Ben Fields brings a style of introspective songwriting pioneered by artists like Nick Drake and Van Morrison. A stylistic homogeny of Harry Nilsson, The Beatles, Curtis Mayfield, and Lowell George gives his upcoming debut album, Extraordinary Light (Sire Records) a sound that defined an era. The album is available now.
After a chance meeting with Sire Records’ legendary Seymour Stein (Madonna, The Ramones, The Pretenders, Depeche Mode) at a music conference in Australia - where American born Ben Fields had been living and working in a café - the aspiring singer/songwriter took a leap of faith. Stein had offered Fields his business card and told him to look him up if he was ever in New York City. Well, that was enough for Fields. He packed up his girlfriend, their dog, furniture and moved to Brooklyn, where he now lives. Fields showed up at Stein’s office with music and the rest is history – he was signed to Sire in November 2012.
Fields recorded Extraordinary Light over a period of 2 years after moving to New York City. When time and resources allowed, he would cut a track or two at The Maids Room - a unique studio located on the top floor of an old tenement building on the Lower East Side. The all analog recording techniques of the facility allowed for a creative process that Fields says not only shaped the sound of the record, but also strongly influenced choices made in the arrangements and production.
“When you only have 8 tracks to work with, you really want to make sure those parts serve the song. There were times when we would get to a point where the song wasn’t finished and we had run out of tracks - so we would erase something and do it again. Instruments had to be played simultaneously through one mic at times. Backing vocals had to be sung into one mic. By today’s standards, that kind of thing is completely unnecessary, but it makes you work harder. If I felt ‘stuck’ with our limitations, I’d remind myself that we had twice as many tracks as The Beatles and they managed to make a few decent records.”
The dream of an all analog record didn't stop there, however. The initial sessions were mixed to 1/2” tape and Fields hand carried them to Los Angeles where they were mastered and cut to lacquer by the legendary, Bernie Grundman.
It's clear is that Fields did his fair share of 'woodshedding': his songs breathe, his voice is very much his own, and his album is respectful of the music he has listened to and played throughout his life. “I believe craftsmanship is far from dead,” Fields says, “and though I do not craft shoes, or bookcases... I do craft something that I believe will not fall to pieces in weeks, or months, or years. I craft songs to last a lifetime. These songs are born of my desire to reflect and share my ever changing understanding of the truth.”
For his debut, Fields works with some of the finest including producer JC Hopkins (Norah Jones, Madeline Peyroux, Martha Wainwright), guest vocalists Jolie Holland and Warren Smith (Janis Joplin, Van Morrison, Miles Davis). Fields sets the tone of Extraordinary Light with “Swede” - A John Lennon Songwriting Award winner.
This year, expect extraordinary things from an extraordinarily talented new artist.