A Renaissance Man of Modern Music: Ben Stitt Releases his Debut EP and Composes on the Upcoming Documentary “A Murder in Plymouth”
In June Ben Stitt released his debut EP “Dawn of My Days,” a soothing and melancholic succession of ambient songs that deliver a cathartic feeling of hope rising from loss.
With his unique style and the breadth of his musical talents shining through on the EP, Ben not only sings and plays all of the guitar and piano parts on the EP, but he wrote and self-recorded it as well. “Dawn of My Days” has earned extensive praise across the internet with A&R Factory comparing Ben’s work to that of beloved slowdive bands My Bloody Valentine, Warpaint and London Grammar.
“I had a very clear vision of how I wanted the EP to sound and feel but ultimately, achieving that sound was made possible through a lot of experimentation and also unconventional techniques, it was not recorded in a big studio with a lot of gear,” Ben explains.
“Mostly I just sat in my room with one microphone, an interface and my guitars and just recorded and created layer upon layer, mixed in with that were found sounds and sound snippets such as the subway train in Boston, a thunderstorm in Cambria, CA, birds in front of my window, a wind-chime in LA and many more.”
The song ‘Fade,’ which happens to be Ben’s favorite track off the EP, was recently included on Alex Rainbird’s Indie Folk Autumn Compilation Mix, which was released last week and has already garnered more than 100k views on YouTube.
‘Fade’ was also chosen as a favorite by Indie Pop-Ups, which included Ben’s EP in their Weekly Roundup in June, and Ear To The Ground, which included the track on their Tuesday Top 5: Tracks For You Week, writes: The deliberate style of Stitt is rare to find. He is an artist who knows the perfect amount of restraint while building toward a sound that will punch your soul in the best of ways… His heart shines through the folk sound, and the final product is something that will outlast us all.
“I hope the music evokes a feeling of hopeful melancholy in the listener, which I know sounds like a weird contrast and conflict but that’s exactly how I feel when I listen to some of my favourite artist and songs and it’s also the mood I had in mind when I was writing these songs,” Ben explains.
“It’s this feeling when you kinda get lost in some old memories but with no intention of changing anything in your past because you know it led you to where you are now.”
Growing up in Potsdam, Germany, right outside of Berlin, Ben Stitt began his musical journey at the age of 10 when he began playing drums, but it wasn’t until the age of 14 when he began playing the guitar on a more serious level that he was, as he puts it, ‘hooked’ on music. Devoting himself to the constant evolution of his artistry, Ben has made massive strides over the past decade that have led him to develop the unique sound we hear on the new EP.
“When I first listened to his songs which were in various states of completion I was immediately excited because they were so good… all of the songs had a stylistic common thread, which makes his EP one continuous, seamless piece of art,” says Alex Winter, the co-producer and mixing engineer on Ben’s EP. “He put so much time and patience into his project, which allowed it to grow naturally and without force.”
Ben began his career as the guitarist and founding member of Berlin-based bands “Funky Frank Ferbindung” and “Los Salmones Arridos.” The musical foundation he established through years of self-practice and playing in bands has taken him to a new level, one that has allowed him to take risks and experiment with new ways of recording and really hone in on his personal style.
About his EP, Ben says, “I would say it’s more of a conceptual EP, that I tried to write and structure like a short play or movie. With an Intro, the first act, interlude, second act and the Outro, all the songs seamlessly transition into each other. I was trying to create a colourful space and atmosphere around the songs that represents the mood of the EP.”
He clearly nailed what he was aiming for — it’s easy to see from the first listen how the EP would make a fantastic score for an ethereal love story or a tearjerker like the 2014 hit “The Fault in Our Stars.”
From the recorded elements of the wind chimes’ subtle pinging to the birds outside of his window and the multitude of others present in his EP, Ben’s finesse and creativity in terms of searching out the perfect sounds to record and layer into the music is immediately apparent. His unique and highly-attuned ear has gained notice outside of his solo work as an artist as well. In fact, that is exactly what led him to be brought on board as the sound designer of the album “Prayer” released by Aliya Cycon Project last year.
“I mainly added, composed and designed ambient textures and pads on a couple of her songs that helped to create a space, a layer and a sound around the songs, making them feel, as she put it so nicely, more ‘airy’ and ‘eternal’,” says Ben about his work on the album.
A multi-talented musician, composer and producer in his own right, Ben’s far-reaching talents have led him to be tapped for a pretty wide range of projects over the last few years that make us wonder how he has time for it all. In addition to working on his own EP and Aliya Cycon Project, he was also brought on to add some additional scoring to the film “Brother,” and last year he produced the song ‘You Won’t Find Me’ off the artist ISAAC’s EP “Gateway.”
Ben says, “I started producing for other people mainly because they heard one of my songs or one of my pieces and went, ‘hey, I love that song and your sound, do you think you could help me incorporated your style and add that sound to my music?’.”
Next to “Dawn of My Days,” one of Ben’s most important recent undertakings is coming on as the co-composer of the upcoming documentary “A Murder In Plymouth” from Emmy Award winning filmmaker John MacGibbon (“Frontline/World,” “Frontline”). The film, which is expected to be released by Netflix or HBO, though still too early to confirm, centers on a murder case that occurred in Plymouth, MA where a 20-year-old male with mental health issues stabbed his 64-year-old neighbor to death before jumping off of a bridge and committing suicide.
The highly anticipated documentary sheds light on flaws in the way the case was handled, poses questions over why the young man was not properly treated for his mental health issues, which were known to authorities prior to the murder, and dives into how tragedies like this can be avoided in the future.
“Since its a rather dark and serious documentary I’m always trying to not overpower the story and the visuals of the scene. There is a lot of narration and interviews going on and especially in those sections it’s important to just underline the general mood and not distract from what is talked about in the scene,” explains Ben.
“It definitely takes a lot of stepping back as a composer, it’s a really thin line, trying to make it minimalistic but at the same time not boring and bland.”
Ben is composing the score for the film alongside William Declan Lucey, who toured alongside REM, Sheryl Crow, David Gray, Counting Crows, Bush and Blur as a member of the popular 90s band Rubyhorse.
“I think both of us have a very similar taste and idea of where we want to take the music and how we want the music to add to the picture. Each cue usually starts with one of us starting a session and a rough idea, some more fleshed out some really just bare bone chords. From there we tend to just send the session back and forth and each add a little idea and our sound,” says Ben.
“I think it’s a great workflow, because as soon as one of us hits a wall with a piece or gets stuck on an idea we just send it over to the other person and they take it from there. It almost never happens that we get stuck on a scene or a piece because you can always send it over to the other person and they can listen to it with a pair of fresh ears and a head full of new ideas. I really love this collaboration.”
A true renaissance man of modern music, Ben Stitt has clearly found the right avenues to utilize his talents as producer, composer and artist. In addition to wrapping up his work as a composer on the documentary “A Murder In Plymouth,” Ben is slated to begin the sound design on Aliya Cycon Project’s new album early next year. He also just finished shooting a music video for his song ‘Fade,’ which is expected to drop next month, as well as several piano pieces that he is slated to record in Berlin that will be released in November.