SXSW Interview: Benji Lewis talks being an Aussie in L.A., releasing new music & “Deep Blue”

One of the Australian artists who stood out at SXSW this year was L.A. based Australian producer, songwriter and vocalist, Benji Lewis. Off the back of his latest single “Deep Blue”, Lewis takes us through his new music and what’s still to come!

Can you tell me a little bit about how things have gone for you so far?

Totally. We kind of got in [on] the Sunday and then just jumped straight into our showcases. We had the first one, [for] Sounds Australia, which was a lot of fun. We had a lot of people come and check us out, which was cool.

Have you ever done a Sounds Australia showcase before?

No. This is my first time in SXSW, in Austin. It’s been crazy.

What did you heard about SXSW before you came here, and how did it live up to those expectations?

I saw a lot of my favourite artists come through. guess just all the people that you can meet and just doing this showcase and doing big shows for the States. That was exciting for me.

What’s your kind of live set up here and how does that compare to what you would normally do?

Usually I’m inclined to play more smaller acoustic sets, just me and piano, but we did get a friend of mine, Allen, who’s playing with me for the show. He does piano and looks after the bass for me. It’s just a two piece, just us up there. It’s still all about the vocals, just a bit more bigger sound for the people here in SXSW.

It sounds like often people come here and they have to strip it back, you’re actually adding to it.

I thought so, I thought it’d be good to add to it. But then for our set last night at St. David’s we did look at the set and pulled down some of the things that we didn’t want to have too many loud sounds. That’s been my favourite showcase this week, so cool.

It’s pretty amazing playing that church and so many artists have come through there, Band of Horses, James Blake, and I’ve seen some amazing performances in that room. So, you’re with very well revered company!

Totally. Yeah, it felt really special and that the audience was there to obviously see you, I felt like that venue brings them as well. So, it was really special.

Have you actually gotten to see other performances?

Yes. I got to catch two of my favourites, Finneas and Billie Eilish, two nights ago at another church. I can’t remember which one it was. That was cool, it’s cool to check out people that I’ve been following and loving their music, to see them live. I’m gonna go see one of my friends playing tomorrow.

While you’re here you’ve dropped a new single, just before you came over here, “Deep Blue”, I imagine this is leading into more music for the year ahead?

Yeah, we wanted to drop one leading up to this event, ’cause obviously it’s huge, but it is the first single of my upcoming EP which is called Together Apart. Yeah, so that might be released later in the year, there might be some remixes as well, for “Deep Blue”, which is exciting. We’re just deciding what to do next, all these options, which is cool.

You’ve really been pumping out the music the last year. You had the, I guess you’d call it an EP, but it’s more mini album that came out last year. Now you’ve got the latest single. Everything you release keeps sounding like a bigger evolution on what came before.

How do you find that you’re developing your sound? What sort of things have you been doing to develop your sound? Have you been working with other people? Playing with new musical toys? How have you been developing your sound?

I guess [with[ my material I’ve been working with, Max/Golden Vessel [has been] on all of it. So, between it’s just about working with so many people when I’ve been in L.A. that’s been really good for me. To get different stories and experiment and then when I do go back to work with Max on some more material, different stuff comes out. It really works.

I guess for me, it’s just gathering stories, gathering experience and different sounds of piano that I like and references.

How is it being an Aussie in L.A.?

I love it. I mean, I feel more at home in L.A. than I have in Australia, with music anyway.

What do you think that comes down to?

I don’t know, it just feels like more of a hub and everyone’s just really hustling. It’s not so dependent on a certain formula, everyone’s doing their own thing, in their own way, and I love that.

What I love about L.A. is if you tell someone you’re a musician there would be next to no one who’s gonna ask you the follow up question that happens all the time in Australia, “Yeah, but what do you do for work?”

Exactly, I think once people do come to the States it’s usually like they’re kind of doing it as their main thing, which is great.

It’s also such a creative city that it’s like if you tell people you work in the creative industries that’s just assumed that that’s your job, not a side project to being a barista or whatever it might be.

Exactly, I’ve met so many creatives, obviously some of my friends and family now who live here as well, they’re all in one of those industries.

I think it’s great to be around that, and I think it makes it a lot easier and encouraging to be creative and to create.

Totally, you feel that being here.

You mention there’s potentially some remixes coming up, you probably can’t tell us who’s working on it, but who are some of the people you’d like to have working on your music?

There are some people that I want to work with here. I really liked King Henry, who’s been working a lot with Sasha Sloan; I love her stuff and her voice. There’s so many people, there’s a huge list and we are beginning conversations. Yeah, still deciding.

When it comes to the reception of “Deep Blue” and the songs you released last year how have you found these tracks to have been received compared to earlier tracks? Are you seeing that growth, are you seeing the audience… I mean the numbers on Spotify were incredible last year.

Yeah, definitely I think since the Home For Now EP, from the start of that it’s been a real building for me. It’s felt like it’s really going now. The fans have come along and seeing them last night being there for the songs and to see me it’s such a good feeling to see that it is, it is growing. Just want to keep it going.

After SXSW, what’s next for you?

We’re back to L.A., working on more new music. So many meetings, which is exciting, yeah, just more music. More releases and more shows.

Stay up to date with Benji Lewis, here!