Swedish singer songwriter Benjamin Folke Thomas has returned to our fair shores to tour his latest release Modern Man, recorded in Gothenburg. He’s a wonderfully honest storyteller who mixes homespun folk with a sharp wit. I got to catch up with him ahead of his UK tour for a quick chat.
Your songwriting seems very honest and personal. How much lyrically stems from truth and biography? Or is it that you are a fantastic storyteller and its all fiction?
“I think it can be honest and personal without being autobiographical. It needs to come from the gut. Obviously some songs are based on stuff that has happened to me or people I know. Learning to tell a story is the hardest thing. I’m better at it than I was a few years ago, at least I hope so.“
Modern Man is a brilliant album, I’ve been really enjoying it. What is the inspiration/story behind the album?
“Thanks! As usual I’ve been listening to a lot of Warren Zevon and I think I try to emulate him a fair bit on this album. It was important that there was a red line running through all of the songs. I wanted to get something down on the human condition without preaching. Sentimental hygiene was hugely a part of this record.”
You came to my attention in 2016 when you played C2C CountrytoCountry festival on Bob Harris’ Under the Apple Tree Stage. How did you enjoy the UK’s Country Music festival?
“Hmmmm… I didn’t like it much to be honest. There was some great music there for sure but it all felt a bit fake. There was a lot of brown nosing and performing there I felt. A bit like playing in a sterile airport lounge. It was far too corporate for my liking. But each to their own of course…”
You are a great guitarist. Who inspired you to pick up the guitar and become a songwriter?
“Thanks! I’m totally not a great guitarist but I appreciate to hear it. Anyway the answers to the question are Kurt Cobain and Bob Dylan.”
Which of your contemporaries do you particularly admire?
“I’ve travelled and toured a lot recently with my good friend John Murry. I admire him endlessly. He can write songs as well as anybody. I listen a lot to Shannon McNally, Lucinda Williams and Josienne Clarke. Generally I get inspired by people I play with and people in my band.”
You lived in London for around ten years I think – what made you come to England initially? And what made you move back to Sweden?
“London got too hectic for me. I was drinking too much and not focusing enough on writing I guess. Also I was in love with a woman who lived in Sweden and she is now my wife.”
Are there any English eccentricities you’ve taken back to Sweden with you?
“I hope not…….. I didn’t know there were English eccentricities?” (I’m keeping schtum!)
What’s the one song you wished you’d written?
“White Christmas. I’d be taking in the cash.”
Would you rather read a book, watch a film or both? Obviously not at the same time. What’s your favourite book or film?
“My favourite film is either 1900 or Gettysburg. Favourite book is probably something by Roberto Bolaño or Philip Roth. Saying that tho’ I really love Toni Morrison’s books too. Impossible to pick one.”
Over in Nashville the ‘in thing’ seems to be celebrity bars/restaurants. If you had a bar what would be your speciality cocktail?