Benjamin Francis Leftwich takes us through ‘To Carry A Whale’
Take a track by track deep dive into his fourth full-length.
With his new ‘To Carry A Whale’ out today via Dirty Hit, Benjamin Francis Leftwich is giving us a track by track run-through of his fourth full-length!
Marking his first album written and recorded entirely sober, he previously said of the record, “It’s an observation on what it’s like to be a sober alcoholic addict a couple of years in. A whale is heavy to carry. It’s gonna hurt you to carry it. But it’s also beautiful, and it’s a miracle to be able to carry all that at all.”
Check out the track by track run through now!
Cherry In Tacoma
I started writing this song during sound-checks in the Pacific North West at the end of 2019. I had the first few lines and melody of the song for ages but i just couldn’t crack it until I sat down with my friend Eg in London and finally untangled it. For me the song is really an observation on some of my own insanities and co-dependant tendencies, and really how often they can come in to play when one is in relationship with someone who is on a similar path of recovery following surrender or a rock bottom. There can be this kind of unspoken understanding and empathetic energy there which so often can get confused for love, and which sometimes is… but sometimes isn’t.
Oh My God Please
I was speaking with a publisher called Ciara at BMG about songwriting at the start of 2020 and she very kindly introduced me to Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly and after meeting we immediately hit it off and pretty much ran straight to the studio within a few hours of meeting each other. We really wanted to write a song about faith and relationship with a God of ones own understanding that wasn’t exclusive or divisive… I’d kind of had the start of this kind of semi jokey country idea that I was working on and I played it to Sam and we both realised that there was actually something in it so we really stared it down and had a deep dive on the lyric to where we felt it was an honest representation of a human asking for help from something they can’t see, in a moment of desperation or surrender… I think it’s also a song about all the material or worldly things that I have desperately used to try and fill the hole in my heart, and failed….
Canary In A Coalmine
This song is really simply about being wide awake for the first time in a long time and falling in love again and being in relationship with humans and nature, and how exciting and overwhelming that can be… But there is also the juxtaposition of the dangers ahead if I am not careful and don’t continue to treat some of the things i struggle with, one day at a time through fellowship and action…. You know it’s like Canaries that get sent into Coalmines are free… but they’re sent in to a dangerous space, in the same way that ‘dancing’ is free but ‘dancing on a trip wire’ is insane…. I really kind of think it’s a warning song for myself to take it easy and to always remember that “easy does it”….
Tired In Niagara
This song was written and recorded in a hotel room in Niagara towards the end of a long tour in the USA and Canada… We had a day off and we drove across the border to Niagara and honestly I was in kind of a bad way in my hotel room feeling pretty isolated and crazy and kind of close to acting out… So the song is really just about being in that state on tour and feeling kind of hopeless, it’s definitely the saddest song on the album I think. You know it’s interesting, I knew as soon as I heard the demo from that night that my band mate Oli had recorded and put strings on, that it would be impossible to ever replicate the honesty and intention of that performance… So the version you hear is literally what we did that night but just mixed.
Every Time I See A Bird
As lots of people know, I lost my Dad when I was in my early twenties and I’ve always kind of had this feeling that whenever I see a bird soar over or land near me I really feel like it’s my Dad coming down to lovingly check in on me and let me know that he’s about…
I performed at this beautiful festival in Norway a few years ago and I really clearly remember writing this little poem in my hotel room and I had those words… ‘every time I see a bird, flying over my head, I get to think it could be you, coming down to check’. I had tried to write the song a few times since then but could never quite get it to feel right, I think I needed to tour more and see the bird arrive a few more times… I finally cracked it with my friends in London, Eg White and Josh Grant, after I got back from the states at the end of 2019.
Wide Eyed Wandering Child
I remember being stood in my living room in London and kind pacing around and just jamming on the guitar when me and my kind ex-girlfriend were living together at the end of 2019. She had told me a story that night about someone who sounded in a bad way and in active addiction and had said some stupid things in public and the song honestly just kind of fell out of me… It’s not really from a place of judgement but more from a place of relation and compassion for someone in that really self destructive place.
I had all the verses for about a year and I really loved them but I still felt like I wanted to add more kind of understanding energy to the song and i was doing a demo of it in the Dirty Hit studio one night and my friend Joseph Rodgers and I landed on that lyric, ‘yeah I know the way you dream, we’re both dying to be seen’ and it was finally cooked writing-wise, so yeah it was kind of a slow process to get over the last hill of the song but that’s how it goes sometimes.
This song is kind of an introspective diary journey I guess, an observation on what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now… At the end of 2013, I had lost my Dad and just broken up with my partner who I love, I was in a really sick way and I went out to Australia to visit my cousins and family thinking that would fix me, but of course I took myself and nothing much changed. Liz, who I mention in the song, is my kind Auntie who always picks me up at Sydney airport. Everything turned into a big party and a lot of chaos and pain pretty quickly. Matthew and Bill, who I mention in the second verse, are my beautiful cousins and Brittney, who I mention is Matt’s bride to be and such a wonderful person. Frankies is a bar in Sydney which serves pizza and I always used to go there and get messed up and then sit with a pizza on a dark beach feeling shit and swimming in the sea imagining what would happen if I got eaten by sharks. It was a mess. I guess the song is kind of an observation on that classic addict move of pulling geographics to try and change the way I feel but taking myself, which really is the problem, right with me… I remember being on the plane on the way out there hating that I couldn’t get messed up the way I wanted to on the plane and I just put my headphones on and this beautiful song by Dave Matthews band who I had never heard of or listened to came on called ‘Mercy’, so that is what that opening verse is about… In recovery, I have visited Sydney and my beautiful auntie Liz still meets me at the airport so the sunrise in the song is that final verse ‘When Liz is in the car, smiling at the airport, she says I’ve come far, lots has happened… I guess it really shows, how slowly we surrender, I let god and I let go, when I’m in Sydney I remember’.
Slipping Through My Fingers
When I was little, my Dad and his girlfriend at the time used to take me and my sister to this horse riding ranch in Montana and I can vividly remember being sat there on this kind of dusty bench and picking up sand and watching it really slowly slip through my fingers, and something about that made my heart heavy. I remember really wanting to be a movie director at that age and kind of transmute this heavy feeling into really intense visuals…. That memory came to me one night about a year ago and I was just chilling at home and messing around on my piano and those words ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ came to me and I freestyled the whole first verse into my phone… I sent it to Sam (Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly) who is my close friend and who was producing the album and we both felt like there was something in it so when we finally got into the studio, actually quite close to the end of the album we re-visited that song and finished it in about an hour… I think the song is really about just feeling restless, irritable and discontent for as far back as i can remember… ‘Since I was a kid I’ve been all weird and worried a lot, guess I did my best to escape until I forgot’.
To Talk To You Now
After I lost my Dad all those years ago I kind of made a deal with myself that I’d always have a moment on every album to honour him. This song is really simply about all the things that I’d give up just to be able to speak with him for a few minutes… I have this weird thing when I’m performing where I always imagine or think that he might be in the crowd and the whole thing was just a dream or some kind of sick joke… ‘Now I always think I see ya pop up in the crowd, what I wouldn’t give to turn it all around… to talk to you now’.
Full Full Colour
I really wanted to have a moment of sunrise toward the end of the record and honestly this song is about my journey into that place of surrender and then recovery… It starts with a verse on how well I could pull the wool over everyone’s eyes and how my functionality disguised so much… ‘That summer I took it to the edge with ya, but didn’t show the full picture’… The second verse is about someone who I deeply love introducing me to a kind fellowship of humans around the world who share their common solution with each other to stay clean and sober one day at a time… It’s funny because the person I wrote this song about was in recovery and was so graceful, patient and kind with me… ‘You took me into church basements, looking into kind faces, discovering some new graces, I’d always been a Friday night kind of guy’ is kind of an observation on how different my Friday nights have become in recovery compared to where I was before I guess. And then the real moment of sunrise and hope to close the album is the final verse.. ‘It’s funny how we get broken, before out bitter hearts open, powerless but i’m hoping, it’s gonna be a full full colour life’.
‘To Carry A Whale’ out now via Dirty Hit.
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