge scene exploded, and I was fully on board. Nirvana and Soundgarden, certainly, but Alice In Chains primarily. Bands and artists with interesting and often dissonant harmonies over heavy guitars and huge drums are too few and far between. Deftones, King's X, and Galactic Cowboys are others that have had a big impact on my writing, especially recently. Lyrically, I try to be personal - even if the words themselves are not about me personally, I try to express a situation or feeling that most people would be familiar with. If I can evoke the emotion I'm shooting for, then I'm happy.
4. What are your goals in the music industry?
I've been around a while now, so I'm long past looking for worldwide fame or falling asleep on piles of money every night. I think at this point, I just want to find people that enjoy my music. The satisfaction of someone saying they really enjoyed something I've created is really hard to top at this point. My goal is to find those people, however many or few of them there may be. Of course, in order to find those people who really enjoy my work, I have to do some work of my own! So I'm trying to use the mind-boggling number of tools available to find them. Social media, playlists, and, of course, groups of artists like NAS.
5. Tell us about your creative process when you make new music.
It's different every time. Sometimes I'll start with a guitar riff, sometimes a couple of notes on the piano, sometimes with the bass, sometimes with a vocal melody I've hummed in the shower. But I always try to start with something catchy and/or unique. Once I get started, there are usually two extremes - the first is a song that comes together perfectly almost the first time. That's always great but it's very rare! The other extreme is a long process of building, organizing, destroying, rebuilding, second-guessing, destroying another part, and then a final rebuild. Most are somewhere in between. I don't mind the longer, harder route because it's out of those that I usually do my most interesting work... but not always!
6. What is your all-time favorite song?
Fourth of July by Soundgarden. I don't know of any other song that conveys a feeling of such heavy oppressiveness. The tuning, the dissonant guitars, the weird harmonies - you can't help but feel it. And the lyrics - "Down in a hole, Jesus tries to crack a smile beneath another shovel load." I can't help but feel all hope is lost when I hear that. Not that I necessarily enjoy the feeling, but the artistry to make it so powerful is amazing!
7. What is the best advice you have either given or received in terms of music?
I think the best advice I've ever gotten is to keep writing. Write as often as you can, every day if you can. I have probably hundreds of unfinished or abandoned songs and while most will never see the light of day, they've all taught me something. Usually what NOT to do, but that is just as valuable as learning what to do. I hate failing, don't get me wrong, but at this point, I truly believe every crappy song is one step toward your best work.
8. Proudest accomplishment?
Ok, I'll go full dad here and say my two sons are better musicians than I could hope to be. Not only that, but they're just unbelievably cool and awesome people with good hearts. I've no greater accomplishment than raising these guys and I'm very excited to see what's next for both of them. And, of course, my wife is equally proud and maybe 51+% responsible but this isn't her interview. ;-)
9. Just for fun! What's been your most embarrassing moment so far?
I have far too many cringe moments that sometimes torment me when I'm having trouble sleeping but I'll never share! I guess one I can share is in one of my college bands I couldn't remember the words to the second verse of a song I WROTE. I made the stupid decision to practice by singing the first verse lyrics for each verse because I kept putting off finishing it until too close to our first show. I remember carrying around a piece of paper with the lyrics on it pre-show. I stumbled miserably and tried to wing it but I wasn't even rhyming. The only saving grace might have been that we were a pretty loud, post-punk type band so not too many people noticed, or at least didn't say so.
𝟭0. Tell us about your lowest and highest points in music so far.
The lowest point, I guess, would be when I left Nashville. I realized that a career in the music business wasn't going to work unless I was willing to stay broke for quite some time, and I wasn't willing. I felt (mistakenly) like I couldn't make music anymore and was pretty miserable. I've had a few high points, but nothing major. I'm hoping the highest is yet to come, though I'm not sure what that will look like at this point.
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