Tell us about Benny Sings.
I am a songwriter, producer, artist from Amsterdam. I’ve been doing this for 20 years.
I started out making hip-hop beats and sing a lullaby songs on those beats in my bedroom from 1999 to 2001 - I would say I am one of the first to make music in my bedroom.
That was a struggle, the first ten years was a struggle - then ‘Bedroom Pop’ became a hit and my phone started ringing.
Now I am here, father of three, 46 years old, and being interviewed by a US press man.
What’s your key to longevity? Persisting through a creative pursuit for 10+ years before gaining any formal recognition - what kept you going during that time?
There was no way for me, this was the only solution I had at making a living. So I tried many jobs and failed at all of them, and this was the only one that kind of worked.
Also I am a strong believer in the, ‘de aanhouder wint’ (Dutch) saying and it means roughly ‘the one who persists wins’ - that has been my life motto.
You also need a little bit of neurosis.
Talk to us about your most recent album release titled, 'Young Hearts.'
I got a message maybe three years ago from Kenny Beats saying, ‘let’s work.’ I didn’t know him.
We had a Zoom call - funniest Zoom ever because he was very honest about what he could do for me. I mean honest, in that he said he could make my music better or make it ‘slap more’ as he would say.
It was so funny because I didn’t know him and it was such a great conversation. I hung up smiling and laughing and told my wife is this real or LA talk?
It turned out to be realer than real.
In the 'Young Hearts' teaser, you walked around in The Netherlands with Kenny Beats discussing everything from mortality, parenthood, art, and purpose.
What prompted this album collaboration between you two / taking this approach as an album trailer?
We thought that it would be funny because we had these conversations while making the album.
We love that kind of film - like the coffee and cigarettes kind of movies. We just felt such an awesome opportunity to make something like that.
We wanted to make some talking heads movie like that. I’ve always wanted to make some talking heads movie like that - to make a small version of that was mind-blowing.
You stated in a past interview, 'It’s so easy to get overstimulated in the world today. We need light and air, we need something that energizes us.'
Can you speak to this reductionary approach to music production?
I make what I like myself, and what I look for in music is light.
There is different people, some people look for heaviness and darkness in music which is great.
Some people look for light music, and I am the latter.
Light is what I need in music.
On almost all of your social media accounts, a quote appears stating, 'I'll always be amazed by the magic of music - how something can spring into being that simply transcends everything.'
Can you speak to the transcendent experience of music?
The weird thing is when you make music is that you know when you make something that is good. Something happens and you can never know what this is.
If you would know what that is - you could have a computer that could make music. Before AI there wasn’t a computer making good music because of that reason.
What happens when it all clicks - it becomes more than the sum of it’s parts. That’s magic.
Nobody can explain what that is - that’s special. You witness that once in maybe five years.
It’s a mystery.
With AI music, it feels soulless - there’s an element of human intervention that’s unnamable. There’s almost a domain of experience or consciousness that is unknowable.
I think maybe later there could be an AI computer that could make music with a ‘soul’ but I think they cannot predict when that happens.
I mean even an AI computer needs to make a ton of shit and sometimes the spark hits. We’ll never know why that is.
Talk to us about the track, 'Rolled Up' featuring Mac Demarco.
We met I think maybe 5 / 6 years ago at his house, which was great. It was amazing to see he was exactly how he was in real life. We sat in the studio and made a song. That’s it.
Being multidisciplinary as an artist is key to your output with singing, songwriting, and producing credits with artists across the music spectrum.
Why do you choose to approach music in this manner?
Because I have been on my own a lot. I started all of this pre-internet and I am not a very social guy or anything like that.
I tended to have more visual art friends then musical friends - in some weird way it’s just luck I guess.
So I didn’t have any friends to make music with, I had to do it all by myself. It did fit me at the time, dealing with anxiety issues and all of that. I was very comfortable being alone for many many hours.
Is creativity therapeutic for you then? or is it challenging?
You were talking about your output earlier saying that the output is ‘light’ and when you’re channeling positivity a lot of time you will have to channel dark places.
How is that process for you?
It’s hard - it’s hard work. It’s not easy. It’s not something I like.
Something I like is going to the bar with my friends, doing nothing on a Sunday with my family, swimming, all of that.
Songwriting is just hard. It’s just work.
Don’t get me wrong of course it’s the best work there is. It’s way easier than building a house for instance.
It still is extremely hard to find that moment where everything clicks and your work makes sense. Most of the days your work is bad and you feel stupid and you are wasting everyone’s time.
On your Santa Barbara EP, you covered the Bruce Springsteen song, 'Dancing in The Dark.'
Can you speak about your decision to cover this track?
You’re always looking for something that is a bit outside of your range to cover because when you cover something close to you, you don’t add anything.
Bruce Springsteen is very far away from what I am. I have an immense respect for that guy, he is an artist, who makes art, you know?
It just seemed like a funny combination.
I like the addition of opposites like that. His (Bruce’s) songwriting you can’t really appreciate fully until you’re older.
I went back and read about his life - it’s so fascinating.
Even like his videos. ‘Streets of Philadelphia’ is good example, his music is in the background you can just hear him mumbling. It’s pretty amazing that (that) hit the charts like #1 everywhere.
He was making really complicated art.
He’s one of those people who created art that has so much depth and nuance while still being commercially viable.
Being from the Netherlands, what is your favorite aspect of music that is unique to the Netherlands?
Holland is a strange and difficult country when it comes to arts. We are very grounded and rational people. Strangely enough, France is almost our neighbors - they’re like completely the opposite poetic, mystical, in love with the beauty of life.
It’s totally not how Holland goes, we are farmers we don’t need cherries on top. We sit in a dark room with a small light.
More rational stuff is presented artistically such as architecture. For music we don’t really have a thing - we are very much looking up to the US. In our creative output we are very hard on ourselves.
Answering this question is hard, because there is no pride and there’s also not a big musical history.
Often Americans have strong egos, and they want you to know when they’re doing cool stuff - especially living abroad you realize this.
Do you think it’s a reservation to be reluctant of that type of creative output? is it self-critical? is it humility? How would you describe that?
I mean they are more humble for sure, but, it doesn’t do good for music, if you want to make good (let’s say) pop music for instance you need a certain flair or confidence.
There is great venerable music for sure out there, but you have to be strong in saying what you want.
It is a bit rare.
What’s next for Benny Sings?
I am touring the states in September.
There will be a special edition of ‘Young Hearts’ coming out at the end of the year and more to come.
CHECK OUT BENNY’S BRAND NEW MUSIC VIDEO FOR ‘SIMPLE LOVE SONGS’