Newly signed to the Secretly Canadian label (War on Drugs, Antony and The Johnsons), Ben Abraham releases his debut album, Sirens, on 4th March. The album is preceded by a single, You & Me, which was debuted by Beats 1’s Zane Lowe last week, and will be accompanied by UK dates including his first London headline show, at Servants Jazz Quarter on Monday 7th March.
In contrast to its ethereal title, Sirens is deeply human. Its songs were written over the Melbourne-based artist’s developing years as a writer and the album has become a kind of musical documentary of the loss, longing and growth that carried Abraham from his very first lyric to this, his first long-player.
Ben Abraham first found his voice writing songs whilst working in a hospital. He began writing “a half song” about his role, which he played to a sick teenager, encouraging her to write a second verse. When the song was finished and news got out, he was asked to perform it at fundraisers. “That’s when I knew music really could be something: it didn’t have to be whatever I thought it was before.”
Eight years on, he’s made an album, toured with Emmylou Harris, co-written with Grammy-nominated singer Sarah Barreilles and made Sirens, his debut album. Originally self-released in Australia, Sirens is now receiving a worldwide release via Secretly Canadian.
His parents’ previous careers as Indonesian folk-pop stars had an influence –
“They were huge in Asia! They had such strong harmonies and melodies, and cheesy, literal lyrics. They don’t do irony there, but once you’ve surrendered, it’s quite beautiful. I write earnest lyrics too, but that’s where I was when I wrote these songs. And maybe people are responding because they want something honest and spiritual, because so much pop culture explores destruction.”
He recorded Sirens with two local friends, Jono Steer (who was his live mixer) and percussionist Leigh Fisher. A number of other Melbourne musicians joined in on sessions, including Gossling, whose angelic voice can be heard in the opening track. Gotye helped produce the haunting vocals on ‘Speak’, while “experimental electronic producer” Tim Shiel assisted on This Is On Me.
This Is On Me, co-written/sung with Sara Bareilles, has its own story. “I’d found Sara back in the old MySpace days. She’s a great singer and songwriter, but what connected me the most to her was her lack of pretence – she wrote this sprawling, personal biography for herself, as I’d also done, and she was trying to find way through on her own, like me. But how best to get her attention? So I posted a song [To Sara, From Ben] on You Tube.”
Bareilles’ fans began to Tweet the video and it grabbed her attention. When she played Melbourne in 2011, she invited Abraham up on stage (they co-sang a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s I’m On Fire), and an original co-write was subsequently born. This Is On Me is a fictional tale of a couple “who both know their relationship is over, but both are taking responsibility for it.” By the time it was recorded, Abraham had split with his girlfriend: “The song became, word for word, a scarily accurate story of what actually happened.”
Abraham plans to tour solo (on guitar, ukulele, piano and harmonium), as he ventures outside of Australia to seduce the world with his songs, stories and charm. The sirens are calling you his way….
Ben Abraham UK Dates
Mon 7th MARCH LONDON, SERVANTS JAZZ QUARTER
Tue 8th BRISTOL, The Old Bookshop (instore show)
Tue 8th BRISTOL, The Gallimaufry
Wed 9th GLASGOW, The Hug & Pint
Thu 10th MANCHESTER, The Castle Hotel
Fri 11th BRIGHTON, The Latest Music Bar
- I Belong To You
- You And Me
- To Love Someone
- This Is On Me (feat. Sara Bareilles)
- Somebody’s Mother
- A Quiet Prayer