Q&A: Ben Howard on beaches, surfing and too much whisky
Singer-songwriter Ben Howard isn’t just making waves as a hotly-tipped newcomer on the British folk scene. In between radio, TV and festival appearances this summer, the Devon-lad (a surfer since the age of 11) has been playing a series of intimate gigs on beaches around the UK for volunteers keeping Britain’s shores clean and ‘barefoot friendly’. Sounds idyllic – but Ben says playing gigs by the seaside isn’t always a breeze…
You launched your EP, Old Pine, at the wonderfully-named Lusty Glaze Beach near Newquay in June. What’s it like to play such an important gig on a beach?
That was a wild place to play. We had a few technical issues – actually, to be honest, all sorts of things went wrong. Turns out it’s a technical and logistical nightmare to play big gigs on a beach. But we got through, it was a lot of fun too and we were blown away by the response.
Was it daunting to follow that gig with several more beach dates?
The beach-cleaning events are less intimidating because they’re a lot smaller. We did a gig in Scotland at the beginning of summer for Surfers Against Sewage in this really remote area, which were a lot of fun. It wasn’t as much of a battle against the elements – we had a little jam afterwards and drank so much whisky it wasn’t even funny.
Old Pine was partly inspired by a surf trip to France – is the coast a big inspiration for your music?
Yes, but I wouldn’t say it’s essential to keep the two closely connected. To be able to get into the sea after I’ve played a gig makes touring a lot more fun, and it’s a welcome change from cities. As clichéd as it might sound, that experience is important to me. That’s why playing the beach clean gigs was an obvious ‘yes’ for me. I’ve been involved with Surfers Against Sewage for a while. It’s nice to be able to raise awareness about something that means a lot to me – that’s a bit bigger than myself. The guys at SAS work hard to improve water conditions in the UK and it’s great to be able to get behind that. It’s a cool cause. When I’m not playing music I’m always in the sea. It sounds geeky, but I guess you might call me a ‘keen surfer’.
What are you up to for the rest of the year?
I’ve got loads of stuff planned. I’m looking forward to Bestival – that’s going to be a roar. I just want to keep busy playing music – that’s the only plan.
Ben plays his last gig for the Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue Tour at Whitley Bay, North Tyneside on 26 August 2011. For info and details of more beach-cleaning events visit Surfers Against Sewage: www.sas.co.ukTagged in: Arts, beach, ben howard, music
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