September 14th, 2021 7pm Stage 2
Near the end of his life, Vincent Van Gogh wrote, “I have put my heart and soul into my work and have lost my mind in the process.” Those words beg the question: what does one do when the inspiration is gone?
This sentiment resonated with indie-alternative artist Jake Benjamin. Jake was at a personal and artistic crossroads when he wrote his latest body of work, collectively known as Broken Stars. This artistically adventurous and boldly vulnerable opus was inspired by reading The Letters of Vincent van Gogh, a collection of correspondences from Van Gogh to his brother, Theo.
“I decided that the songs on this record should tie into themes of the psyche and the human spirit,” the NYC-based artist details. “Some of the songs were written from famous artists’ quotes, and others were written from my own experiences with anxiety, depression, relationships, and sexuality.” He continues: “Today, I’m open to showing all the aspects of my life, including my queerness.”
This project will be released in a series of installments leading up to a full-length LP. First, will be the single, “Hemingway,” followed by the EP “Hemingway” appears on. Next, will be the pair of singles, "A Sun Set Too Soon" and "Broken Stars,” and then the album. The EP and the LP will both be titled, Broken Stars.
Jake earned his bachelor’s degree from University of Miami’s Frost School of Music’s Music Business and Studio Music & Jazz programs. He received his master’s degree from Indiana University’s prestigious Jacobs School of Music where he studied voice. Beyond his grounding in jazz, Jake pulls from inspirations as diverse as Björk, Snarky Puppy, Vulfpeck, Becca Stevens, Jacob Collier, and Kneebody. Jake’s overall sensibility is a “beyond pop” aesthetic that favors evocative feelings and engaging storylines over punchy pop songcraft. He is equally comfortable composing with a loop pedal and working songs out through leading large and small band ensembles.
Previously, Jake issued the 2018 EP, Finally Back Home, and three singles. This latest collection of songs is his most ambitious. It features twenty-five musicians, five engineers, and five co-writers. Broken Stars is lushly produced; lavished with horns, a string section, piano, guitars, synths, and a loop pedal. The music is sonically cohesive, but created in vastly different manners. Broken Stars was recorded with live band ensembles, and it features tracks built from MIDI keyboard demos. The overall project was produced by Jake and Pascal Pahl. Jake makes his producer debut on the LP’s final track, “Countrymen.”
The five-track EP, Broken Stars, serves as a representation of what listeners can expect from the full album. The songs delve into artist’s various self-states, and explore narratives of self-discovery, romance, and pain. The delicate but dynamic, “Under The Lights (feat. Elena Escudero),” is a collection of snapshots from Jake’s time in Amsterdam. It explores the city’s artistic lineage, its history, and the life of Anne Frank. The song, “Doncieux,” is a track that was a co-written with original Jake Benjamin Band bass player, Leland Nelson. It’s a tone poem exploring the life and times of Claude Monet and his first wife, Camille Doncieux. Here, Leland’s intricate 7-string bass work weaves a musical tapestry of cozy textures.
The EP concludes with the Jake Benjamin anthem, “The Call.” This track has become the evergreen ending to every live show Jack has performed. It is a song about resilience and perseverance of the human spirit. One rousing lyric passage here reads: It’s more than a passing phase/It’s more than just some silly craze/You may feel hopeless and scared, but maybe it’s the time you dared, the time you dared. There is a lengthened loop-pedal version of this song that was released as a single in 2020. For this EP, Jake reimagined the composition with a live band. “I want this song to serve as a spark for anyone who feels like a misfit, an outcast, or a wallflower,” Jake says. “The message of this song is you can always come back from any failure or heartbreak in life.”