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Ben Lee: lives, laughs, learns

It’s been a busy year for Ben Lee, however he’s taking it all in his stride. Having recently turned 30, he’s continuing to forge forward, inspiring all that cross his path. The 2008 ARIA award nominee (Best Independent Release/Best Original Soundtrack), has come along way from his previous angsty years of Breathing Tornadoes to his latest album full of -for the want of a better and less lame expression, – œlove and happiness’ in Ripe.

He comes across bashfully humble and wise as he discusses his experience touring down-under earlier this year with American sweetheart, Mandy Moore.

”(It) was great, I mean, for me,” he explained. “Being around sweet people is a big plus in touring if you put the right group together. I’m pretty lucky – œcause if I get to headline, I get to hand pick who comes – like from what band to what band. It’s just like creating an atmosphere that’s kinda… nice… Like when you’re 21 and when you’re out on tour it’s just like putting the biggest party together… But as I get older, it’s more about how I’m just genuinely enjoy my time and find great people to go out to have dinner with! (laughs).”

From one songstress to another, he teamed up with post-Home and Away starlet Jessica Chapnik in the compilation soundtrack for the Australian movie The Square which is also up for an ARIA award. Lee took on a different role in this as he played pure producer, having Chapnik taking lead on the vocals throughout the whole album.

“Well, it’s the first time I ever did something with the mood and the tone of it… wasn’t dictated by me.” He paused. He reflected on his own experiences in saying, “If I’m making an album and I might go in and go – œOkay, I want it to feel like this’, but then I come up with a song that changes that, then I’m like – œCool! Well it’s okay, I still like that song.’ But with this, I really need to support the atmosphere of the film. That was really important.” He says. “That was the biggest challenge then it was just deciding that we were just going to make this record with a melancholy, yearning, romantic theme to it and Jessie’s (Chapnik) voice is exceptional… The cool thing about this period of my career is about trying new things just getting with opportunities to learn a lot.”

Having asked about the upcoming ARIA awards, Lee’s response was almost philosophical; “I don’t really think I’m going to win, …but that’s fine, …Am I excited? Not particularly. I try and not get too involved in the psychology of those kinda things. It’s lovely if you win an award or have a number one record, but I find my healthiest experience in life is when I’m focused on the thing that I’m making at that time.” He good humouredly described the awards process like a catch 22, claiming, “No good can come out if it! All that can come out of it is that you get a big ego or get horribly depressed.”

Lee returns to Perth later next month with local Bob Evans, The Cruel Sea and Kate Miller-Heike for Escape to the Park. He described his anticipation, saying that it was a – œgreat bill’ as in previous festivals he was stuck between a screaming – œdeath metal band and punk rock band.’ He laughed as he commented in saying that it was – œoverwhelming’ approaching a crowd that wasn’t accustomed to his genre in music. One can imagine him standing meekly against a crowd of hard rockers with only his light acoustic guitar in hand – what a brave soul.

To be compared to other successful independent artists like John Butler Trio and The Waifs, Lee ended on a high note, as he spreads advice to ambitious music artists in saying “Do your thing. One of the biggest lies that people will tell you is that there is only one way to success and that there is one type of success and there isn’t. We each define what success is our self.”

You can catch Ben Lee on Escape to the Park, 29th November, 2008 at Kings Park and Botanic Gardens, Perth. Tickets are available now through Fasterlouder or ticketmaster.com.au.

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