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Interview with Bennet LeMaster
Bennet LeMaster is a Jazz Pop Artist & Songwriter from Nashville, Tennessee. Her work has a markedly conversational tone with Jazz, Rock and R&B influences.
WHAT GOT YOU INTRO MUSIC, AND IF YOU HAD TO DO SOMETHING ELSE WHAT WOULD YOU DO TODAY?
I’ve been obsessive about listening to music and writing since I can remember…. I think that was in part inspired by Nashville and Memphis where I grew up… But I also was always happiest listening to the music my parents liked- my mom loved Norah Jones, Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse, my dad loved Led Zeppelin, Elvis, Pink Floyd. It’s that juxtaposition of my favorite genres that has always intrigued me and made me want to find a sound of my own. When I try to imagine doing anything else there’s really nothing I'd rather do!
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU ARE NOT PLAYING MUSIC AND HOW DOES THAT INFLUENCE YOUR CREATIVITY?
I paint and sketch in my free time as stress relief; it’s in some ways a similar process to music-making art because it’s all about learning to be in the moment and make mistakes and revisions and take chances to find whatever feels right. It’s always been cathartic too because it’s more of something I do just for the hell of it rather than something I do as a deep passion. Cheesy as it sounds I think it helps me to keep my creativity flowing and chill out.
HOW LONG HAS MUSIC BEEN YOUR CAREER?
I’ve been writing and playing out pretty much always, but only in the last few years have I been releasing music online. It's been really cool to watch things evolve and to evolve myself- watching myself and my sound change overtime.
WHERE ARE YOU BASED OUT OF AND HOW DID THAT INFLUENCE YOUR MUSIC?
I’m from Nashville which has a reputation for being a music hub- growing up you were constantly surrounded by musicians & music which was really inspiring and helped me learn a lot about how everyone brings something different to the table. Despite the focus on country music where I’m from, I’ve always been more drawn to jazz, rock, r&b and alternative music- it’s been cool to meet more and more musicians lately that move here playing other genres because I relate to that on a deeper level (not knocking country!). I think it also helped me to be realistic about the work being a musician would take watching my mentors and musicians before me work really hard to make it happen.
TELL ME ABOUT THE BEST AND WORST SHOWS YOU HAVE PLAYED.
Each time I play a show I have so much fun and learn and as a result every new show is kinda my new favorite. But I played a really cool show in Denver recently for an indie room and it was such a great crowd energy and group of Denver musicians like The Traveling Rose Band… that might be my favorite at the moment. I’ve never really hated a show but playing when I was younger was much scarier than it is now. I used to get such bad stage fright and that’s gone away with time.
IF YOU COULD PLAY AND SHOW WITH ANY LINEUP WHO WOULD BE ON THE TICKET?
If I could play any show, any lineup it’d be Red Rocks with Herbie Hancock and Beach House. The show would be unhinged and make literally no sense and I’d end up dying of excitement on stage, but hey, totally worth it.
WHAT IS SOME ADVICE THAT YOU WOULD GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO IS JUST GETTING INTO MUSIC?
If I had advice it would probably be that it’s important to always keep the focus on the love of music for music's sake- being a musician comes with a lot of moving parts that can sometimes get you focused on the wrong things. Love what you do! The right people are important, too. Surround yourself with folks that make you inspired and want to be the best you can be and people that have your back. In entertainment, there is a wide range of personalities and people and it’s good to have a core group of people that support you in the ups and downs of doing what you care about.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME AND GIVE YOURSELF ADVICE WHAT WOULD IT BE?
If I could go back in time and give myself advice I’d probably tell lil me to worry less. Life and music is a long-distance run rather than a sprint, and sometimes I was way too hard on myself because of how much I want to make things happen. Some of the best songs I’ve written and shows I’ve played came from being in a relaxed headspace where I was present and just having fun. If you can just be yourself and do what you love around people that you love then you’re gonna figure it out.
OF YOUR SONGS, WHICH ONE MEANS THE MOST TO YOU AND WHY?
The songs that I’m about to release on my first EP in December are probably some of my most vulnerable yet bop-y. I really tried to both write honestly but also be playful and the result has been music that both talks about a range of topics difficult and funny but with a groove that’s fun to dance to. But I’m still really attached to the singles I’ve released so far, especially the song “What You Don’t Know.” I wrote it at a time in my life where I felt really powerless and it was fun to write it from a femme-fatale perspective where the character is so in control. And the result was something people have responded to really positively which has been interesting to witness.
WHICH SONGS ARE YOUR FAVORITE TO PLAY AND WHICH GET REQUESTED THE MOST?
One of my new songs coming out on the EP “Shut Up and Kiss Me” has started to be one of my more popular requests- it’s a song I wrote about being on a date and wanting the guy or girl or whoever to just lean in and kiss you already since you already know the spark is there. But my most popular song to date, “Top-shelf Tequila” has always been one of my favorites to play- it’s sort of stripped down and playful for a breakup song. And if I’m doing a cover lately I’m leaning towards Stevie Wonder or Britney Spears- always a crowd-pleaser and a good time.
WHAT IS THE CREATIVE PROCESS FOR YOU, AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE MUSIC?
Songs tend to come to me in different ways, but typically I start by finding the melody and then stream-of-consciousness allowing lyrics to come to me. If a line or idea speaks to me I came up with I use that as the jumping off point. Typically it's almost like it came from a diary entry first. Then I run with it and then see what happens, experimenting and keeping the conversation with myself rolling without judgment. Once I have what feels like it's in motion, I switch into revisions and the more regimented side of writing. Writing this way forces me to make raw content first before I structure it. And in reality what inspires me to write songs is the same reason someone might be inspired to write in a diary- I can figure out what I think and feel about things best when I write a song about it. The cool thing about doing that for long enough is the songs start to come together like diary pages. It’s strange that someone could get to know me on some deeper level just from listening if they wanted to. Wanting to understand and celebrate life and my own experiences better drives me to write.
WHAT KIND OF MESSAGES DO YOU LIKE TO GET ACROSS IN YOUR MUSIC?
The songs I’ve been writing lately are a lot about acceptance of how things are messy and about how it’ll be ok. That sounds like a sappy message but it doesn’t have to be. Whether its a funny song about dating or a serious song about going through it, I want the listener to feel hope- coming back to the present is key and life just happens. Don’t take it too personally even when it feels personal.
DO YOU EVER HAVE DISAGREEMENTS WHEN COLLABORATING AND HOW DO YOU GET PAST THEM?
I’ve never had a deep disagreement in a collaboration so far luckily- in part because I feel fortunate to work with people who I respect and respect me and we can always find some mutual ground. But I have certainly had awkward writes when I was first getting started co-writing- it can be scary to take something you’ve always done alone like writing music and suddenly be writing about your personal life with a stranger! Now I find it to be a good challenge to think differently and adapt to whoever I’m creating with. When you both do that together well, the magic happens.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE, AND DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING THAT YOU WANT TO SPOTLIGHT THATS COMING UP?
My first EP is coming out in December- I couldn’t be more excited. But I’m also stoked to be playing with some really incredible musicians lately and starting to play shows in new cities. I can’t wait for what’s to come but I’m also really enjoying the process!