An Interview with Benn Allsop, by Kian West / by Kian West

MUSIC FANS AND PERFORMERS ALIKE MAY HAVE HEARD ABOUT THE INAUGURAL TIP JAR SONG COMPETITION IN 2017 WITH LOCAL ARTISTS SUBMITTING THEIR UNSIGNED WORKS FOR A PUBLIC AND JUDGES CATEGORY VOTE. ONE OF THE LUCKY TWO WINNERS WAS THIS GUY, BENN ALLSOP, WHO WON THE PUBLIC VOTE. BASICALLY, HE KNOWS HOW TO WRITE A SONG AND PEOPLE LIKE HIM.

I sat down with Benn one Friday afternoon for a cold beverage and a chat. It is always hard to tell if you will hit it off with someone you’ve either never met or only really spoken to over the internet or phone, but the conversation was flowing, probably a new record interview for me. You are going to want to check this talent out after reading this, I promise you.  

Normally my first question to most people is if you are at a party and someone goes, "So, Benn, tell me a bit about yourself." How do you answer a question like that? 

Benn: I go, "Well..." See, that's the kicker. I hate talking about myself in parties and I can't - I hate small talk. I can't stand it for the life of me. But sometimes I'll get in the moods where I'm keen to talk about myself, where I'll say, "Yep, by day I'm a salesman who sells ice-creams and then by night, I'm a musician. Also, an actor." You know, that sort of thing. In a nutshell.

What thing do they then ask you about?

Yeah, but that's what happens. They're like, "Oh, so do you write songs?" I'm like, "Why yes, I do." And then I'm like, "Well, I wrote a song for my wife and I surprised her at our wedding and then Ashton Kutcher shared it." That's usually the welcoming tone in there.

They're like, "Oh, is that on Youtube, mate?" "Yes, it is on YouTube. You go there and..." I tell them the story of how I planned it for a year and she had no idea and then, yeah, I tell them. Why am I - yeah anyway.

I'm working on new music and released a music video for a track that I have bought out. It's the same song as the wedding song, but it's more commercialised, I suppose, if that's the right word - poppy, more adaptable.

how long have you been a song-writer?

I've been writing songs since I was about fifteen and it was only - I've been sort of writing. So, I've got like a bunch of demos that I'm contemplating re-hashing because they never really saw the light of day.

And you know how sometimes - I don't know - you sound like a perfectionist to me as well. Are you a bit of a perfectionist?

No, I'd probably say I am the extreme opposite.

Really? Oh my god. Okay.

Yeah, but I've gone back to look at them and I'm like, "They're actually not bad." And I could re-record them - because no one's ever really heard them. I uploaded them on Soundcloud and things like that, but yeah actually releasing them...

I've been song writing for about fifteen. I got my piano - my nan bought me my piano and then I sort of just taught myself and ran away with it.

Benn Allsop dreamy eyes

 Have you performed that whole time?

No, no.

This is a new phenomenon?

This is new. I was - I mean, I performed but I was more into the theatre. So, I transferred from Singleton High to Broadmeadow and did my last year there and got - my mind was opened. Because I was from the country and, you know, thought I'd move to the big smoke.

Yes, it opened my mind to what's out there and what's - there's other people like me, whereas I felt like I was just...

Talking about Paris Grace…
- She’s a pretty inspiring young woman.
Yeah, still only sixteen and it’s just like - she’s got the mind of our age. She’ll have moments where you think, “Okay, yeah you’re sixteen.
— Benn Allsop

You won the inaugural tip jar song comp last year with the public vote. I feel like you worked incredibly hard to win that.

Thank you and, yeah, I did. And that also comes with my - trying to understand myself as a brand and promoting that sort of thing. I'm trying - I feel like I'm getting there with the - there's borderline annoying and there's 'okay'. So, you’ve always got to keep it fresh.

Did you really want it?

Yeah, that's another thing too. It was just like I believe in this song that much because, for me, that was my - and this will be - my follow up to the wedding song. And again, it was driven by a place of truth and I was proud of it. I was happy with it which is a big thing...

... for a perfectionist.

That's right. And it was just I knew - and everything fell in place. Once I entered it, I was like, "Okay, shit's about to get real."

Who inspires you? What's your musical...?

One of my friends in high school introduced me to Ben Folds. Please tell me you know Ben Folds.

Of course.

Oh, thank god because it's getting - as time goes by, it's getting less - he's got those hard-core fans.

Anyway, one of my friends introduced me and I was sort of reluctant. She was into Triple J and that sort of thing. I was like, "Oh, Triple J? Okay, show me Ben Folds." I was just instant - just fell in love with the piano, with everything that he did. And that was that instinct when I was fifteen, I was like, "Mum, I want a piano." And she was like, "Oh, really?" I'm like, "Yeah, yeah." Anyway, my Nan adored me and she said, "Look, I'll buy you a piano."

I taught myself just by listening to him and trying to just - listening and pressing the right keys. From then on there, it's just sort of grown and I feel I'm capable of playing.

Yeah, Ben Folds and then also Bjork. I know, it's very weird. Obviously, Beatles, they're always in the back - they were part of my growing up. It was Ben Folds, the Beatles, Bjork because she was just weird. And she still is – experimentalist. 

Professional Benn Allsop

These days it's all about the live show. It's like where is your fan base going to go?

That's it. I think that's where I'm heading, to actually start playing live. I think the Darby Street Live taught me a lot of things because that was my first time performing as myself. Because I've always been under a mask of face paint and things like that.

You've just got to make it happen.

You do.

Benn had some brilliant stories, honestly, too many great ones to fit into this article. Maybe I’ll put it in the online version? Either way, check him out online at www.bennallsop.com @BennAllsopMusic and check out his new single with video clip below.