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Interview: Ben Lee

Ben Lee

Spiritual enlightener. Political activist. That dude who sings Catch My Disease. Ben Lee has accumulated many names throughout his double-decade long career as an indie singer-songwriter, but he is first and foremost known as Aussie’s King of Pop. We caught up with the man behind the best kind of disease in-between his appearances at Gold Coast’s Bleach Festival to discuss everything from his latest projects and role models to authentic love and his ultimate musical quest.

Welcome to the Gold Coast!  It’s fantastic to have you at the Bleach Fest!  Have you had the chance to see any shows?

No, I was here yesterday but I’m just doing my thing.

How did your song-writing workshop go this morning?

It was good. It was called ‘Song-Writing Towards Virtue’, and it was designed to try and give a songwriter the psychological tools to differentiate between virtuous ideas and egoic ideas, then to be able to make the decision to move in the direction of virtue.

What are three pieces of advice you would give to aspiring songwriters?

Close your eyes and obey your inner voice as your main guide. Secondly, just because people like it doesn’t mean it’s good. And lastly, to make your priority your own growth as a person and let your music reflect that.

How do you think new Aussie talent has changed since you first started out?

I think the main difference is when I started going overseas was an exception rather than the rule. A lot of indie bands didn’t even tour Australia then. They just didn’t make it over. Now things are much more connected and it seems like bands get an international audience much quicker. But it’s no easier or no harder.

How does it feel to be an Aussie role model for young aspiring musicians?

As I’m getting older I’m seeing the responsibility and the opportunity of having people listen to what I’m saying. Whether that’s an interview or a workshop, whatever it is, I don’t take it lightly at all. It’s an incredible opportunity to spend a lot of time and energy to be thinking about certain concepts around creation and spirituality and psychology, so it’s really meaningful to be able to share those.

Who are some of your own greatest role models, musically?

I like Beethoven and Ravi Shakar. I conceived so much culture when I was younger but now I’m really aspiring to listen to my heart more, that’s my main role model.

How do you feel about the recent lockout law changes?

I don’t understand why people want to stay out so late. Especially for alcohol, it’s such a poison. So I’m not very moved by this whole matter.

Your latest album is ‘Love is the Great Rebellion.’ Do you think real authentic love is harder to come by these days then say 10 years ago?

I’m not sure, I mean the problems of humanity and connection to authentic love – these aren’t problems of the last 10 years, they’re problems of the last several thousand years. They change form but I think conceptually it’s the same issue. The ego is now preventing us from connecting to love. That’s been the case for a long time.

What would you say is essentially the heart of your music?

The heart of my music is a quest, it’s a personal quest I’m on to realise myself. I think we each have something very unique, in a sense it’s our destiny to bring it back. We often don’t fulfil it because we get distracted and go off in other directions. My mission is to try and fill that opportunity. I can’t promise I’ll achieve it, I’ll just do my best.

What does the future hold for the next few years?

I work very much based on inspiration so I’ve got another album in the works, and I’m really enjoying this project we’re doing in a booth out here, ‘The Qollari Essentials Project’, which is to do with philanthropy and business and essential oils. That’s been really inspiring to me, so I’ve really enjoyed that. I’m also just really enjoying saying ‘yes’ to opportunities. The fun thing about invitations is you never know when they’re coming, so I can’t tell you exactly what’s going to happen. Yet.