In the summer of 2014, Houston-based musician Ben Godfrey packed up his belongings, sold what he didn't want, and headed to New York City. Yet despite his relocation, Godfrey hasn't given up on the Lone Star State just yet; in fact, he's set to perform Saturday evening at Walter's Downtown.
Once known for his time as the frontman for listenlisten, Godfrey took to the stage as a solo artist in 2012, performing under the name B.E. Godfrey.
"It's an acronym, but what for, I can't tell you," said Godfrey. "Even I don't know. It's all part of my carefully cultivated aire of mystery."
Mysterious is one way to describe him, if nothing else.
With a personable yet often-times pensive demeanor, Godfrey has always stood out in Houston's music crowd. Now, it wouldn't be surprising if he's working his way into the spotlight in New York City. It can't hurt, however, that he has an ever-fresh take on alt-folk and indie music.
Displayed brilliantly on his debut solo EP, Wild Desperation, Godfrey has only solidified an already important piece of Houston's music scene (despite his recent departure.) The five-song EP, which was recorded at Houston's own Sugarhill Studios and released by #veryjazzed and Chill Mega Chill Records, includes some of Godfrey's most important work to date.
We sat down and spoke with him before he heads to town this weekend for his first appearance since
Rocks Off: Your most recent release, Wild Desperation, was recorded with the help of Robert Ellis and Chris Longwood. How was that experience for you? Ben Godfrey: It couldn't have been better. They are both top shelf and it's amazing to see them at work. That album could not have existed without them.
Although you've been performing as B.E. Godfrey for a while, Wild Desperation is the first release you've put out since your time with listenlisten. How do you feel your time as a solo artist compares to your time with a group? It seemed easier to get people interested in the music as a band, as if a band is more of a real thing to be taken seriously. I think an individual is looked at with more skepticism. Anyone with an instrument is a solo artist, so my cost per dozen has diminished dramatically.
Speaking of, you recently recorded a solo session with Daytrotter as B.E. Godfrey. That makes you the only Houston artist (to my knowledge) that has more than one Daytrotter Session under their belt. How have your Daytrotter Sessions helped you as an artist? I've found it impossible to extract a value from any particular activities as an artist. I'm happy and lucky to have done things like Daytrotter. My immense appreciation for these life experiences is just about where my ability to value them ends.
On that note, I've always wondered - how does the process work? Do they contact you? And what about the photo - do you pose for that or do they use a press photo for reference? Booking both sessions was a result of other individuals they work with more regularly encouraging them to bring us/me in. The photo is taken casually at the studio and later given to the artist to reference.
You recently moved to New York City. What prompted that decision, and how is The Big Apple treating you? It's great. It was something I wanted to do for many years. I didn't want to break up listenlisten to move, so that kept me in Houston for a while. After the band went on hiatus it was only a matter of time. While I love Texas in many ways, I was not born or completely raised Texan. My family is not from the south, so I never identified as a southerner or even fully Texan. I don't now identify as a New Yorker, but I do identify with the lack of identity that I think brings many people to a city like NYC.
Has it affected your artistic stand point at all? It's pretty tough to give a self analysis of artistic perspective. There is definitely a lot of great stuff happening everywhere, it's pretty easy to feel inspired.
Your music is self-described as "alt-folk murder ballads," which in all honesty is equal parts humorous and intriguing. How did you come up with the description? That's a great interpretation. A strange sense of humor is the primary contributor to much of my behavior.
I've noticed your humor through live events and social media, yet like many musicians from the Houston scene, your work ethic and talents are so strong they demand respect and recognition, which is something that many musicians struggle with. Do you ever feel as though you have trouble balancing your personality with how you wish to be perceived by the public/media, and if so, how do you overcome that? I can't say it's something I think much about. The art is not the artist. If someone likes what I make but hates me as a person that's perfectly fine, and if they can't reconcile that disparity that's a shame. I recognize the need by the media to blend the two as one easy to consume package, but that fantasy is not something I intend to cater to.
You're known for recruiting the help of friends and local musicians, such as Chase Harris (Deep Cuts) and Chase DeMaster. How do you think that adds to the experience of your music? It's an unbelievable joy that these talented and cool people enjoy making music with me. It adds enough to the music that I don't feel guilty asking for a cover.
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Have you met anyone in New York that you've been working with? I have my fingers in some pies so to speak.
What are you working on currently, if anything? I'm working on music... possibly much different music than previous music. Time will tell.
You're performing for the first time in Houston since your move to New York City. How does it feel to be returning, and are you planning any extensive tours at this time? It's amazing that I can come back to the red carpet treatment from so many good friends. I have more upcoming NYC shows but no tours on the books. I plan to play more around the NYC area while I work on new material, possibly leading to a release and more shows later this year.
B.E. Godfrey performs Saturday, 1/17, at Walter's Downtown with Deep Cuts, The Gents, and Ancient Cat Society. Doors are at 8pm.