Hello there and welcome to the blog of london based singer songwriter Ben Hemming. Firstly I’d like to apologise for not being in touch for awhile, if I’m being honest most of it is down to plain laziness but in my defence I have just come back from a little tour of the U.S. so that counts for something right?
it all started off in New York, a city I loved so much the first time I was there I had to have a return visit. The second time around I saw a little more of the cities darker underbelly, but all that aside I played an amazing gig at Mic Club in the basement of Lucky Jacks in Manhattan. The audience’s reaction to my tunes was truly epic and I’ll never forget the warm welcome the rest of the performers gave me, and that of the brilliant host.
After that I moved on to Nashville were I discovered a totally different side of the U.S. I rocked up to Jack White’s recording studio, Third Man Records, and in the studio’s shop recording booth, recorded in one take my track ‘The Old Country’ straight to vinyl. Listening to it back on the shops record player was a massive inspiration to the vintage sound I’m trying to create on my next E.P. ‘Cigarette Blues’ but more about that later. The rest of my visit to the city was a bit of a let down and in the end I became a bit disillusioned with the sheer number of musicians in the town, all struggling for slots to play in the cities already over crowed music scene. I eventually got to play at The Row, before putting the experience behind me and moving on to the next town.
Memphis was more of a reflective stop, paying a visit to the home of the king, Elvis’s Graceland. For me it was like a cautionary tail on the pit falls of fame, seeing documented in photography and film, a young man catapulted into the spot light in his teen’s and then his demise through drugs and excess and enviable death. This made painfully literal with his grave that stands in the houses grounds. This was also the home of the blues and it was great to see Sun Studio’s were the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and Elvis recorded. I played an enjoyable gig at the intimate Java Cabana Cafe to a welcoming full house.
After Memphis came New Orleans, were I must admit things got a little crazy. Somewhere in between the drunken nights out, and tails of debauchery I managed to play three gigs, each as awesome as the next; The Hard Rock cafe right in the heart of Bourbon Street, The Rusty Nail, a great local watering hole and dive bar, and a unforgettable night at the Neutral Ground cafe which I can’t go into here. I also managed to pick up my most treasured souvenir of the trip, a cigar box guitar, in which I wrote the title track to a new E.P. ‘Cigarette Blues’ the recording of which I’m taking a quick break from to write this.
It was then on to LA which is probably the strangest place I’ve ever been too and a gig at The Pig and Whistle on Hollywood Boulevard. The gig was memorable less for my performance but more for the bizarreness of the acts that followed. Safe to say it was time for a quick exit into the Hollywood night. I played another set at the Tribal Cafe before spending the rest of my time relaxing on venice beach and recovering from the excesses of New Orleans.
For my last stretch of the trip I payed a visit to San Francisco, and at this point home sickness and weariness of the road was starting to kick in. But putting that aside I was able to take in the sights of the city, namely the home of the beat writers of the 50’s and 60’s, a major influence on the lyrical side of my songwriting. I finished the tour with another intimate gig at the coffee shop Cafe Bazaar. Then there was nothing more to do than pawn the Fender acoustic I’d picked up for the tour, pack my bags, and hit the bars of San Francisco for one last time before the long flight home.