Ben Hazlewood is a fiercely independent singer and songwriter who has the experience of someone twice his age. His deep love of music, which spans the genres of contemporary pop, classic rock and many points in between, fuels his creative fire. The New Zealand native began singing at five years old, never considered a Plan B and quickly established himself as a timeless and wholly distinctive voice amidst a sea of aspiring artists. Hazlewood first appeared on the pop culture landscape as a finalist on “The Voice” in Australia and quickly worked his way around the globe from London to Nashville. It was there he recorded “Wanted” and “Paint Me Black,” with longtime collaborator and friend Duncan Sparks, for his acclaimed EP, ‘VANTA.’
In 2017, the pop powerhouse is currently hard at work on his new EP, ‘EOS.’ The first taste of the new EP came with with the release of “Drive On” which premiered last November. As a powerful followup, Hazlewood has unleashed a new single — the catchy and impassioned “Sail Away.” Available on all digital platforms including iTunes, Spotify, and Apple Music, the song was originally conceived over a bottle of rum and pirate shanties. “Sail Away” dug it’s nails into Hazlewood and stuck with him through out multiple revisions until it was fully realized into the powerful track. Both songs will appear on the highly anticipated ‘EOS’ EP, which is currently slated for a release in the Spring of 2017.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Ben Hazlewood to discuss his blossoming career, the hard work he has put into bringing his music to life and what the future may hold for him as an artist.
What are you first memories of music?
I grew up around music singing along with my dad during his band rehearsals and I remember loving the feeling of being involved with creating live music.
How did you first start getting involved with the arts?
My parents are both involved in the arts. Growing up my Dad was a singer and my Mum was a dance teacher, so I always surrounded by the arts.
What can you tell us about the process of finding your creative voice?
I started thinking about the impact music can have on people after my brother passed away. A creative outlet was exactly what I needed, which lead me to songwriting.
Who were some of the performers and people behind the scenes who helped to shape the artist we see today?
I am lucky that I am surrounded and supported by so many talented musician and producers. Too many to name but in the very beginning, Duncan Sparks (who produced my VANTA & EOS EPs) was one of the first people that saw I had potentially and really encouraged me to write. It’s so great after so long we have come full circle and after years have reconnected and created two records that I am so proud of.
At what point did you realize music was something you wanted to pursue professionally?
When I was younger and performing live, the rush i got from being on the stage was unlike anything else I felt. I have chased that feeling ever since.
What was the first song you ever wrote?
I wrote a song to help me deal with the emotions I was feeling at the time my brother passed away called “What to say”.
Dedicating yourself fully to your art is a big step. Did you ever have any reservations about taking the plunge?
It’s hard to have reservations when i can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I never had a Plan B. This was always what I wanted. Every career has its own set of challenges and that’s what makes you grateful for the good days!
You are clearly very driven when it comes to your career. What has kept you inspired throughout the years as an artist and fueled your creative fire?
The best part about this industry for me is that everyday you get to collaborate and create with different musicians, writers and producers. In moving from Australia to the U.S., different venues and music cultures keep it all new and it gives me so many experiences to use when I’m creating new music.
You just released the new single “Sail Away.” What can you tell us about the song and what it means to you?
The song is about letting go of something that you have tried to hold onto for so long even though it’s dragging you down. To me, it’s about accepting that even though in any moment life can be desperately difficult, there needs to always be hope for the future.
This is the second single from your EOS EP, which is slated for a spring release, and is the follow up to 2016’s VANTA. How do these two EPs compare and contrast?
‘Vanta’ is the blackest substance known to man and ‘Eos ‘comes from the greek goddess of light. This contrast is reflected in my music as the emotions can come from a dark place but ultimately have a positive message. “It’s always darkest before the dawn”.
What can you tell us about the songwriting process for your music?
I’ve been writing music since I was young so it’s always been a process I enjoyed. These days I have had some great opportunities to collaborate with writers and producers which has allowed me to incorporate different perspectives and sounds, taking my music to a new level creatively.
What have the biggest challenges in bringing this new EP to life?
It’s hard to know what to expect when creating a new EP. Touring is where the real fun begins, bringing the music to life in front of live audiences and gauging their reactions.
What other concepts do you plan on exploring lyrically on EOS?
It’s a more positive vibe. It’s about reflecting on the bad and appreciating the good.
You have some shows on the horizon. What can fans expect from you in a live setting?
Performing live is why I became a full time musician. I really enjoy working with new musicians in Australia and the US who bring different elements to the live sound. I like to use live musicians combined with an electronic element to fill out the sound. My live show is intense, emotive, powerful and energetic
Your songs can be intense and very personal. Was it a difficult process to get to a point where you were able to bare your soul?
My whole songwriting aesthetic is a cathartic experience. None of my music is on the surface. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable in order to find your truth.
How do you feel you have most evolved as an artist since you first started professionally?
My life is constantly changing and the ability to keep performing live on stage gives me the confidence to continue to create new music and grow as an artist.
What are the biggest challenges you face as an independent artist?
The positive is that I’m in complete control and am able to explore and develop my own sound and create what comes instinctively to me. It’s obviously more difficult to gain exposure, but I am lucky to have an amazing team around me.
What do you consider your biggest milestones along the way?
Accepting where I am as an artist and being happy with what I have achieved while still having the drive to continue to chase the dream.
As an artist, so many things can be said about the current state of music. What excites about the music today?
Music is so accessible today, which allows artist like myself to gain fanbases and grow my career with people who connect with the music.
Where do you see yourself headed musically in the future — with short and long term?
Short term and long term goals are pretty much the same. Writing, Recording and touring and I plan on doing that until it’s not fun any more!
What is the best way for fans to help support you at this stage in your career?
Come and see the live shows, share my music with their friends and reach out on social media.
We would love to help spread the word on any causes or organizes you support. What is closest to your heart at this point in time that we can help shine a light on?
I’m really passionate about organisations that support people with mental illnesses. There are so many out there and it’s a topic that’s not spoken about enough.
You can serve as a great inspiration for so many aspiring artists and young people. What is the best lesson we can take away from your journey so far?
To work your ass off! Stay humble and enjoy every little success along the way.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.