Music royalty on the Coast, Benny D Williams has been on the scene for over 20 years.
We sat down with the living legend to chat about his first appearance at the iconic Blues on Broadbeach festival and the array of instruments in his ever-growing arsenal.
It’s almost time for Blues on Broadbeach again, what can we expect from your sets?
This is my first year playing Blues on Broadbeach so I'm really excited about the opportunity to play such a well-established and respected event alongside some legendary acts. Therefore I’ll be delivering “all killer, no filler” for my two sets over the weekend.
What do you love most about the festival?
I love the fact that punters can wander around between stages and see a wide range of great rootsy music. There’s a magnificent vibe in the air over the whole weekend. It really is something special.
Tell me about your style of music, how do you describe it to people?
My music is an eclectic combination of soulful sounds featuring rhythmic percussive grooves and drenched in psychedelic sunshine.
How many instruments are in your arsenal these days?
It varies but for this special show I’ll be packing a few guitars, Djembe drums, harmonicas, a kazoo, a recorder, my trusty cowbell and a bunch of other bells and toys which I’ll probably end up playing all at once piped through a rather large pedal board of special effects. Maybe a clarinet too.
What’s your favourite thing about performing?
That fleeting moment shared with the audience. Letting go and flowing with the music as it takes me to places I've never been. Improvising grooves and building a song from nothing…there’s lots of things. Performing is like meditation, I always feel like I've cleansed my soul somehow after a show.
How have you seen the Coast’s music scene transform over the last 20 years?
The Gold Coast and Brisbane have blossomed into a thriving creative community in so many ways. We still have a long way to go before we can match Sydney or Melbourne but I definitely think the Bjelke-Petersen hangover is wearing off.
What do you mean by the “Bjelke-Petersen hangover”?
A long time ago Queensland was a very conservative state run by a crooked bunch of National Party politicians. Joh Bjelke-Petersen was the Premier and basically drove any creative types to Sydney and Melbourne to escape from this dodgy bunch who used the police as henchmen to shut down anything they thought was outside the boundaries of good taste and often with the use of physical violence, especially towards the LGBTQ community. My parents were theatre folk who moved to Melbourne from QLD back in the day. The National Party of the 70s and 80s was an evil, nepotistic, crooked regime and they all got busted in the Fitzgerald enquiry. Queensland has regained some of its arts culture and it’s hard to catch up after 20 years or so of stunted growth but we're getting there.
How did you come to be involved in blues music…tell us your story?
Blues is the essence of everything I write essentially. I was raised on old rock and roll and that’s stuck with me. When I was a teenager I hunted out the originals that influenced people like Elvis, Buddy Holly, Bill Haley, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and later I drenched myself in Zeppelin and Hendrix…still do! There’s something honest and delightfully simple about the blues that resonates with me, it’s pretty much my default setting. When I wake up in the morning I make a coffee and pick up a guitar and play/learn some blues riffs. I think that’s a pretty great way to watch the sunrise.
What’s up next for you after Blues on Broadbeach?
HEAPS! I’m currently releasing a new single every month in 2017 culminating in a big album launch in December. It will have all those songs on it and a few new ones including a live track. At the same time, I’m producing lots of other local acts in the studio. From a gig perspective I’m doing a very special dinner and show on the 22nd of June upstairs at Edelweiss in their beautiful function room, which will be an audiovisual feast for the senses. It will be rock solid.
Your favourite piece of life advice…
Follow your dreams, be good to each other and don’t litter. Let everybody do what they want to do as long as it doesn't mess with anyone else’s trip.
You’re not a Gold Coast local if you haven’t…
…watched the fireworks on the beach at NYE.
Beach: Not telling!! Haha.
Café: Iron and Resin Garage or anywhere that has live local music.
Music venue: To play at…at the moment I’m loving The Avenue in Surfers Paradise and Miami Marketta is great, there’s heaps! Still we need more venues that can handle live bands.
Bar: Cambus Wallace at the moment. Although I haven't had the chance to hit any bars lately because I've been fairly busy. Hopefully soon!