Walter Mencken 1 p.m., May 1
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- Local Lives
Local Lives: Ben Owens - Guitar Player
Local Lives is a series of interviews with local artists and creators. Do you know a photographer, painter, musician, performer, artisan, or creator that you would like to see interviewed? Contact [email protected]
How do you describe your style of music and what musicians do you compare yourself to, or aspire to be like?
I'm pretty diverse stylistically. I think primarily I'm a finger style guitar player and that comes from growing up listening to Chet Atkins and Tommy Emmanuel and them being my main influences, and then through both of those guys I was exposed to so many other styles, like Django Reinhardt and a lot of the swing and jazz and that kind of stuff. So primarily a finger style guy that likes to be competent at swing and jazz and some blues and that kinda stuff too.
How is your significant investment of time and energy contributed to your life? Not just your music or your craft but to your life?
Investing the time that I have in music has given me such a more sharp, a more keen attention to beauty in everything all around me—in literature, in nature, wherever—because I work so hard and have for so long at trying to make beautiful music, I think it makes me appreciate beauty in other peoples efforts at creating beauty—in just about every field.
The Ben Owens Trio is a family band. What is the family dynamic like during rehearsals and performances?
The rehearsal dynamic is fun, you know I've been in rehearsals with people where you have to play with them but you don't necessarily get along with them that great and fortunately it's nothing like that. It sort of tends to the other end of the spectrum where it's like we gotta try not to goof off too much and try and focus on the tunes a lot of times because you know we get each others sense of humor. It's a lot of fun, but it can easily just get off the track into like you know slapstick almost sometimes, but when we really get down to it and we really drop into a groove there's nothing quite like it, it's a good time.
What are the stylistic differences or the artistic differences that you and your brothers have and do you think it came from… Is it nature or nurture? Do yo think that you guys are just different musicians or have you been cultivated in the same musical groove?
Yeah, we're all three… We appreciate so much of the same core of music but we're all three really different and our voices are totally different as far as the expression of that. I think there's probably a little bit of both nature and nurture going on in that a huge body of our influences we have in common you know, but within that there's certain things that each of us are a little more attracted to. Like Joseph on the drums, he's just so rhythmic and always has been. Ever since he was a toddler he would walk up to a coffee table and just start pounding out rhythms and they would just be like impeccable. And then Jameson is just so like his dexterity is just amazing, he's always just been so natural. He'll learn a solo or he'll hear a player and you know you hear him in the next few days and it's just like, man he's got the licks and he's got the intonation. So I think probably it's mostly just the natural internal difference and each of us gravitation to what is our ideal voice or ideal mode of expression.
You've played quite a wide variety of gigs. What goes through your head while you're playing, and does it change depending on the type or duration of the gig?
What I'm thinking and how I'm feeling when I'm performing definitely varies from gig to gig and what kind of gig it is. You know the challenge in a coffee house is to keep peoples attention, right? Because you want them to have a good time and it's cool when everyone's hanging out and chatting, but at the same time you want what you're doing to be good enough where people can listen and sit up and go, "Wow, that's really cool." So in a setting like this, it's trying to find that balance between—like on the one hand you've got be introspective enough to just really try and make every single note count so that it sounds as good as it possibly can and the phrasing and the tone and everything is there and then on the other hand being sure that you're reaching out and actually making that connect with people so that it's not just going out there but that it's going to them and that they feel that, you know?
What trends in music—or culture in general—are you currently noticing or following?
I think it's amazing the way the Internet brings people together and you know I've met players from all over the world and we keep in touch through things like Facebook and YouTube and that kind of stuff, but people actually have begun to collaborate from those kinds of meetings. You know it's one thing to just like know that other people are out there, but I have two friends who are a duo and one of them is from upstate New York and one of them is from New Zealand and they met at a Tommy Emmanuel event and now they're traveling the U.S. as a guitar duo and so just to see the way that, through technology and through you know one of the positive sides I guess of globalization, is that people from all over the world can find other people who have the same common interests and make music together regardless of you know cultural or national differences.
If there was one experience that you could go back and watch yourself live through or go back and relive—musical or not—what would that be?
I've had a lot of great experiences—it's hard to narrow down one as the top—but it's pretty hard to top the first time I played on stage with Tommy Emmanuel. I was just 17, we were at the East County Performing Arts Center and it was a pretty big crowd and he asked me to play a tune with him and just to get up and to feel, you know, his guitar pulsing the way it does just impeccable time, and then to be right there playing with him, you know just as close as I am to you, was just amazing and I don't think it's something I'll ever forget. It was really pretty life-changing.
What is your current goal or project and how's it going?
I'm hoping to record another CD this year I've actually taken about four months off of grad school and hope to dedicate a large portion of that time to that project. It's been several years since I've recorded my last album, so I've got plenty of material—more than enough material actually. Lots of original tunes that are just about ready to go. It's just a matter of sitting down and pounding out the recording, which can be pretty time-consuming. So I'm working towards that goal just in getting the tunes ready so that I can kind of knock them out in a relatively short time span, but I'm optimistic about that so keep a lookout for that.
If you couldn't create music, what would you create, or would you just consume?
Music is such a vital part of my life and I'm so thankful for it that I almost can't imagine what I would do if I couldn't play at all I know I would definitely listen continue to listen voraciously. One of my other big interests and maybe would become one of my primary interests if I couldn't make music would probably be writing just because I Find so many parallels especially when you're improvising in music you're trying to make every single note speak and say something worth listening to to the listener something that moves people and just to trim away all the filler so that it's not just playing things by rote but playing every note intentionally So that it's something beautiful and something original every time and really it's kind of the same way for a writer for an author that it's a matter of you know not just slopping words down on a page but precisely and carefully picking the words that make beautiful literature that will speak to people for decades to come.
Local Lives is sponsored by Santee's own Kaffee Meister Coffeehouse. Come enjoy exceptional espresso, cappuccinos, and latte's as you lounge on the couch, socialize at the community tables or work at the laptop bar. With breakfast, soup & salad and live music three nights a week, it's everything you'd expect from your local coffee shop.
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