Sharing his 8th (!!!) studio album today, Dutch artist Benny Sings’ latest “Music” is a scintillating record full of colorful pop gems, drawing influence from neo-soul and R&B, and perfect for the soundtrack of the upcoming summer evenings.
But what goes through someone’s head while they’re creating these pop gems?
Well, we asked Benny to give us track by track of ‘Music’ to find out exactly that…
No one’s fault
I wrote this song with my keyboard player Adam Bar-Pereg. He came up with the chords, and they sounded classic to me right away. He also helped with the melodies, just pushing those extra notes to make it work. The lyrics are based on a person being rejected and not responding emotionally and sadly, but remaining rational: Hey, it’s nobody’s fault. This is an additional sadness for me: for me, it’s sadder to see a person fall, then to say: “I’m fine!” than someone lying on the ground and crying. The guitar solo at the end is done by Tom Misch. I’m a big fan of his music, so I was very excited that he wanted to do this.
It’s one of the few songs on this album that I wrote on my own. It was actually in the garbage folder, but my manager loved it, so I tried to finish it, and in the end I loved the result too. The sound is reminiscent of the old Benny Sings sound from ‘Champagne People’. The lyrics are about me as a young boy, on the streets of Dordrecht with my skate team, feeling life coming up and feeling excited about it. A moment full of hope and bravado. My father called us “Little Giants”.
PJ Morton contacted me in 2005 saying he was a fan. We kept in touch for many years, then 13 years later, while he was on tour, we finally got to meet when he was in Amsterdam. And we immediately started making a song. Me, PJ and his drummer and bassist. We had the instrumental for a long time, but the chorus came to me much later, just playing along with the instrumental, and then the song was born. A song about a love interest who flies off to another country, and the feelings that come with it.
I loved Mac DeMarco’s “This Old Dog” album. I’ve played this so much at home. So I contacted him, if he wanted to write. I never thought he would, but he did! So we did this track in his studio when I was in LA. Quite exciting to me, but also oddly familiar. I think we come from the same place in songwriting. Mac came up with the first lyrics “Rolled up, tossed out”; he heard someone talking about his cigarette. So the rest of the song comes from there: a person who smells like this cigarette.
This song was written with Adam Bar-Pereg, my keyboard player. He wanted to do a song with a rhythm that I had never used before. A little rhythm, to also have a little more ammunition for the concerts. I love the song that came out. About a woman who leaves you wanting and doubting. I think you hear my love for Phil Collins in this one too. And I think it could be a killer ending song from the live show. We’ll see…
Again, one of the few songs I wrote entirely by myself. It’s a bit darker than the rest of the album. A man contemplating his marriage and his life, feeling he has everything he ever wanted and still feeling meaningless. Haven’t we all been there? Fortunately, these feelings never last 🙂
A song I started with Adam Bar-Pereg. I didn’t really feel this song myself initially. But Adam and my manager kept pushing him. So we sent it to KYLE, and when we got his verse, I knew I had to have that song on the album. The rest of the song wrote itself. A song about how we experienced love when we were young, and looking back on it.
I’ve always loved using that reggae-like piano feel in songs. There has never been a song like that, which nevertheless made my albums. But eventually it did. I loved that feeling of relaxed happiness. Chords are inspired by Steely Dan and his peers. Alex Bretin [of Mild High Club] from Chicago wrote the second parts of the song, and that was exactly what the song needed. I love the Stevie Wonder feel on this part. And then Cautious Clay came along with this crazy good sax solo, and that was the icing on the cake.
I started this song with my companion Adam Bar Pereg. He had these agreements that had already been dragging on for a long time. So we recorded that, but it took me a while to find that gospel hook. Then we asked Emily King to join in on the writing, and that gave the song so much. After that, finishing the song was easy. Then we reached out to Peter Cottontale to see if he was interested in having his gospel choir sing the chorus, and he was down. When we got those tapes back, we were very, very excited. So overall, pretty proud of this song. It’s a song about realistic love, not fairy tale love, but the real deal.
This is the first song I wrote for this album. I was just looking for interesting chords and trying to find simplicity in the singing. There’s always a song that makes you feel like maybe you’re writing a new album, and that one was for me. It was also heavily inspired by NPR Tiny Desk sessions. I think it’s a place where live music comes into its own again. I think it’s a very important place in today’s musical culture. Somehow, while writing the verses, I saw myself standing in this office, singing for a handful of people in broad daylight.