Benjamin Booker is a New Orleans based 25 year old rock n’ roller. His sounds are similar to that of The White Stripes, he sings like Ray LaMontagne with an aim to craft vocals comparable to Blind Willie Johnson, and incorporates the blues just like Gary Clark Jr does. You can classify his music as being a mixture of 1950’s gospel blues and punk rock. Booker’s singing voice his gnarled, raspy, and rough while his everyday dialogue is calm and relaxed.
Growing up in Tampa, Florida, Booker was and still is a part of a very conservative and religious family. His father was in the military and his mother went to school for Theology. His father wanted him to follow a traditional career path then join the military, but Booker just wanted to be himself. In this case, a rock star was a byproduct of not being able to find a job in journalism following graduation from the University of Florida. Even with his successes as of now, his parents don’t completely appreciate his choice of career but have since bettered their views on his decision.
It was 2012 when a homemade, self-released EP titled Waiting Ones was released. This demo is what got Booker started, and started real quickly. The well-liked blog, Aquarium Drunkard was the first to share the future star’s talent with the music world. They discovered the demo and made a little blurb about it on their page which included a rough sound clip of “Have You Seen My Son?” Following their online praise, Jon Salter of ATO Records saw a mighty potential in him. Salter flew down to Florida to watch a show that Booker was playing in, and afterwards Booker signed a record deal in the parking lot. Booker didn’t need to do much research because ATO was already the home of Hurray for the Riff Raff (HFTRR), My Morning Jacket, and Alabama Shakes. All groups that gave him good vibes.
Once he signed, there was a chain reaction of other approval. Suddenly and unsurprisingly, Booker and his band of Max Norton on the drums and Alex Spoto on the bass were ready to hit the road. South by Southwest (SXSW) became their biggest crowd yet, playing in front of at least 1,000 people. After all the online endorsement, signing to a record label, and playing SXSW, Detroit’s Jack White got a hold of them. One thing lead to the next and Booker was supporting him on tour. This was a dream come true for Booker, as the first record he ever bought was The White Stripes’ Elephant in the eighth grade.
On August 19th, 2014, Benjamin Booker released his self-titled debut album via ATO Records. It was recorded in a Nashville studio called The Bomb Shelter and produced by the one and only Andrija Tokic. Tokic has produced albums for Alabama Shakes, HFTRR, The Ettes, and more. Prior the album release and in addition to opening for Jack White, Booker has already played many festivals and talk shows. These include Newport Folk Fest, Voodoo Experience, Austin City Limits, and Lollapalooza. As well as Later with Jools Holland, Late Night with David Letterman and Conan.
What’s set for Benjamin Booker’s future? As of now, talk of a new album is out there and a tour is soon to be underway. In an interview with Mike Rubin of the New York Times, Booker explained that his new record would be very different from his debut album. It will have a more lo-fi sound but be aggressive and noisy at points. Beginning January 31st of the New Year, Booker will be playing a week of shows in Australia, following that, a couple shows in Japan and then four shows in the United Kingdom. On March 26th Booker will be back in the States and starting off a headlining tour first at First Avenue in Minneapolis, MN. He will be in Detroit playing the Magic Stick on March 30th and wrapping things up at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY on April 3rd. If the opportunity to see Benjamin Booker live presents itself, I think it’s clear that you should attend!
By Ben Schechter