Posted On 20 Dec 2018
Ben Sparaco and The New Effect formed in 2017 when Florida-born singer, songwriter, and guitarist began playing with drummer Anthony Quirk and bassist Adam Discipio. Now based in the flourishing musical oasis of Nashville, TN, Ben and the band have maintained a massive touring schedule, cutting their teeth playing coast to coast in clubs and festivals.
Sparaco spent his teen years making a name for himself in the jam band scene of the southeast, playing with members of the Allman Brothers Band, Dead and Company, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and more before he had even turned 21. This included a touring stint in late Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks’ band. After recording his 2016 release “Bring the Jubilee EP” with a Florida-based group of musicians, he moved to Nashville. There, he amassed a group of some of Nashville’s finest to record his debut solo record “Wooden” with producer Ross Holmes (Mumford and Sons, Bruce Hornsby, Warren Haynes), which also featured a guest appearance from Luther Dickinson.
After finalizing The New Effect’s powerful lineup with Berklee College of Music graduates Quirk and Discipio, Sparaco’s songwriting started drifting from his southern rock roots, showing indie rock, new wave, and pop influences, evident on the EP “Greetings, from Ben Sparaco and The New Effect,” available online now.
Learn more about Ben Sparaco and The New Effect in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you now? Is there music playing in the background?
I’m at home in Nashville, we just played our last show of 2018 at The Basement East last night with Ghost Light. No music playing right now, but I was just listening to the Paramore album “After Laughter” in the car.
Now that the year is just about over, how do you think 2018 treated you and your career? What has been one goal that you have had this year? Did you accomplish it?
2018 was an interesting year for me. We were on the road pretty consistently for the first six months of the year, did a couple tours on the west coast, then I ended up in New York City for the whole month of June as we released our EP “Greetings.” We got back to Nashville in early July and slowed down a little for the last six months, taking the time to shift our focus away from constant touring in small clubs and focus on releasing music, getting support spots, re-branding a little bit, etc. At the beginning of the year I hoped we could get a serious bump in traffic on our recorded music- we’ve always been more of a live band- and now in the last month of the year we’re getting 5,000+ streams a day on “Scared of The Dark,” which is way more than we ever expected.
Growing up, how important was music to you? 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 grew up with parents that were both big music fans and that rubbed off on me at a pretty young age. Nobody in my family actually plays though, I found that on my own. I was always into my Dad’s music and he grew up in the 70s so there was a lot of Clapton, Hendrix, Beatles, Zeppelin, and that kind of stuff playing in the house growing up. I got my first guitar when I was 4 and fell in love, but didn’t really consider playing music for a living until I was a teenager. In fact, when I was younger I was probably smarter than I am now because I wanted to work on the production/business side of music. Then by the time I was 14 or 15 it just hit me that I really couldn’t stand to do anything besides play.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
A big surprise to me when I started playing bigger shows and festivals was that at almost every level, touring musicians experience the same kind of stuff. Everybody is bored, tired, and wants a shower, some of us are just in busses or planes instead of a van. As far as challenges go, being the leader of a band and going out on 3-4 week tours across the entire country with no crew… that’s been interesting.
How do you think you and your music have been influenced by your hometown and where you live today?
I grew up near Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and played with a Grateful Dead cover band there called Crazy Fingers when I was in High School. They’ve been around for almost 30 years and that opportunity led to me getting pretty deep into the jam band scene in the southeast which has carried my career pretty much up until recently when we started to branch out into more of this kind of indie/alternative thing. I’ve been in Nashville for three years now and only in the last few months have I really started to feel at home here, musically. I’m still figuring out how Nashville fits into my music.
Ben, how did you go about creating this group of musicians? How would you say that they make you a better musician today?
I actually found our drummer Anthony Quirk in a Facebook group for Nashville musicians when I needed a drummer last minute for some shows in the spring of 2017. He stuck, and when we needed a full time bassist later that spring he called Adam Discipio. They went to Berklee College of Music together and had some history playing there so when Adam flew to Florida for his first run with us the chemistry was pretty immediate. Obviously they have some pretty serious formal training but what I love is that we all have very different musical upbringings. I’ll have an idea in my head with a certain vibe in mind and when I bring it to the band they hear it completely differently. I think that keeps us from being too derivative.
Let’s talk about your newest song “Scared of The Dark” What was the inspiration for this track? How do you think it shows the growth that you have gone through as artist over the years? What has remained the same? How creatively involved with the music video for it were you?
Scared of The Dark is written as a letter to my younger self. It is literally about growing up and gaining confidence by branching out from what I knew as a kid. As a kid, I always envisioned myself building a career based primarily around my guitar playing, which has happened to some extent, but lately I’m more focused on the songs and the artistry, not just the musicianship. Taking the focus a little bit off myself as a player has made me really re-think who I am as a musician and I’ve become much more confident because of it. Our friend Adam Dobkin did the video, he came into the studio on the main day of tracking and two weeks later had the final product. I didn’t ask for any changes, he pretty much nailed it.
When do you hope to release more new music and a new album of new songs?
We’re planning on getting into the studio for a longer period of time to make a full length record sometime this spring, shooting for a late summer/early fall record release.
Since the beginning of music, people have turned to it for support and as an escape from their realities. How do you want your music received and appreciated?
That’s a tough question to answer. I think that’s up to the listener to decide, the artist can’t push that too much. I am a big fan of music that is very visual both lyrically and musically. I try to make music that is evocative and maybe sometimes kind of surrealistic, Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia were masters of that when their lyrics and playing were combined.
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?
Honestly, most of my day to day work is on social media. It’s a necessary part of the business. I’m probably not as bad as some people but I’m pretty deep into social media from a personal standpoint as well but I mostly think of it as a nice distraction. It’s a kind of necessary evil, I guess. I definitely am mostly into instagram.
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?
Like I’ve mentioned, the Grateful Dead are a big one. Dawes is a huge inspiration, especially Taylor Goldsmith’s songwriting and guitar playing. It’s definitely a dream of mine to support them on tour. I got really into Talking Heads this year. I also love The War On Drugs, Kacey Musgraves, Phosphorescent, Halfnoise, Circles Around The Sun… so much great stuff has been coming out lately.
If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island forever, what musical item would you take with you and why?
Either my ’59 Reissue Strat or a nice old Gibson acoustic, but I think strings would get pretty rusty so probably some drums or something that could hold up.
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?
I’m not a huge TV guy but me and my girlfriend are obsessed with the show Manifest, so that would be cool.
Do you have any tour dates you would like to tell our readers about? How will you be spending your winter?
I know we have some midwest shows coming up in January… Cincinnati, Bloomington, and a few others. We’re taking it easy until then. I’ve been working a lot getting ready for all the stuff we’re doing with Scared of The Dark, I need a little detox from the business. I’m going on vacation to see some friends and family in New York in two weeks.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? I’d like to know more about how you want your music to be timeless?
Going back to the evocative, visual thing, I just want people to be able to go somewhere else in their head when listening to us. The best music creates the best daydreams, it would be cool if ours could do that for somebody.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
The live show is really where we thrive. We’re proud of the music that we’ve released but to fully experience it, come to a show. It’s a real party and nothing is better than sharing this with an audience.