The Soul Notes is an interview series showcasing wonderful people who have found inspired happiness through either their work, hobby or lifestyle. Be inspired…..
Today on Soul Notes we are catching up with beloved front man of the band BENJALU and newly emerging powerhouse BOO SEEKA - Ben Gumbleton.
With a smile as big as his music passion, Ben has been delighting listeners’ ears since high school. Calling the Newcastle suburb of Dudley home, Ben has worked incredibly hard to see his music career begin receiving the acclaim it deserves. Along with his remarkable work ethic, Ben has taken many life lessons to heart creating a happy and inspired lifestyle he loves.
Essentially the troubadour of the band BENJALU, Ben has clocked up well over 800 shows in the last few years in all nooks and cranny’s around the world. Ben just loves touring thus a nomad at heart, he’ll do anything to sing a tune strumming his guitar to friendly faces or performing to sell-out crowds at some of our top entertainment venues.
BENJALU have done it the old fashioned way with heavy touring across Australia. Ben also reached Canada in 2012, for a solo tour supporting Kim Churchill and a showcase spot on NXNE gaining him industry attention and loads of Canadian fans. 2014 saw a whirlwind tour of Germany, Holland and Belgium with a gruelling 40 gigs in 30 days.
BENJALU have released two EP’s – The Battle, produced by Tom Powles (The Church) and most recently, Boondoggle, co-produced by Neal Hunt and Ian Pritchett (The Beautiful Girls). Both EP’s were released independently and distributed nationally via MGM distribution to eagerly awaiting fans. A growing fan base has caught Ben front lining the band at some of Australia’s top festivals including Big Day Out, Byron Bay Blues Festival, Festival of the Sun, Woodford, Peats Ridge and Nannup.
BENJALU’s shows and recordings are the collaboration of fresh sea spray, the sun and the sand with a good dose of psych and melody. Their recordings on the other hand reveal honest lyrics and a knack for harmonies and savvy guitar licks.
Ben’s latest project is the newly launched and gaining incredible momentum - BOO SEEKA.
Described by Triple J: This hip-hop-psych-soul/dream-tronica project started life as an outlet for a couple of musical experiments, a kind of soul petrie dish, a testing ground for new sounds. And it's growing, fast. The duo have released their first single 'Kingdom Leader’. A song that drips sexual foreplay. Builds and builds and subtly massages the soul. A combination of pulsating synth sounds that bed down layered textures of electronic bass and percussive beats. The sonic stimulations throughout the track enthral, and asks you to delve deeper with every second of the song.
BOO SEEKA’s debut single reached number 6 on the Australian ITunes charts and radio airplay not only heard here in Australia but also in the UK, Europe, New Zealand and Japan. Just finishing a national sell out tour with Kim Churchill, Ben has returned home for a few days of rest where we had the opportunity to talk happiness.
You have been so busy over the last few years with your career. How do you keep a happy mindset and why?
I am definitely happiest when I am doing something or when I have a goal for the day. Whether it’s something to do with my career or just getting up in the day and doing something.
The less time I’m sitting around doing nothing, I am happier. If I sit too long on the lounge then I start to think about the negatives, but if I am in the ocean surfing, playing music, hanging out with friends or eating great food then my mind focuses on better things.
This mindset came from a book suggested by my best mate Kim (Kim Churchill) called Practicing the Power of Now.
I read this book on the plane over to Canada (we were doing the Canadian tour for a few months) and ever since I read this book it changed my whole perspective on how to look at life. The book teaches that, for example sitting here doing this interview, you shut off your mind and concentrate on the moment of now.
When I’m most happy is when I have something to concentrate on.
Is there a particular activity you go to for shifting a negative mood?
I would have to say my guitar. My guitar is my best friend, as cliché as it sounds. I think for any musician, writer (or painter or cook etc.) or really anyone who follows an artistic path – you are drawn there to bleed out the moment… be it happiness sadness or madness.
For me, it’s picking up the guitar and blurting out everything I need to get out in two minutes or five hours – but when I am done I can then move on.
Like many of us out there, you have battled dark days. What has been your biggest challenge in finding happiness?
Actually finding happiness has been my biggest challenge. For a little while there I wasn’t a happy person and again the change came out of music. One line come into my head:
“It can only be you to set your world on fire”. Boo Seeka
This line completely changed my whole outlook. You have all these people around you to guide you or keep you on a straight path; but I think it can only come down to you making certain changes to find your happiness – whatever that is.
I know all the great people around me can open the door and show me the way, but only I can choose to walk through that door.
Seeing other’s around you on a similar path come out the other end really happy, is a great source of motivation. They made changes and have done the work needed.
For me to keep being happy I must do things that make me happy. It’s that simple.
Everyone can tell you what you should be doing but ultimately only you can choose to do things that will make you wake up in the morning and smile.
For me I made that change, I haven’t looked back, and that’s been great.
How do you stay inspired and motivated?
It is a cliché but reading inspirational books definitely helps.
The guys that do Playing for Change are incredible. These guys had a concept of getting different people from all over the world to be part of creating a Bob Marley song. Bob Marley was such an inspirational person, he thought that he could make the world a better place through his music and bringing people together. The singer, a busker from New York, the bass player from Berlin and so on. This wasn’t motivated from financial reasons, they just had an idea to spread the message of Bob Marley, and other great musicians, showing that music can connect people. Now that inspires me!
My best mate Kim motivates me, not only because he likes all the things that I do, but he is doing so well in a career that I love. He is always happy, even if it’s just washing up the dishes. He has a way of making any task, no matter how mundane, enjoyable.
Even other people not in the music industry, are motivating as they are doing things that make them happy. Seeing anyone who is striving to achieve their goal is inspiring to me.
If you have a goal or a path you want to take - you have to be motivated to get there.
With a career in music this also brings with it a certain lifestyle. Do you worry about burnout or lifestyle?
I can, and have made, certain changes to be able to cope with being so busy, wanting to do so many things and being in so many places. Being in a band you definitely have that fun time of staying up late every night and partying.
“Doing all the things with the boys you won’t tell the children about” (a statement made in the Benjalu Bio)
Now I have realised it is all about balance. Its ok to have those late nights, just don’t wreck yourself every night. Being a singer, writer and playing guitar, I have changed my mindset to be more like an athlete. My voice is my tool that I need to hone and take care of with respect.
I was staying up every night to give my all to people who would come to gigs and listen to us play, wanting to spend time talking and partying with us after gigs. It was running me into the ground. I realise now its ok to say no.
Sleep has become so important to me now, back in the day I could run on just two hours, now I rest to get the best out of my voice and performance.
There are certain things you have to sacrifice to get to where you want to be. It’s ok to put yourself first; it’s ok to look after yourself.
You seem to have a strong focus on looking after yourself not only mentally but physically as well?
Eating healthy is a huge thing for me now. Being on the road can have its challenges of driving highways all day and being at airports. Fast food industry and the music industry go hand in hand unfortunately, it can be a lifestyle hole.
I think now for myself, and for the other boys in the band, we just try to get up an extra ten minutes earlier to be able to avoid the easy McDonalds in preference for heading to a grocer for a couple of apples, bread or a healthy sandwich. Your body, your machine, is just not going to work properly if you keep clogging it up.
Surfing and yoga has been inspiring. It can be as easy as getting up and going for a walk or a few sit ups when I first get up. I walk a lot of airports these days which is surprisingly good exercise.
Relaxing is also important to maintain good health.
Who inspires you?
Everybody is an inspiration whether it be for good inspo or bad inspo, in that, I realise this is not the way I want to be.
I’m lucky in the travel I’ve done with my career, that I meet a lot of amazing people. Whether its people that inspire me within my industry or the conversations that spark up in waiting lines for coffee or at a bar in the middle of nowhere. It’s incredible how many songs have come out of talking to a random person for five minutes.
I met a guy after a gig in Albury called Dave, he was saying the most simple of things. Nothing political, just small conversation about the biggest inspiring things in life for me. I went to bed that night smiling realising you don’t have to do huge things in life to feel great, be inspiring or make other people feel amazing. The small things are just as important. He was just one guy who inspired me to move on and inspire more people.
Dave told me “It’s ok to feel whatever emotion that is coming over you. If you want to burst into tears, it ok to get that emotion out. Your body needs to get that emotion out so you can move on.”
It was the moment when I realised its ok to go through shit times because it will make way for the good times I will get too.
There are heaps of inspirational people out there I could put on a pedestal, but none more so than Dave from Albury.
What are you favourite lyrics and why?
There are so many!
The one line stuck in my head lately is from a Nick Cave song. There’s nothing to fear than a bad idea.
If you have inside you the fear that this is a bad idea, then trust your gut instinct and rethink it.
I have been following this [mantra] strongly this year – stepping back when it doesn’t feel good and trusting my instincts.
Your own lyrics?
I had a moment with our new song Kingdom Leader we wrote not long ago -
It can only be you who sets your world on fire.
Grab a hold onto what it is you believe it to be.
This speaks to the fact that only you can go after what you want.
How has music affected your happiness?
It is my life; what I wake up for and want to do. There is never a moment that I don’t want to play a guitar for a living.
I feel so much emotion when I am on stage. There will never be a better drug than hearing hundreds and thousands of people singing your lyrics back at you. Seeing the faces of those people and how what you have created, has affected them.
I had an intense conversation with a guy who told me that before his friend brought him to a Benjalu concert he was going to take his own life. He found our music, bought all our CD’s that night, and went home to put them all onto his iPod. Every morning for four months he would run for 2hrs and 23 minutes (the amount of time to listen to all of our songs he had). Every morning he would listen to every track and the music inspired him to live life. He got his life back on track and is now a well-known artist in Melbourne.
I think back to this when I am having a down time and remember that what I have contributed has possibly put someone back on the path to his happiness. This gives me an intense happiness.
How do you deal with negative feelings or a bad day?
The ocean cleanses all bad feelings I think. The other thing is to make sure I am having ME time. It’s ok to do something by yourself.
I love to cook and when I’m home I love to present myself a lovely meal. A restaurant meal that I have cooked just for me.
Putt yourself in a different environment to the one that is stressing you. Hanging out with friends who are unrelated to my industry to talk about completely different topics.
Where is your happy place and why?
On stage. It is hard to describe but it’s like an out of body experience where you kind of loose yourself. Even though there are hundreds of people watching you in a sold out venue, you shut off loosing yourself in either the lyrics or the music. With Benjalu I love to shut off and just listen to Luke play the guitar, his melodies in my head. I drift off until everyone starts clapping and I realise hey that’s right I’m on stage. I come off every night wanting to get back on. Such a rush with so many elements. My absolute happy place.
The ocean works.
Jamming quietly on my guitar.
Sitting with a glass of wine and having a chat.
It all comes down to a moment in time that feels happy. Practicing the Power of Now.
You have travelled to some amazing places around Australia and the world. Is there any particular place that you could stay?
I would be kidding myself if I didn’t just say – buy a house here in my hometown Dudley. It has everything I want in life.
I still have many places I want to see.
I loved some of the small villages I toured through in Europe. Funny as it sounds I love the language barrier. A friend took me to her hometown village of only five hundred people and I was the first Australian they had ever met. I could have stayed there it was great. I love the community vibe and money isn’t a huge existence, everyone just helps each other out.
Same as Dudley and Newcastle – the community. That’s how we really started with Newcastle getting behind us and spreading the word.
What’s your Top 5 things to do on your Bucket List?
1.See as much of the world as I can through music.
2.Inspire others to do what they love.
3.Do the family history.
4.Play music until my hands don’t work.
5.To do the Kokoda trail.
What advice would you give to your 16yr old self to be happy?
It’s ok to listen to your parents. I remember being 16 and we had just won our first big music competition, I wanted to leave school right then and there. Mum and Dad thought I should stay. Turning out staying at school and spending the next few years at school was incredible and I really made the greatest friends. Friends I still hang with today.
My parents supported my career path and decisions. I wouldn’t be here without the support that they have given me.
If this is what you want to do, give it all you have. Take a step back when you need too but never give up. If it’s going to make you happy strap in and go for it.
And finally - If you have a job you don’t love then make sure you have another outlet that makes you happy.
After sitting with Ben for a few hours, I come away with an admiration for a man who recognises the value in respecting ones emotions, good and bad.
Be it on stage, in the kitchen or in the ocean on his surfboard; Ben has found a certain balance in what we would see as a crazy lifestyle. His driving work ethic glaringly evident as he chases his musical dreams around the world. I am absolutely positive he will find them.
Follow Ben through his social media links below.
Pic by Beth Ryles
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