South Carolina-raised, California-based artist Ben Bostick spent years pursuing various endeavors, from working on a ranch to attending film school, before exploring his passion as a songwriter and musician. Finding success busking on the Santa Monica Pier, Bostick teamed with John Would (Warren Zevon, Fiona Apple) for his first full-length album of ‘outsider country’ due July 7th. In advance of the release, Bostick took the time to speak about his incredibly diverse roots, the album, and more.
It seems you had quite a varied and interesting life before settling into place as a singer-songwriter and musician.
My life is sort of complex. I was born in Beaufort [South Carolina] then moved to Minnesota and North Carolina before moving back to South Carolina, where I graduated high school. I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, so I went to college at USC and realized that nothing in my life had changed and I needed to get out [of South Carolina]. So, this small-town kid applied to NYU on a whim, got in, went and graduated with an English degree. After that I worked on a ranch in Nevada, really just me and a lot of cows, which was pretty lonesome, so I moved to Seattle where I wrote for The Stranger. Eventually, I moved to L.A., did some film loading and applied to film school in Paris - which was just a disaster. The school wasn’t great, and there was a metro strike at the time, so the city really shut down for two months. However, I met another American student there, and we wrote a feature film, dropped out of school, and came back to New York where I worked in the film industry. Then, I found myself back in the trap of wondering what exactly I’m doing with my life, so I left New York for L.A. and joined my buddy in a band.
Ever since I was twelve, including all the time I was doing those other things, I played and wrote music, so I got back to writing songs, playing guitar, and playing in a band. One day I had my iTunes on random, and the bass player asked 'Who is singing on this track?' and it turned out it was me on an old demo of “Independence Day Eve." I told him I had a bunch of songs like that in a drawer at home and he suggested that we started playing stuff like that and so we began doing country gigs, which was where I started fifteen years before. Until two years ago, I didn’t have any idea I would be making a living as a musician. It all came full circle after a lot of stuff in between.
Wow, definitely talk about coming full circle. So, even though you had various life experiences, the music was a constant that was there all along.
Music has always been my passion, that one thing you do to escape...and because you love it. The fact I could make money from it was not really a thought because everybody knows the music industry is in a shitty place with not enough money to go around. I lucked out by finding the Pier to make a living, sell my CDs, and meet people. If I didn’t find the pier and start playing country music, I probably would not be talking with you today.
Did your experiences on the pier play a large part into your releasing the new album, which was produced by John Would?
I did a five-song EP, My Country, that came out early 2016. I saved up a couple thousand bucks, went into the studio for a day, and just did it. I sent it out myself and got a few reviews, and then things starting picking up on the pier, so I decided to go whole hog and concentrate on making this thing happen for real. I hooked up with John Would through an artist called Pony Boy, a Nashville-based singer-songwriter who does swampy cinematic country. When I learned about John, I found out that he played guitar for Warren Zevon and engineered Fiona Apple’s latest record, which was a favorite of mine, and we met, I knew in thirty seconds that working with him would be awesome. I had a small budget, and he just had the best attitude. He told me that ‘It’s not all about the money, let’s just see what happens’ which was exactly what I was looking for.
The album contains ten tracks. Did you write them all and if so where did you draw from?
As someone who majored in creative writing and poetry, I’ve always written - and I wrote everything on this album. Some of the songs are fictional, but all come from an emotionally honest place. I think when writing you have to be able to channel any fiction truthfully to best fully express it and to get across a feeling to the listener.
The songs on the record definitely make you feel something. One of my favorites is “Paper Football.” Can you share the story behind that song?
I changed the details, but the song is a 90% true story about the first girl I ever fell in love with. Ten years had passed since I had seen or spoken to her, and then I found out she killed herself - and I did not know what to do with that information. This song was the song written most closely to recording the album, but it also took me the longest to write. It took me months of working on it daily to find a way to write it without making it about me.
It’s an incredibly touching track.
You follow that one up with a pretty humorous one, “The Juggler.”
I didn’t want things to be too macabre. With the vinyl, “Paper Football” ends side one and then you flip it to side two and have the “The Juggler”, making the transition less abrasive.
There's a nice emotional balance.
Why did you choose to bookend the album with “Independence Day Eve” and “Erin Is Blue”?
I really wanted to start off one way and then have it become this big, different record by the end. When you listen to Born to Run, the first song begins with piano and the last ends with that charging wall of sound, and that’s the effect I wanted here - where you ease into something, and by the end, you have this epic experience. With “Erin Is Blue," I had the idea for this insane ending with the sense that my sound could go even further on the next record, so that’s why I have this gigantic Iggy Pop raw electric guitar in the end. It’s a taste of what’s yet to come. I mean, I’m not going to record an Iggy Pop album, but the sound will be different.
To me, your sound could fit under the Americana umbrella, but you call it ‘outsider country.’
The problem today is that there are so many labels for non-mainstream Country, I feel like I’m in muddy water again. The reason I coined it, erroneously or not, is because I feel like if I call myself Country, people will think of Florida Georgia Line; while Outlaw Country, with Waylon and Willie, is to me, more of a historical movement, while Alt-Country has its own set of conditions. Basically, I coined the term to say that I don’t fit in.
Something tells me you'll find your fit.
Switching things up and ending on a different note, do you have a current guilty pleasure song?
This artist LEON has this song called “Tired of Talking.” It’s catchy Swedish pop.
For more information visit his official website
Find him on Facebook and Instagram
Purchase the album HERE