Benjamin Stranger

“Creativity can be both a blessing and a curse. You can get lost in it.”

And Benjamin Stranger is lost. That’s where he has found himself–in that creative ebb and flow with all its heights and crashes. He goes on, “If I’m not actively being creative, I’m thinking about actively being creative, potentially stressing about not being actively creative enough or planning ways to be more actively creative in the future.” Stranger immediately begins to speak of creativity and artistry when it comes to music, holding back his own story to talk about the story of his music.

Creation means many things to Stranger. It means collaboration, pushing boundaries including your own, and, in a word, writing:

“Whether making music, songs, screenplays, prose, poetry, videos or films, it all relates to the drive to WRITE as far as I’m concerned–stringing together ideas, chords, melodies, words, images and rhythms into structures that perform the mystical magic trick of drawing meaning and genuine human emotion from counterfeit, made-up, inauthentic means.”

While he sees writing as the foundation of everything creative, his music is the house built on top. It is his mode of expression. “Music in particular gives me the most free license for self-expression and self-exploration. Some specific songs are the most ‘personal’ artistic work I’ve done, namely ‘Barely Born,’ recorded in collaboration with my side project The Lonely Bastards (released 2020) and my most recent solo single, ‘Misshapen Identity.’”

Stranger always feels more successful when he collaborates with others whose talent he admires. He readily admits that sometimes he’d love to retreat “into the wilds of an unknown country,” but knows that’s not what he needs most often. “I always come back to the importance of human connection through music. It’s so much more fun playing music with people other than yourself. So I have to pull myself out of that reclusive hole and start communicating with a group of trusted collaborators, be they a co-writer, musician, engineer or co-producer.”

How does that play out in the production process? He brings in top-notch collaborators and they work together as one machine. When Stranger talks about his new dual single, ‘Misshapen ID’ and ‘Paint The Roses Red,’ he talks about the team fondly: “My main collaborator Trace Faulkner and I recorded both new tracks in a house with John Meehan of Sundial Sound at the desk outside in his mobile recording truck.” Stranger explains the truck is similar to The Rolling Stones Mobile Unit concept. “John built and wired a fully functional, luxury control room into a large box truck. It’s glorious! The possibilities for top-level recording on location are endless.”

Stranger and his network of musicians have a skillful and nimble way of working with each other. “We cut a bunch of songs ‘live’ to demo tracks Trace and I had already created in Ableton or GarageBand, or simply from a phone voice memo. The Great Tony Paoletta performed magic tricks on the pedal steel guitar and Cameron Wilson brought a madcap zeal on drums and assorted percussion. Then John, Trace and I took ‘Misshapen Identity’ and went to work in different, smaller sessions on deconstructing that ‘live’ sound and merging it with more processed, virtual, ‘misshapen’ sounds.”

Stranger had more to say about the struggle to live a creative life, reflecting on his own journey while mirroring the experiences of many: “The drive to create is not always necessarily coupled with the ability to create, at least not at the start. Everyone has to fight through their 10,000
hours to get anywhere. Some just get a whole lot further than others, even while doing what they have to do to survive a creative life–trading security, stability, sometimes relationships, sometimes their own dignity.”

That kind of honesty will continue to drive Stranger further. He speaks with genuine devotion to the struggle he has chosen, musing that, “The blessing everyone can experience after putting in the time, no matter how far they’ve gotten, is that feeling of openness, of reception, of getting to a place where the work is doing itself through you somehow–it goes into cliché quickly because even though you may be working with words, that feeling is beyond them, where music is.”