BEN OTTEWELL, of the Indie-Rock Band GOMEZ Chats With ALL ACCESS about His Solo Career, Touring Life and More!
Posted On 04 May 2015
Tag: Aberdeen, Alice In Chains, All Access, All Access Music Group, Artist Interview, Ben Ottewell, Eddie Vedder, England, Gomez, Indiegogo, Joni Mitchell, Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, Neil Young, Nirvana, Patience And Rosaries, Pearl Jam, Prince, Rattlebag, Red Dress, Red Rocks, Scotland, Shapes And Shadows, SXSW, The Beatles, The End Records, The Rolling Stones, Tom Waits
Ben Ottewell is the front-man of the indie-rock/folk group, Gomez. In the past few years, he has embarked on a highly successful solo career. Known for his deep raspy voice, he is often compared to Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and the singer-songwriter, Tom Waits. Ottwell has released two solo albums- “Shapes and Shadows” and his most recent release, “Rattlebag” via The End Records.
In Fall 2013, Ottewell decided to connect with his fan base to crowd-fund Rattlebag, and launched a pledge campaign on Indiegogo.
“It seems to be a really honest way to do it,” Ottewell said at the time. “Indiegogo lends a kind of transparency into making the record…I feel long-term Gomez followers will really enjoy engaging in this way.”
The experiment worked well and exceeded his fundraising goal, with enthusiastic supporters from around the world contributing to the recording of the album.
Rattlebag is a collection of beautifully poetic tales of salvation and redemption, of sanctuary and braving rocky seas in search of distant shores. Ottewell’s infectious melodies and bluesy riffs will stick with you, and beg you to sing along.
All Access was lucky to catch Ben between gigs in England for a quick phone interview. Ben answered a few questions about his latest album, his current tour and how solo life differs from the days of Gomez. Enjoy!
At the end of last year, you released your second solo album, “Rattlebag” via The End Records, how’s the momentum and reaction been so far?
It’s been pretty good. The reaction has been good. We’ve gotten some really good reviews, particularly over here. I think in general, most people who have heard of me really like it. So I guess that’s good. Spreading the word is always tricky. But in terms of the reaction, it has generally been very positive. I don’t really know.. All I do is play gigs. I’m still playing gigs so I guess it’s still moving. (Haha)
How is the sound of “Rattlebag” different then the rest of Gomez material?
I guess it sounds more like me. It’s just me by myself! (Haha) In our albums, everyone is represented. It’s a mesh of everybody. I think also “Rattlebag” is more guitar based and there’s more acoustic stuff. It’s just me.
What songs are you particularly proud of on this album?
I like “Patience and Rosaries” and I like “Red Dress”. I like them all actually but those are probably the two stand out ones.
Have you always wanted to be a musician? Was this something that you wanted to do with your life?
I think so. I don’t know. I was always into music but I’m not sure I really planned to be. I never had that burning desire. I mean, it wasn’t really a burning ambition. But obviously, anyone who plays music would like to be able to do it for a living. That’s kind of the end game. I always liked Led Zeppelin. Then I was 11, I got into Michael Jackson, Prince and other stuff like that. I was into all sorts of music. My mum and dad were real big music fans so there was Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. All those legends seeped in as well. In the 90’s, I was loving bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam. I loved the idea of putting that rock and alternative thing together. I think it was really good and in the moment.
If you weren’t a musician today, what can you see yourself doing?
I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. I’ve been a musician for a long time. I mean, I was going to be an academic because that was what I was doing when all this started. I was in the university. But who really knows?
How has the tour been going? Any favorite venues?
Aberdeen was great. I mean, it’s all been great. I just played in Scotland which I love. I love it up there. But I feel really beat up. It’s just been a lot of driving around, a lot of traveling all over. I feel a little sluggish and punch drunk. But yeah, it’s all been fantastic.
How was SXSW?
It was a beautiful shit storm. (Haha) I don’t know. It was good fun. It’s just so big and so crazy that it’s hard to get a guage on whether the music is working there or what your exact purpose is there. But yeah, it’s fun. Hopefully it was a success. It’ just hard to tell what’s going on. The only way to get through it really is to drink. (Haha) It was my 5th time playing there but this was my first time performing by myself.
Do you have any venues that you’ve been wanting to play at solo or with the group?
Hmm.. Let me think.. I don’t know. I feel like we’ve played a lot of time in one way or another, either as support or headliner. We’ve played Red Rocks.. There really aren’t a lot of places that we haven’t played.
Now that you’ve been solo for a number of years and you’ve had the band experience with Gomez, which do you prefer? Why is being solo the best fit for you right now?
It’s so different. We played a few gigs in November and it was fantastic but it’s just so different from playing acoustically solo and calling all the shots. It really is kind of like a different world. I’m not sure. I really like to play and sing. It’s just so much easier with the band. But I don’t really know which one I prefer.. I mean, I like hanging out with the guys and it’s less work. I can be pretty lazy so that’s nice. I do really like playing solo too.
Can Gomez fans expect new music anytime soon?
I don’t know. It’s been 2.5 years now so I don’t know about new music. We have been talking about playing some shows but nothing has been confirmed yet. Everyone’s lives are so busy, everyone has young kids now too. I don’t know. I mean, I think we all want to. It’s just about finding a way to do it. There’s no drama in the band. We all get along. It just felt like time for a bit of a break. I guess we are having a little hiatus. We aren’t split up or anything.
Who would be your dream duet partner?
That’s a tough one. Probably Tom Waits if he would have me but he would probably be a little bit scary.
What’s been a favorite memory of yours since being solo or with Gomez?
Something that always sticks out with me is when we did this show and we were headlining the second stage and there were thousands of people all around the stage, and the sun was setting. It was an incredible moment and it really stands out.
If your music was to convey a message to listeners, what would it would be?
They are many. There’s not one ideaology about it all. Each song is kind of different I suppose. There’s more of a motive then a message. I think music is more emotional. Obviously some music has very clear messages but mine doesn’t really. (Haha) I like to keep things abvilalent and light. A lot of the times, I don’t really know what the song is about until years down the road. It’s hard. The songs all mean something.
Here’s the iTunes link to purchase Ben’s Music: