Never judge a book by its cover – a wise, old saying that we might actually adopt on BEN CAPLAN. His visual attendance that’s a bit like a lonely-island Kurt Wagner should not distract from his music. And this music is definitely not the music of weird bearded hillbilly man – it’s the music of a talented musician full of ideas and stories. And it’s musical output stretches between gypsy music, country, soul, folk and a little bit of whisky-soaked blues. But he always stay true, he always takes the listener deep with him – into the very heart of the melancholic stories from his 2011 debut In The Time Of The Great Remembering . A songwriter as pure and honest as a songwriter can be. And although the man is often on the rorad with his band THE CASUAL SMOKERS we managed to widness CAPLAN on one of his rare recent solo performances in Berlin. The great gig was followed by a lovely chat with the man from Hallifax in Canada.
Hi Ben! It was great seeing you in Berlin earlier on! Thank you for such a great show, which we haven’t expected to be so extremely warm and intense when we saw only one guy on stage. So, normally your outfit is called BEN CAPLAN & THE CASUAL SMOKERS. Would you kindly tell us where have they been and why you decided to play alone that night?
Thank you so much! I had a fun time in Berlin. I love playing with The Casual Smokers on stage with me, but it is not always possible when I am so far from home. The musicians who play in The Casual Smokers sometimes change around based on who is available and when. When it is not possible to have them with me, I gladly take the opportunity to play solo. I love having the chance to have the audience all to myself sometimes. My touring is split about half and half between solo and having the band behind me.
You released a really good record last year, “In The Time Of The Great Remembering”. It is hard to believe that this is your debut album. Your appearance in music and as a person on stage feels genuine. So what was your very own story in music so far?
I was always very musical as a child. I was always walking around singing – the usual cliché (laughs). When I was still young I began to direct this energy towards the theatre. As I grew older I started playing guitar and writing songs, and music and songwriting slowly took up more and more of my life until it swallowed almost everything else.
What kind of “music atmosphere” do you have in Halifax?
The music scene in Halifax is really beautiful. It is a very supportive community and it constantly produces interesting artists. Halifax is the largest city on the East Coast of Canada, and a such, it acts as a magnet for talented and interesting artists. Especially those who prefer to avoid larger and more chaotic and impersonal places like Toronto and Montreal. There’s a weekly “Open Mic” that happens in my living room, in my house in Halifax, when I am there and when I am gone. It has been running for almost four years (200+ consecutive weeks!) and that provides an interesting breeding ground for inspiration and collaboration. Usually well over 50 people show up to listen and perform. There are some good venues in Halifax, but this is my favourite part of the Halifax “music atmosphere.”
You just kind of finished your tour through Europe, mainly Germany, this September. Could you name some highlights and lowlights (if there have been any) for us?
Actually my tour is still not done yet! I have been on the road since you saw me, and I am writing to you now from Oslo where I am doing a recording session with Norwegian band KATZENJAMMER. After that I will play some shows in Norway and then 10 dates around the UK. So far, the highlight has been playing the Dutch festival “Into the Great Wide Open.” It’s a festival on an island called Vlieland off the coast of the Netherlands. I was with my band, and we played a long set on a little stage in the middle of the forest. The forest was packed with enthusiastic listeners squished in amongst the trees. It was a magical moment, and the whole festival was beautiful. As for lowlights, there have not been too many. There was one gig in Belgium where we discovered after the gig that we did not have proper places to sleep. I love my job, but it’s important to get a good night’s sleep!
And it was not your first time at the Reeperbahn Festival. I suppose your first stay there was pretty good too, then!? Well, probably good enough to return! What do you like about this festival?
Reeperbahn is a unique festival in being a wonderful treat for the artists, the industry, and the fans alike. Most festivals are able to create a good vibe for one or two, but Reeperbahn nails all three. It is a great place to play, a great place to see shows, and a great place to do business. I was honoured to have a sold out show this year. I will be hoping to come back to play next year!
“Hope” and “passion” don’t seem to be foreign words for you. What exactly do they mean to you – as a person and as a musician?
Hope and Passion are important words for me. These are the words I live for. It is hope that keeps us burning and yearning from one day to the next, and passion that makes it interesting and worthwhile. I think that it is these two things more than anything else that make life worth living. The beauty of it is that each person is able to determine their own sources and outlets for these vital forces: hope and passion. For me, the objects of my striving are raw and honest emotional and intellectual expression, and community focused living. These are the things I hope for, and passionately strive towards.
What is next for you, Ben? Do you already prepare another powerful, catchy and emotionally credible album for us?
I am working on my next album all the time. Scrawling words in my notebook while I am travelling, or practising and writing music whenever I have a day or two off. Starting in the middle of November, I will take some time off the road to get focused on my next record. Many of the songs are already complete, they only remain to be captured. If all goes well, you should expect a new release within the next year.
Whatever you’ll do: Good luck to you! Do you have some other nice and/or important words for us?
Thank you! My important words? I’d say take chances, and never be afraid to scream into the abyss.
from Halifax, Canada