“It’s been a very strange 18 months,” Ben Abraham said on a Zoom call with American Songwriter.
For the Australian singer-songwriter, the time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly been a doozy. In addition to facing the same struggles and economic anxieties faced by musicians of all scopes, the 36-year-old had recently moved to Los Angeles, had just finished a six-year-long writing process, and was ready to share a new album with the world… then, March came and the world closed.
“I kicked 2020 off by playing the album in New York for Atlantic for the first time—they had a great reaction and there was just a super exciting buzz in the air,” he said. “I got back to my place in Los Angeles to get ready for the year, mapping it out, looking at everywhere I was going to play and all of that. Then, around two weeks later, everything shut down. I got the call saying that, basically, it just wasn’t going to be my year. So, since then, my pandemic experience has been a bit of solitary soul-searching in my new home.”
Yet, the time wasn’t spent entirely idle—rather, Abraham began to revise and rework the record he had made, augmenting it and really allowing its essence to come to life. Now, he’s gearing up to finally share his efforts with the world. His sophomore album is due in early 2022—on July 22, Abraham shared the second single: “Requiem,” a moving tune that captures who he is as a writer.
“‘Requiem’ was inspired by a time in my own life when I was a leader at my church,” Abraham began, telling the story of the single. “My parents were pastors and I was one of the kid leaders… and in the last few years, I screwed up really badly. So, there was a specific day—and this usually sounds so intense for people (which, I guess it was intense)—where I had to sit in a room with a bunch of the other leaders and basically confess all of my sins. I had to bare my soul and say ‘These are all the things that I’ve done wrong.’ And, like, it was a largely ‘supportive environment,’ but looking back, it was a traumatic experience. It became a huge turning point for me… both in my life and in the way I write music.”
See, Abraham has been a successful songwriter for years—both with his own output, but also with a variety of big names, like Kesha, Demi Lovato, The Chicks, and more. Through it all, what’s made his writing so uniquely compelling is his ability to lay down the honest, straight-from-the-heart truth… a skill he picked up trying to make sense of that traumatic day through song.
“The way I write music largely comes out of having those real experiences—I just write what’s going on, really,” he said. “I try to keep it as narrative-driven as I can. That’s where ‘Requiem’ came from—me coming out of the haze of all those years.”
To that end, the resounding theme of “Requiem” lands with exquisite tact. In the chorus, Abraham makes an emotional appeal, explaining that the source of his wrongdoing wasn’t anger… it was sadness. Then, building from there, the indie-folk arrangement bubbles and grows, leading to a climax akin to early Bon Iver or Vance Joy’s more meaningful work. Through it all, the uber-personal story of Abraham’s traumatic experience with the church leadership guides the way, but a more universal realization is reached by the end.
“I think the greatest works of art do that—they come from a very personal place, but then speak to something bigger,” Abraham said. “I think that’s a tension that all songwriters experience, especially as you start to get more and more entranced in the art-form. You can’t help but be aware of the fact that an audience is going to listen to everything you’ve written. But at the same time, you have to remember that the most powerful thing you can do is be truthful to your own story. That’s how you reach that sorta weird alchemy—somehow, in being specific to yourself, people see themselves more. So, it’s always encouraging to hear that people can interpret things differently, especially with songs where you’re like, ‘Well, that tells a very specific story.’ Then, somebody hears themselves in your work, so you go ‘Oh thank God, it does work!’”
For now, Abraham is overjoyed to finally be sharing this music with the world and has an excited eye on the coming months. As aforementioned, he first began working on this new batch of songs six years ago… so he’s been sitting on these personal revelations for a long time. Sharing them now, he feels like a beautiful era is just beginning.
“Once this album comes out, I’ll be able to fully tell the story, I’ll be able to convey the overall arc,” he said, concluding. “That’ll be another interesting step for me, especially as I’m getting more and more of a taste of what it feels like to be vulnerable. I can already feel the power of it. There’s a certain confidence that comes from telling the truth. When you’re trying to be someone you’re not, you’re always doing the mental gymnastics of trying to keep up with that facade. Whereas if you just relax and go with the truth, there’s a beautiful simplicity to it all. Like, ‘This is just what happened.’ That’s definitely inspired me. And, besides… the world is on fire right now. I think the best thing I have to offer is just telling some actual truth.”
Ben Abraham’s sophomore album is due in 2022—watch the visualizer for the single “Requiem” below: