When I originally set up an interview with Ben Abraham, it was for his then-new song “War In Your Arms“, which is the title track of his album… however, due to my day job and other commitments, I was unable to get this interview out in time. So, before you read the below interview, I just wanted to be transparent and let you know that Ben does have a new song out titled “Requiem”, which you can listen to below.
Ben Abraham is a singer-songwriter from Australia who now lives in California. To say 2021 has been a strange year for the now Los Angeles-based artist would be an understatement. “I went back to Melbourne at the end of last year and stayed there until the infection rate relaxed in LA,” Brad tells Eat This Music. “I came back just in time to release my new single. Because who needs health when you are putting out new music!”
It’s been a strange mix of anticlimactic and relief for Ben upon the release of his single “War In Your Arms”. In fact, his first album came out 6 years ago so there has been a lot of buildup to getting new music out. Part of the anticlimax is definitely due to the buildup of expectation; but also there are no live shows happening right now, which means releasing new music feels a bit spitting in the wind.
You send a Tweet saying the song is live and then all you can really do is scroll through the hashtags of people posting about it, while you refresh a webpage that has delayed streaming data. — Ben Abraham
“War In Your Arms” is about reflecting on a toxic relationship and finding the confidence to say you were wronged. The paradox in the title speaks to a central theme on Ben’s over-arching album – the damage that can happen in loving places; this idea that a person’s embrace is associated with safety and peace but instead it was a place of danger.
“[laughs] I just had a chuckle because I’m going, to be honest – when I first wrote the line ‘it was war in your arms’ I balked at how ridiculously melodramatic it sounded. Now that I have a bit of distance from the writing I can see how melodrama in earnest can be genuinely powerful,” Ben says.
“Making this song was definitely unlike anything else I’ve done,” Ben details on the initial creative process of his single. “From writing to production it was an odd process. The initial creative moment came when I got off a tram in Melbourne and saw a street performer in the city.”
Ben started imagining the kind of song you would need to get people’s attention and he wrote the first chorus as he walked down the street, “I texted my friend Helen and we finished the rest of the song in an afternoon sitting at a piano,” Ben continues. “I was signed to Secretly Canadian at the time and felt like my destiny was to be a brown Sufjan Stevens so no part of me considered that we had just written my next single.”
Because of that detachment to the song, War In Your Arms ended up being sent around to a bunch of different artists for them to cut including Kelly Clarkson, Calum Scott, and Stanaj. That is actually how Ben ended up being signed to Atlantic. Craig Kallman was working on Kelly’s record at the time and basically hit up my managers like “who the heck is this dude?”
“Sorry, this answer is turning into a novel now,” Ben expresses how the song’s creative process started. “Producing the song was another thing entirely. Everyone had all these expectations around what the song should be, and for a long time I didn’t have any strong emotional attachment to it.”
From there, the piano/vocal demo became his calling card for finding the producer for the whole album. The thinking was that if someone could nail production on this song, they would be the right fit for the whole project. Ben met with some amazing people and subsequently have 10 different produced versions of the song. Listening back it’s wild to consider how different the song (and album) could have been.
“I love everyone I worked with on this search but ultimately James Flannigan was the right person for the job. His first demo instantly felt like the right direction for the song so we took it and ran as fast as we could to the studio.” — Ben Abraham
With all that said though, Ben didn’t write the song actively thinking about his own life per se. It wasn’t until Ben got in the studio that it really hit him how personal the song was.
“I had gone through a very difficult break-up in the year before I wrote it and that has obviously found its way into the lyrics,” Ben continues on the creative process. “But for me, the song speaks to other things in my life too. The last six years have been a reckoning for me – learning how to confront people, places, and parts of my life that have had an unhealthy amount of control over me. As much as it’s about a relationship, the song has also become a primal scream for my mental and emotional health.”
With this song, Ben hopes listeners can hear the love and passion that went into making it. And he additionally would like to hope people feel empowered by the song! Life’s too short to put up with crap.
War In Your Arms is just the beginning for Ben! He is the type of person that has never been prouder of his work than the aforementioned album: “I set out to tell a very particular story through the songwriting and production on the new album and though it cost me (and others) a lot of blood, sweat and very real tears, I think it’s paid off,” Ben says. “It’s not often you can say you achieved your creative vision but this is one of those times! I can’t wait for you to hear it.”
The remainder of 2021 is a busy time for Ben, as he has a few collaboration ideas he would love to make happen in the coming months. And he already knows the subject for the next album, so he has been researching for that. Otherwise, the next release will be a few more songs from this album.