Every so often, you come across a musician whose ability hits you with all the force and feeling of a sunset-bound freight train. Ben Folke Thomas is such a musician.
Born and raised on a Swedish agricultural island, Ben has a musical style that has changed as much as the various environments in which he has lived. From getting his first taste as a musician at the tender age of just 11, to his musical rejuvenation as a drummer in a Nirvana influenced grunge band at 15, right up to the folky roots he exhibited upon arrival in London when he was 19, the fluffy haired Swede has twisted through many styles and personas.
Ben’s musical transformations have informed a charming flavor for diversity. Kurt Cobain’s haunting vocals on the MTV Unplugged album were the initial inspiration for this, and once Ben traced the Nirvana front man’s cover of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” back to the Delta Blues legend Leadbelly, he saw an opportunity to bring a raw and potent emotion to his own music.
Fingerpicking day and night, Ben was adamant that he’d find a sound that would sit neatly alongside the great folk philanthropists of the 20th century. By the time he was 20, Ben had found his voice and a pervasive musicianship that breathed within all elements of his sound.
His lyrics hark to the metaphorical meanderings of Dylan and the cutting honesty of Cohen, but his melodies and guitar playing are stripped down to the traditional Blues and Folk that pre-date the counterculture and its rock/pop edge.
He now splits his time between gigging around the world and playing live around his London base. He professes a humble delight to count writing, performing and recording music as the centrepiece of his life. Gigging relentlessly he has managed to support himself and enrich the lives of countless gig-goers with soothsaying songs that lay his sentiment bare for all to see, like the exposed brickwork of a run-down cotton mill.
Ben’s travels have taken him far and wide, but it was in the dusty plains of Texas County that he found his true scene and recorded his first EP Rhythm & Blues in 2010. Fitting, seeing as Bob Dylan recorded part of Ben’s beloved Hard Rain album in the same region. Ben confesses to being enamoured by the concept of the ‘Lone Ranger’ and sees Texas as the perfect backdrop for such a character.
First and foremost though, Ben loves great song writing. For him, a great song “has gotta have a bit of balls… and love or hatred or humour” and this attitude clearly crosses over into his own song-craft – Ben Folke Thomas’ music has it all.
This article was originally published on Turn On Tune In