Alec Benjamin is now playing sold-out shows at renowned venues such as LA’s Roxy Theatre, but two years ago you could have found him playing “parking lot shows” outside Shawn Mendes and Troye Sivan concerts. Determined to get his music to the masses, the Phoenix-born singer-songwriter took a DIY-approach to the industry, handing out business cards for listeners and taking the initiative to build his brand. In 2016, Alec self-booked a European tour, and shortly afterwards co-wrote ‘New York Soul Pt. ii’ which would appear on Jon Bellion’s album The Human Connection.
The same year, Alec created a YouTube channel, where he would upload a new song every two-weeks. Within six months he had amassed 150K subscribers, while also playing 165 shows! The singer’s first mainstream breakthrough came from his 2017 single ‘I Built A Friend’, which was featured on America’s Got Talent and clocked nearly four million streams in less than a year.
We caught up with Alec while he was traveling around Australia earlier this month. When asked how he’s finding the place so far, he replies excitedly: “I love it, it’s awesome!”
“Everybody here’s really friendly and I think it’s awesome, and I feel like the culture between America and Australia is similar enough to where like, I don’t feel uncomfortable here.”
The Los Angeles-based artist simply refers to himself as a ‘narrator’ when it comes to his songs, and comments that everything he writes “comes from personal experience”.
“It’s hard to write and be sincere about something that you haven’t really gone through,” he says. “Obviously I take poetic license with some of my lyrics, but all of it comes from something real.”
While commenting on the songwriting process itself, Alec states that it often differs. “My process for songwriting is different depending on how I’m feeling,” he says.
“Sometimes I start with the lyrics, sometimes I start with a little piece of music or something like that. Then, when I’m on the road it’s different, because a lot of times I collaborate with other people – usually one or two other people that I’m comfortable with – but when I’m on the road I just write alone. Recently I’ve been having friends send me a couple like, little instrumental riffs then I just write the song over them. So, it’s different every time, but I like to try and have an idea of a concept that I wanna talk about when I’m trying to write music, that way I make sure that each of my songs has something to say.”
Alec has released four singles this year, including his most recent ‘Death of a Hero’, which is about the harsh realities we realise about people as we get older.
“I can only talk about it a little bit ’cause I don’t want people to know who I’m talking about,” he confesses. “but it was somebody that I really looked up to, a musician that I had met that kind of disappointed me.”
A prolific songwriter, Alec is planning on releasing a mixtape AND an album soon. “I’m gonna have a mixtape coming out in the next couple of months and then an album next year,” he says. While he’s currently undecided on a name for the mixtape, he states it will include “probably ten [songs], including the four I already have out.”
Australian fans hopefully won’t have to wait too long to see the singer-songwriter live, as Alec hopes to play some Aussie shows soon!
“I’m gonna do my own tour in the US in the next couple of months, then I’m gonna go to Europe at the top of next year,” he says. “Then hopefully I can come to Australia after that!”