Interview & Photos by: Orchee Sorker | May 4, 2022
Phoenix-born, LA-based pop singer-songwriter, Alec Benjamin, sits down with Hazze Media to talk about his ongoing North American spring tour, first-time experience of performing at Coachella, new album (Un)commentary, learning Mandarin and wisdom about pursuing your passions.
Benjamin chats with Orchee Sorker (Hazze Media Director of Press & Team Photographer) before his performance at The Pageant St. Louis, Missouri on April 30, 2022. Check out full set photos below!
Q: Hi, how are you doing today and how has the tour been?
AB: I'm good! Tour has been really great! It's been weird. Normally, we rehearse at a rehearsal studio. Then, the bus shows up. and picks us up and takes us to the first destination. But, we didn't have a bus for the first two weeks because we did Coachella after the first two shows...where we were flying for those shows. So, it didn't feel like the traditional start of tour. It's been a weird tour, but it's been great.
Q: You're halfway through the North American tour. What has been your favorite moment?
AB: I'd have to say the meet-and-greets have been really fun. It's nice to see people. It felt like everything was going back to normal. When I did the last North American tour, you know before everything closed down again. Just having the opportunity to perform for people again and do meet-and-greets and just get like face to face with people that you don't have to wear a mask for everything.
Q: "For this album (Un)Commentary...how did your creative process differ from your writing in Narrated For You and These Two Windows? Why is it called "un" commentary?"
AB: Well, the creative process was different just because it was immediate during the pandemic. It was very solitary. It mostly in my house and when I collaborated with people it would be via zoom and FaceTime. So that was, that was different. The things that I was inspired by were different because with such an unprecedented time and everybody was like locking their house. I was watching a lot of the news and kind of like reflecting on what was going on in the world. I used the album to journal my feelings about what was going on. I didn't necessarily feel like I had to tell a story because I felt like the story that was taking place in the news media and in the world at large was just so crazy that I kind of just wanted to make the album my own commentary on. The stories and things that were unfolding.
It was just supposed to be like "uncommon commentary". I was maybe talking about things that people were reluctant to talk about. You know, just told from my point of view, which I feel is unique because every person is unique and seeing it as individual.
Q: My new favorite songs would be “Shadow of Mine” and “Devil Doesn’t Bargain”. You use a lot of metaphors when you’re storytelling. Was this a technique you practiced over the years of writing or does it come naturally?
AB: I think some of it comes naturally and some of it needs practice. I try to find parallels between things that don't necessarily appear related at first glance. Then, I use that in my songwriting as a tool to get my point across. I think some of it comes naturally. I feel like sometimes I see parallels between things that maybe other, other people don't necessarily see. I think that makes my songwriting unique.
Q: The month of May is "Asian/Pacific American Heritage" month. Going back to when you recorded “Let Me Down Slowly” & “Water Fountain” in Mandarin, what inspired you to learn Chinese? What aspects of the Asian culture do you admire?
AB: Growing up, I'd been indirectly inspired by like Asian culture in a lot of different ways.
My dad is a medical doctor, but he also practices integrative medicine, which is like some medicine from the East, like acupuncture and stuff. My first exposure to East Asian culture was doing a Chinese form of karate. Some of that influenced me to learn the language. A lot of the things that we learn in karate were written out in Chinese characters and maybe that inspired me. Ultimately, I think the West has in large part discounted and ignored the East, and I think that's a shame because there's a lot to be learned from some of the longest lasting cultures in history.
Q: This was your first time at Coachella. What was the experience like being a part of this massive festival? For you, what is your opinion and experience of the Coachell