An Interview With Acclaimed Playwright and Singer-Songwriter, BENJAMIN SCHEUER!
Posted On 12 Mar 2019
Acclaimed playwright and singer-songwriter Benjamin Scheuer recently released a brand new children’s book called Hibernate With Me, accompanied by a single of the same name. The book was released on February 12th via Simon & Schuster, and the single became available the same day via Canvasback/Atlantic.
Check out the song here- https://soundcloud.com/canvasback/hibernate-with-me-mix-121919-2/s-KpX2S
Hibernate With Me began as a song and was then adapted into a children’s book, illustrated by his wife Jemima Williams. The song and book aim to remind children that when they are feeling lonely or afraid, love will always provide them with a safe place to hibernate.
Benjamin Scheuer is an artist and playwright perhaps best known for his critically-acclaimed solo show, THE LION, which saw over 500 performances and won Scheuer a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance. His wife Jemima Williams is a British illustrator who worked for over a decade on the BAFTA Award-Winning show Peppa Pig.
Learn more about Benjamin Scheuer in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you?
I’m at in my apartment in Greenwich Village, NYC, hanging out with my six-week old daughter, Elodie, who loves music already! I’ve been singing to her. She’s Jemima and my first child, and I’ve become such a moosh…
Now that 2019 has started, what musical goals do you have for yourself and your music this new year? Did you make any new year’s resolutions?
My resolution for 2019 was to share “Hibernate With Me” with the world in many forms. I’m thrilled to have released “Hibernate With Me” as a song, an animated lyric-video, and a children’s book, illustrated by my wife, Jemima Williams. Jemima and I met at the 2014 British Animation Awards in London. She was working for the kids’ TV-show Peppa Pig. After we met, Jemima decided to move to the United States so we could be together. At the time, I was about to start a National tour for my solo show, THE LION. Jemima found moving-countries/getting-a-visa understandably difficult, especially since she suffers from anxiety and OCD. I wrote the song “Hibernate With Me” for her, to let her know that she’s deserving of love, no matter what she feels.
“Hibernate With Me” is about how it’s ok to feel sad, or scared or anxious; you’re still worthy of love. We included the song’s sheet music in the back of the book, so anyone can learn to sing the song. Folks can visit www.HibernateWithMe.com to hear the song, see the animated lyric-video, and order the book.
Growing up, how important has music been in your life? Can you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be a musician? Was it an easy or difficult choice to make?
I’ve always felt happiest when I had my hands on a guitar. My father taught me to play when I was a very little boy. I wrote a song about it called “Cookie-tin Banjo,” for which there’s an animated music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2kq1zGkUvM
Was there ever a time when you thought about doing something else? If you weren’t a musician today, what could you see yourself doing?
I adored creating a children’s book from the song “Hibernate With Me,” and seeing Jemima’s gorgeous illustrations of Big Bear and Small Bear, and their cozy hollow-tree home. I’m excited to make more books for children. Jemima and I actually have already started work on our second children’s picture book (also a song) called “Hundred Feet Tall.” It’s about how you’re never too small to make a big difference. It’ll be published in 2020, also with Simon & Schuster Kids and Atlantic Records.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all? Do you have plans to release more new music and a full-length album of songs?
I’m making a new album right now, to be released in late 2019 or early 2020 with Atlantic Records/Canvasback. I wrote most of the songs for the album on guitar. But when I told producer Geoff Kraly that I wanted to record the album in a totally new way for me, he said “if you want to try something new–if you want a real challenge—then don’t play guitar on this album.” He was absolutely right. It was a scary, fascinating challenge. Now, to be fair, there is SOME guitar on this album, but I’ve enjoyed exploring different types of soundscapes; modular synthesizer, vocals processed and stacked. Having played guitar all my life, stepping away from it has been something I’d never expected I’d do, and it’s been (mostly) exciting to think outside my comfort zone.
How do you think you and your music have been influenced by your hometown and where you live now?
I’ve lived in Greenwich Village for fifteen years, and I’ve always gone to the neighborhood acoustic open-mics and coffee shops. They’ve really influenced my songwriting. Jemima and I actually live in songwriter Richie Haven’s old apartment. Dylan used to crash on the floor, so the NYC juju is strong! “Hibernate With Me” is the first song I’ve recorded OUTSIDE of New York City. We tracked it in Nashville with engineer Konrad Snyder and producer Ian Fitchuck (who just won four Grammys, for producing Kacey Musgrave’s album “Golden Hour.”) Ian and Konrad brought a wonderful story-telling element to “Hibernate With Me,” and they’re a blast to work with.
What has it been like keeping up with your social media accounts and all of the different platforms? Is it hard to stay up to date on it all? What would you say is your favorite way to connect with your fans now?
I try not to spend too much time on social media; I don’t have Twitter or Facebook on my phone. I do it old-school with a web-browser on my computer at home. (Sometimes, I do it even OLDER-school; on Instagram, I like to post hand-written notes.) But it is always lovely to hear from people through social media who are enjoying my work. I try to respond to everyone who writes to me.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
I’m a huge fan of the band paris_monster and their new album, “Lamplight.” Rapper Ibn Orator’s record “The Fish Bowl Syndrome” is amazing. I love singer-songwriter Jean Rohe, and the musical theatre composers Sam Willmott, Shaina Taub, and Alan Schmuckler. I’ve been digging The Fever333. (I worked with them to cowrite their single “We’re Comin’ In.”) Swedish metal band Meshuggah is my absolute favorite. My daughter’s middle name is Hendrix, so “Are You Experienced” has been on our turn-table. I’d love to work with songwriter/producer Imogen Heap, whose stuff I adore. I love the British playwright Al Smith, and I’d love to make something with him for the stage.
Where can fans see you perform next? Do you have any kind of a 2019 tour scheduled yet?
Stay tuned to BenjaminScheuer.com for all updates on where/when I’m appearing/performing!
If you had an unlimited budget and your schedule was free, what would your dream music video look like?
Peter Baynton is a British animator/director whose work I’m absolutely wild about. He did the 2-D animation on the most recent “Paddington Bear” film. I’ve been lucky enough to work with him on a few projects, and our most recent collaboration is a soon-to-be-released video for a song of mine called “Hello Jemima.” The video is a blend of live action and animation, blasting through space and under the ocean. Pete and I had big ideas, and we were limited budget-wise and time-wise; we had only one day to film the whole thing. We decided to view our limitation as a way to focus the project: is the story compelling? Is it clear? Is it fun? Does it have heart? You can make a million dollar movie with no heart, or you can make a film on a limited budged that will warm your audience’s heart.
If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island, what musical item would you take with you and why?
I’d take my Froggy Bottom H-12 acoustic guitar. It was built by a fellow called Michael Millard, one of the finest guitar makers in the United States. The instrument was a 30th birthday present from my brothers. This guitar is FILLED with songs. I’ve used it to write and record many songs, perhaps my favorite of which is called “Weather The Storm.”
If your music was going to be featured on any TV show that is currently on right now, which would you love it to be on? Or if you prefer, what is a movie that you love that you wish your music was featured in?
New parenthood has Jemima and me waking up every two hours or so throughout the night, so we’ve become total Netflix/Hulu junkies. We love “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Sex Education,” “Pen15,” “Atypical.” (And “Blue Planet” narrated by David Attenbourgh. I’m such a sucker for penguins and otters…)
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
“Hibernate With Me” is about how it’s okay to feel however you feel, even if what you feel is sad or anxious or afraid. I hope my work – songs, music videos, books – resonates with people and perhaps lets them feel a little less alone.