Philadelphia-native artist Ben Kessler introduces debut single "Good Enough".
Fusing elements of r&b and electronic, the self-produced single touches on his relationship with anxiety.
“I spent the first five months of this year studying abroad in London. I didn’t have many friends there, and my classes ended hella early, so I spent the better part of my time there in my head. I was very much out of my comfort zone for an extended bit of time, so all the things that used to feel normal, felt wrong,” expresses Kessler.
Released through VYB, “Good Enough” is the first of a new batch of songs that Kessler has written, recorded and produced back home in Philadelphia where he first started making music.
Now based in Nashville, the multi-talented artist has created his unique musical identity. By blending soulful vocals with authentic productions, Ben Kessler is a name you want to remember.
"Good Enough" is now available worldwide.
Introduce yourself - where are you from?
Hello! My name is Ben Kessler - I’m an artist from the Philly suburbs living in Nashville :)
What's your story?
I’m still figuring it out. I remember watching a Woodstock documentary when I was 6 or 7 and being in awe of the massive crowds, Jimi Hendrix’ hair, and the excitement of it all – that energy seemed so far from my life in the suburbs, and I wanted a piece of it. I played guitar through elementary and middle school – somewhere during that time my guitar teacher, Chris Caulder, introduced me to songwriting. Each week, he’d burn a new CD of his favorite tunes, and in return, I’d write a song, record it and bring it back on my own CD. That’s how I fell in love with some of my favorite artists: Bon Iver, Coldplay, Ben Folds, Fleet Foxes, Sigur Ros, John Mayer, etc. Chris set me up with a little studio in my basement, and in high school I fell in love with production – I recorded a few EPs and started performing them at open mics around Philly. The open mics turned into real shows and by the time I graduated high school, I had played almost 150 dates. That was 3 years ago now – in that time I’ve moved to Nashville to study English at Vanderbilt University. I’ve spent the past few years absorbing Nashville and the crazy talent of the creators here – I’m finally ready to share my own story with the world :)
When did you start making music? What made you want to create music in the first place?
Growing up, my dad kept his acoustic guitar in his bedroom closet. He rarely took it out, and when he did, I wasn’t allowed to play it. His guitar became this magical, unattainable thing – and because it was forbidden, I was drawn to it. I begged my parents for my own guitar – they bought me one of those half-size things when I was 5 - and the rest is history.
When did you know you could sing? How did your voice evolve over the years?
I decided I wanted to be John Mayer when I was like 11 – and he sang, so I figured I had to as well. My voice sounded exactly like what you’d expect a prepubescent tween trying to copy John Mayer’s voice – to sound like. Now I sound a little less like that.
When did you decide to fully pursue music as a career?
It’s always been the plan.
Who was the first person to ever believe in you?
"Good Enough" is your new single. What's the story behind this song?
I spent the first five months of this year studying abroad in London. I didn’t have many friends there, and my classes ended hella early, so I spent the better part of my time there in my head. I was very much out of my comfort zone for an extended bit of time, so all the things that used to feel normal, felt wrong. Like music didn’t feel right. Going out with friends didn’t feel right. Dates were weird as shit. I blamed myself for all of it. “Good Enough” sprung from this confusion/discomfort. I just wanna feel good enough! Ya know.
When did you start working on this single?
April, maybe? Not really sure. I could check. But probably April. I wrote a lot of songs at once with the idea that I’d finish them later – so I ended up stitching a lot of things together over a few months.
What made you want to release "Good Enough" as a single?
I’m sitting on a couple hundred songs that I’ve written since moving to Nashville that don’t feel good enough to release – I am (used to be?) really hard on myself and very precious with my music. My little brother gives 0 shits about what people think about him, or of what he does – I think this rubbed off on me a bit. I don’t know what changed in me, but I realize now that I have full control over my actions and my mentality – there’s no reason to be so precious with my work (and ma life!).
What would you say to anyone who feels like they're not good enough?
No one is.
What message do you want to give to anyone suffering from mental illnesses?
Be honest with yourself and speak to others :)
As an artist, what are the biggest challenges?
Being an artist is really bizarre. Your product is inherently personal/emotional. So everything related to your artistry is really personal. So you feel a lot of things – music is incredibly emotionally demanding. So all my feelings are really complicated, and intimately tied to music – and it is really difficult to explain all of this feeeeling to people outside of music. This can be isolating, I think. Also, because you feel so much so often you can become emotionally dull/drained sometimes. But it’s all worth it.
What made you want to create your own label? Could you tell us a little bit about it?
I wouldn’t call it a label – I don’t really know what to call it. But I started this thing, VYB, part as another creative outlet (I love graphic design & branding stuff), part as a platform for my own music and other creators. I don’t know what it is quite yet – but it is such an exciting time to be a new artist in the music industry – there is so much opportunity and so much data/so many tools that allow independent artists to scale in a way that wasn’t possible even a year ago. Without giving too much away, I want to consolidate some of these tools to create a platform by creators, for creators :)
As a producer, what equipments and softwares do you usually use?
I produce in Ableton and have a pair of JBL LSR305 speakers. I use my uncle’s old acoustic guitar and my brother’s midi keyboard.
In your opinion, what makes a "good" production?
Sound design! Sick sound design gets me going – Flume, Bon Iver, James Blake – mmmm.
What advices would you give to new producers?
I am still very much a new producer – but I always tell myself to roll with whatever sounds good. If a clap recorded through your iPhone sounds good, use it – who needs sample packs?!
What does it mean for you to be an artist?
I wrestle with this idea a lot – all my friends are getting great jobs and making great money and I’m sitting here on my ass trying to get a few thousand streams. But I just haven’t found anything else that feels more valuable or purposeful. Selfishly, making music is my way of processing the world – of making sense of my emotions and feeling normal. Also selfishly, building a sustainable career from the ground up is an incredibly fulfilling thing. Less selfishly, I think artists (of all domains) are like translators – translating experiences, emotions, and words into more palatable experiences, emotions and words that make sense and offer some sort of comfort. I’d love to be a part of that.
In your opinion, what would make the world a better place?
What biggest life lessons have you learned so far?
This life thing is long - so chilllll out.
Connect with Ben: