Sea me, feel me
Benjamin Webb has squeezed an awful lot into his 28 years, overcoming obstacles that would easily stop others in their tracks.
With the love and support of his wife, Jules, Ben has studied teaching, undertaken a Christian mission in Bulgaria, run a graphic design and marketing business in Belgium, toured the world, built a studio, started producing music, and works at child sponsorship agency, Compassion.
How does he do it all?
Music is the driving force behind his life. And he isn't about to slow down now. This year he's fronting Australian indie folk band, Ben and the Sea at Parachute, releasing a new album and going on tour abroad.
Ben's been making music most of his life, playing in different indie and punk bands until about five years back, when his greatest obstacle changed everything.
He suffered from Bell's Palsy which paralysed half of his face, and after six months recovering and thinking he was out of the woods, the condition struck again on the other side of his face. From there, it has been his music that sped along his recovery, and it his condition that evolved his music.
"I was quite sick. It meant that I couldn't actually sing or be around loud sounds for a while and, as music is the thing that I love, it kind of made me reflect on what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. So out of it, I started writing a whole bunch of songs and I was back to playing about six months later," he says.
"It changed everything. But it's one of those things. It was an intense time but I've been incredibly blessed because of it.
"It makes you realise the value of health, life and what you want to do, and also it reshaped the way that I write songs and how I sing and I think I'm a better man because of it."
Because he had to learn to sing differently and his ears were sensitive to loud sounds, Ben had to start singing a lot softer, dropping his usual style for a a "more meditative" sound.
"Before that, I was into really loud, blues music - Stevie Ray Vaughan and what not - and my music at the time was a reflection of that. But the first EP afterwards, I was really sensitive to the sound that I was creating and it was a reflection of what I was listening to at the time.
"The blessing was that there was this whole other genre I hadn't really explored or discovered up until then."
Since then, he's been compared to some of the biggest names in the genre, including the likes of Iron & Wine and Bon Iver, who is "a massive inspiration - it's a huge honour - and a massive compliment".
He has since toured Australia, and overseas, living, playing and producing in Belgium for a couple of years, where he first started putting together "the Sea" part of the band.
The Sea is an ever-changing collaboration of musicians from across the world, swelling wherever he goes and ebbing back to a few core members when he's back in Australia.
The Sea for Parachute will be made up of core member and long-time drummer, Matt Spire, and a collaborated effort with fellow Australian artist, Mike McCarthy and his wife. They'll be playing new tracks off a new EP, Wood and Stone, due for release in February as well as old favourites like Snow and The Sailor.
"It'll be pretty different to our traditional set.
"We usually work with strings but this is a bit more upbeat. It's cool, all the influences that the other guys are listening to, they bring 'em in and that's how the band changes and evolves. That's what the Sea is.
"It's really cool and really exciting, that's the beauty of music, it's what we love to listen to, make and play and hopefully other people enjoy it too."
He has visited New Zealand before, but this is the first time bringing the Sea, and he hopes to show drummer, Matt the local sights, have a surf at Raglan and just see "the most beautiful country in the world".
"I'm not even just saying that," he laughs.
"It legitimately is, it's crazy, it's awesome.
"We've actually been looking at moving there because it's just so awesome - you guys have got it set."
And if all goes well at Parachute, the Sea could be expanding right here.
BEN AND THE SEA
Ben and the Sea will play the Parachute Music Festival, starting this Friday at Mystery Creek. You can catch them at the Deluxe stage just after 7pm on Sunday. See parachutefestival.com for info or tickets but be quick as they're selling out fast!
- © Fairfax NZ News