Ben Howard: ‘I was getting lost in a deep world of reverbs for years’ – Music News



On this week’s episode of Elton John’s Rocket Hour on Apple Music 1, Elton chats with Ben Howard about his latest album ‘Collections From The Whiteout’. In the chat, Ben talks about working with The National’s Aaron Dessner on the new record, plus the importance of playing live.

Elton and Ben on ‘Collections From The Whiteout’…

Elton John: ‘I want to talk about ‘Collections From The Whiteout’, which is such a beautiful record.’

Ben Howard: ‘Oh, thank you.’

Elton John: ‘And it’s, I think your third number one album in Britain, but it’s just a beautiful collection of songs. And I’m ignorant about how it came about. It says ‘Collections From The Whiteout’, were these songs written in lockdown and recorded in lockdown or before?’

Ben Howard: ‘No it predated lockdown, really. I was doing trips to upstate New York and getting in a studio up there, which is a trip in itself, that part of the world. But yeah, it kind of predated everything. Me and Aaron Dessner were just working on music together and yeah, obviously everything spiralled out of control after that. But yeah, we were just collecting a lot of different songs over probably 18 months.’

On the importance of the producer on an album project…

Elton John: ‘Well I’m very envious, because Aaron Dessner is one of my favourite producers. And his productions, you must have loved working with. The sound on this record is typical of him. It’s just that warm, beautiful sound that he managed to get and brings out of the artists that he produced. What did he bring out of you that you hadn’t put on record before?’

Ben Howard: ‘We had a great time, to be honest. It was mostly me, Aaron and Jon Low had a big hand in engineering and stuff. But yeah, I guess he’s just great at allowing you that freedom to explore strange ideas that perhaps you wouldn’t give the time of day yourself. He’s never scared of the muse and allowing it to be whatever and be quite free with the music until it’s time to track things I suppose. And then yeah, I think one key one was he turned my vocals up. I was getting lost in a deep world of reverbs for years. I think I was going further down that path and he dragged me back to somewhere audible.’

Elton John: ‘Well, I always think a record producer is like the fifth member of the band or the fourth member of the band or whatever. And it’s always he’s there for a reason because he always can see something you might not like, but he likes and he can point it out, and you may go kicking and screaming saying, “f*** off because this is my record.” But in the end, he’s usually right. But are you going to make another record with Aaron do you think? Is this the beginning of a good relationship between you and a producer, or would you want to go to someone else?’

Ben Howard: ‘I’m not sure. We’ve talked quite a bit. I think they’re planning a Europe move at some point. And so yeah, definitely on the cards. I’m tinkering on songs constantly and in a good place writing-wise at the moment. So quite possibly, yeah.’

On the importance of live music…

Elton John: ‘What do you feel about live performance? Do you like it or is it a pain for you?’

Ben Howard: ‘Well I guess at the moment, it’s quite a foreign entity.’

Elton John: ‘Yeah.’

Ben Howard: ‘Definitely looking forward to playing. It’s a different capacity, isn’t it?’

Elton John: ‘Yeah.’

Ben Howard: ‘I think it’s been long enough now that anyone who plays live music is definitely itching to play and itching to see what comes about. I love the freedom of live, that if you think about it, it can open the doors to songs and you actually have a lot of freedom. I think a lot of people stick with a song and how they think it should be and try and recreate the record. And I played with the band a few weeks ago and it’s nice to reimagine the songs and realize there’s a great joy in that as well.’

Elton John: ‘I always thought playing live makes you a better songwriter, because you’re right, because I hate playing the song the same way twice. You’ve always got to throw something in there, and God, I’ve had such a long career, it’s lovely to rearrange things and I’m really looking forward to coming and seeing you and playing this album live, and of course all the other albums you’ve made. I congratulate you on this record. It’s a beautiful record, a great achievement. And for a fourth album, it’s great to be able to make a better record than the others. And you’ve certainly succeeded in doing that and I congratulate you. So listen, lots of love to you and thank you for your time.’

Ben Howard: ‘Thank you so much Elton. Cheers.’



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