STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
Often compared to Bruce Springsteen, John Hiatt and Randy Newman, folk, rock, soul and blues singer songwriter Ben Arnold remains dedicated to the evolution and the individuality of his artistry.
“My sound to a degree, is project dependent,” said Arnold, from his Philadelphia recording studio. “But at the same time, I think my voice is unmistakable. My musical voice and my lyrical and spiritual voice, I think, kind of come through and always has a very sort of specific realism to it. I write from a very honest perspective, always have. I don’t really know how not to. Basically, taking the same cookie dough and making different shapes with it. I love experimenting. I love to grow as a writer. I think my writing has matured drastically since I began.”
“To me, it’s always been a lot broader,” adds Arnold. “My desire and interest is in exploring as many different types of music that are within my realm of playability.”
A favorite among fans here in the U.S. and abroad since the 90’s, the Philly based Arnold, who has written, co-produced and/or performed with “US Rails,” “Pistol For Ringo,” “4 Way Street” and David Uosikkinen’s “In The Pocket,” is excited to be putting the finishing touches on his impending solo album, “Lost Keys.”
“Two summers ago I got a new piano and I started playing with it,” Arnold said. “I ended up coming up with this song called “Don’t Wanna Lose Ya.” I made a demo and played it for a friend of mine, WXPN DJ Dan Reed. He said, ‘This is really a great sound for you, you should explore this more.’”
“I loved writing this particular song,” adds Arnold. “It had elements of Motown, Carole King meets Van Morrison meets The Band or whatever. As I worked on it, I realized that I wanted to write a whole project that was kind of a thread back to the music I was listening to when I was in my early 20’s hearing soul, roots, Motown, Stax. I loved that music. I was really pretty deep into how Van Morrison and The Band re-envisioned those sounds. So I started working on this record.”
“The entire album is what I consider solid lyrical stories told in an upbeat point of view,” said Arnold. “It’s got elements of Motown, Stax — pretty much every song has horns and strings. It’s the “Temps,” “The Tops,” “The Commodores” and “Earth, Wind and Fire.” There’s a lot of Ray Charles, “Marvelettes” and some nods to Philly soul — “Hall and Oates” kind of Philly soul. Street corner, South Philly Doo-Wop and all of this played in what would be considered “The Band” style.”
“There’s been a lot of people re-envisioning the older soul and Motown music,” adds Arnold. “I think I’m doing it in a little bit of a different way that honors it in probably a little bit more of a traditional sense.”
Arnold has been on a six-week European tour with the band “US Rails,” one of a number of ongoing music projects that he is actively pursuing. The group has begun work on their sophomore album due for a spring 2016 release.
“I think we’ve really solidified, after what’s been many years really, as a band when we get together,” said Arnold. “I think this latest record is our most cohesive sound of any of the records we’ve done so far. We’re taking the harmony vocals to a different level on this one, very Southern California, which is what we’re totally going for. We’re jumping off “The Eagles” cliff. It was a lot of fun to do. It’s going to be a monster to mix it, but I think it’s going to be a real solid record.”
“We haven’t really had luck here in the U.S,” said Arnold. “We make records, not only because we love making music together but because it provides us with a means and a motivation to do the European tours. We continue to produce and create. It’s a complicated band to be in, but in the end, once we’re together and actually in vehicle and doing it, we have an amazing adventure.”
While the reality of Arnold’s ambition to be a rock star has faded, he finds at mid-life that he is overwhelmed with gratitude for the level of success that has allowed him to pursue his passion.
“I’m very satisfied being an artist,” said Arnold. “I have so many incredible musical experiences over the course of any given year. I consider myself extremely lucky when you look at what the possibilities are and what so many other people are not able to do.”
“I spend a lot of time, a lot of emotional and artistic energy making the music that I do,” Arnold said. “I’d love it to be in the ears of as many people as I can possibly get it to. I’d love to be doing a lot more in the U.S. It’s proving to be a lot more difficult here, but you can’t stop. You gotta keep doing it for the right reasons, and the right reason is you’re an artist. You want to create!”
IF YOU GO
What: Ben Arnold, with special guest Andrew Lipke.
Where: Sellersville Theater, 24 West Temple Ave., Sellersville.
When: Concert is set for 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27.
Tickets: Call (215) 257-5808 or check www.st94.com.
Info.: To stay up to date with Ben Arnold, visit www.benarnold.com.