Benjamin Clementine won the prestigious Mercury Prize in 2015 with his debut album At Least for Nowafter being discovered busking on the streets of Paris. Whilst living there, music was a way for him to survive and it was then he began to appreciate the lyrics and the words within songwriting; this stemming from his days of skipping school to go to the library to read, amongst other things, the dictionary. His lyrics are like poems in their own right, and he’s been compared to Nina Simone and Leonard Cohen, Anohni and Rufus Wainwright - for the unflinching intelligence of his lyrics and for the soulful solemnity of his unforgettable vocals – so intimate and focused it can feel as though he’s singing directly to you.
Having fallen in love with the piano when he was six and teaching himself to play by replicating sounds, Clementine cites pianist and composer Erik Satie as one of his main influences and musical heroes, and this can certainly be noted within his songwriting. Minimalistic, spontaneous and honest, his songs tell a story reflecting real life, expressing how he feels and what he goes through; Clementine has often discussed wanting to use his music to help and encourage people, as well as to portray his thoughts and his passions. He still carries round a notebook and voice recorder to remember any ideas or sounds that may come into his head.
Cornerstone was the first proper, full song Clementine wrote and he has since been championed by Sir Paul McCartney, Björk, David Byrne and many more, as well as being featured live at the Burberry Menswear January 2016 fashion show. Labelled one of the greatest singer-songwriters of his generation, Benjamin Clementine certainly makes music that goes way beyond categories. Singing from the gut with a raw emotional honesty, he creates deeply personal songs both strong and witty, highlighting his originality, love and fear.
Join Benjamin Clementine and his piano at the Festival Theatre on 10 August for an evening of beautiful music across international cultures. Book your tickets now.
Benjamin Clementine © Micky Clement