Interview by Harry Kaplan
I had the pleasure of interviewing Beat Root Revival. They are the extremely talented duo of Ben Jones and Andrea Magee. They are classified as folk but that doesn’t even come close to describing their musical style and influences. They discuss that in the interview. They also discuss living in Texas now, away from their homes in England (Ben) and Ireland (Andrea). One of the things that struck me about speaking to them is how gracious and thankful they are for their opportunities. Also, their love for their fan base. To them it comes naturally, but it is certainly a rare quality in today’s music scene. They are a true partnership. Even during the interview, they never spoke over one another. They have incredible chemistry as you will read in the interview:
Andrea: Thank you very much for the review you did on our album.
TwangriLa: It was my pleasure. Every word of it was true. You have a fantastic album.
Ben and Andrea: Thank you so much! We really appreciate it.
Ben: From our perspective with the time that we had and the experience we’ve had these past couple of years being in the United States, we just wanted to do the best we could. We are just so pleased that the album has been so well received.
Andrea: On the tour that we just finished, it was such a boost. We love playing live but to receive such great comments after people buy the album, that’s what we are doing it for. It really reiterates the feelings you have about why you started in the first place. So it’s great.
TwangriLa: So for those folks that don’t know, Beat Root Revival is Ben Jones and Andrea Magee who make up this duo. How long have you two been playing together?
Andrea: We have been playing together for about two years. We came on the road to America two years ago. Our first trip, we had planned was from Seattle to Boston, covering 90 cities. Totally independent with very little pre organized. And we came on that trip as two solo acts. And on the road, it kinda organically grew together. We were playing each other’s songs. Ben had just produced an EP for me so he knew all my material. Then we discovered how well our voices blend together. And we decided it made sense to put it together. So, that’s what we did. It all just came from hard work and being on the road and playing live. That’s how Beat Root Revival was born.
TwangriLa: So Beat Root Revival is a very interesting name. Can you explain how you came up with such a unique name?
Ben: Because as Andrea said, when we started off the trip, we were both doing our own thing. Two solo entities. As the tour progressed, we were playing together more and more. Just backing each other up on our own songs. And playing together to guarantee that we both got to play. So many people would come to us and ask, “What are you guys called?” Then you go through the whole diatribe trying to explain that you are separate. But when people approach you that way and that’s the response we have been getting. It was like, we really need to sit down and think about this. So for the basis of the tour, we arrived in Roswell, New Mexico. You know Roswell, with all of the alien phenomena that surrounds Roswell, it was a really cool kitschy place to visit. So we had gone out for dinner one night and we decided we are going to put a bunch of names into a hat. And we are going to pick them out, one at a time and decide which one best suits us. And Beat Root Revival basically was born there. I think it really encompasses what we are all about. We were trying to combine all of our influences, rock n roll, folk, blues, and country. So the name became very much self-explanatory.
Andrea: Once we came up with it, we realized it was quite descriptive. So once it was decided we just stuck with it. I know it will probably not be everyone’s cup of tea but we know what it means and we are going to ride with it.
TwangriLa: I think it’s a great name. It’s very catchy, and I think you are right, it really describes what you guys are all about.
Ben and Andrea: Thank you.
TwangriLa: So I definitely hear some pretty strong Beatle’s influences especially on the tracks, Nothing Left to Lose and Hold On. Do you agree with that assessment?
Ben: Yes, absolutely. From my perspective, I have always been a bit of a geek when it comes to pop music. Particularly form the point of view of the 60s. I would say in our approach it would be foolish not to recognize the fact that we have very strong leanings towards a classic pop sound.
Andrea: The one nice thing about Ben’s production style is it is not contrived. We never approached it thinking we will write a song that is Beatle like.
Ben: I am pleased that that flavor at least comes through. I think any artist that tries to pretend they haven’t been influenced by everything around them, is kind of foolish really. The fact is, whether we like it or not, we are influenced by everything around us, every day. Down to the brand of coffee we like to drink. So when it comes to making your own artistic statement, I am very proud to wear the flavors that have influenced us very firmly on our sleeve.
TwangriLa: So you are both from the United Kingdom, correct?
Ben: We are but Andrea is from Northern Ireland and I am from England. Kent which is outside of London.
Andrea: I am from Belfast
TwangriLa: So what do you both miss about your home countries?
Andrea: For me, I miss my family. My family and my friends. That’s the hardest part. I love the journey that we are on and I wouldn’t change it, but being so far away from my family is a real challenge. I know we are moving in the right direction and working towards a life goal that we want to achieve one day. But that is the one thing for me.
Ben: For me it is a kind of similar thing. I don’t have any little people in the family any more, they have all grown up. From my perspective, I only really miss people when you allow yourself to stop and think about it. It wasn’t a difficult choice to make for us to make this journey, if that makes sense. I think it is kind of reflective of the times that we live in. The sense that if you want something you have to go out and get it. I think for us, the United States particularly held such a wonder. Without it sounding corny, I suppose we probably felt about it the way generations and generations have felt about it before. From the point of view to arrive in the United State and make a new life. From our perspective it was the same thing. It was the whole idea of what we have to say or what we want to contribute….it seems like the United States is such an open ground for creativity and thought, and so many different styles of music and cultures…..within one country……It was too good an opportunity not to follow. To be able to go to Louisiana, to be able to come to Texas, and then to the east coast. There are so many different flavors and so much to drink in on so many levels: music, art, culture, and food. I think all of it bleeds into our creative experience. I like to think that we write things here that we probably wouldn’t write back at home without those experiences. While we do miss elements of home, I think being here, in the long run, we shape our creativity. And when we do go back, we will look at home differently because of our experiences here in the US.
TwangriLa: I think it is a little easier now because of things like Skype and the fact that long distance is almost free.
Ben: My mum and I think that way. I think it is the same for Andrea’s parents. They don’t feel like we are so far away when they can actually see us on the screen. Because of technology now, you could be calling them from down the road and I think they treat it that way. It is nice to be able to have that. For Andrea particularly, to be able to see the kids from her sister’s side. It definitely helps.
TwangriLa: So what is there in Texas, and you mentioned Louisiana, that you wish you could take back to England and Ireland?
Ben: Definitely the music scene here in Texas. I don’t anything like this exists anywhere else and in Louisiana, definitely the food. We have been really lucky also to meet so many great people in the cities we have visited. It’s been great, it really has. We arrived here first, a couple of years ago and they really opened their arms for us. In such a surprising way. You would think, being an outsider, coming anywhere…..especially Austin, that has such an established music scene and community as this…..you think it’s going to be tough to establish yourself. I think, if you show willingness that you want to be a part of it, people really open their arms for you. The venues and the other musicians as well, everyone has been so great to us. I can’t extol its virtues enough.
TwangriLa: Even though you may be separated from the people you met here when you do go back home, I think you can still maintain a great friendship if the bond is there. If you have a strong bond, I think you will stay together as friends regardless of how many physical miles separate you.
Ben: Yes, I agree. I think you’re right. That really is the entire cornerstone of our story. It’s been the people that we have met that have made our lives here. The people we stay with here in Austin, they are our Austin family. We couldn’t have made it any other way. They opened their home to us. Every opportunity we’ve had has come from our association with people. We’ve been so fortunate.
TwangriLa: While technology has made it easier and cheaper to record, the business itself is so much more fragmented, which makes it more difficult to reach a wide audience like it was 20 years ago. Do you agree with that?
Andrea: Oh yeah, the music industry has changed so drastically. It is more difficult than ever before to make it a profitable endeavor. So as an artist, that’s not really the thing that you focus on. But, we are all aware of it. I think it has really changed, but you have to work with it and not against it. We are just so grateful for our dedicated fan base, which may be small at the moment. But the dedication of our fan base, we will always value that and never take it for granted. One of our favorite things to do, especially on the tour we just came off, we would go straight to the merchandise table. We would talk to every single person that bought our CD and we would sign a copy. We do that for many reasons, but the main reason is so we can connect with the people who are actually supporting us. It makes you remember why you did this in the first place. That your music can connect on an emotional level with someone, enough for them to want to buy the CD, that’s a really special thing.
Ben: I think the very fact that they have given us their time, their response, and are willing to part with their money, I think we owe them that. To speak to them. Which is why I have so much admiration for Taylor Swift. There’s nothing false about the relationship she has with her fan base. Yes, she is on a larger scale than us and many other performers, but it’s still the same fundamentals that she approaches it with. Ultimately, whatever the tabloids write about her is irrelevant. She is willing to stand up for the artist community and she is willing to stand up for her fans. That makes a difference when it comes to their commitment that they made to her. From our perspective, I find that nothing but inspiring. Especially in this day and age where everything seems to be such a quick turnover.
TwangriLa: I agree and one of the things that has happened is that the accessibility and the identification of the artist with the audience has left. I think the fact that you do that and make an effort to interact with your audience is such a great thing and I wish more performers would do that.
Ben: Well I think it is so important because ultimately…..when we have all been in that position before….where we have admired someone….whether it be on the level of people you are seeing for the first time….or when you see it on the level of really large established performers….the difference it makes to those people when they actually shake hands or speak to them….I think the same for people in your position as well, the very fact that you are there and exposing people to something that they may not get to hear without your voice, I think it is priceless. Without that, we don’t exist.
Andrea: It is also a two way street for us. Obviously, it’s nice when supporters and fans come up and meet with the artist that they love. It’s so rewarding on the other foot, to get to actually hear what they truly think. The stories they share about specific songs and what it means to them. That IS the beauty of it all. If you remove yourself from that, you are removing yourself from the true magic that happens between the musicians and their supporters. It’s a win win for both sides, for the fans and for us, the artists.
TwangriLa: Well that is fantastic to hear, I hope you keep that enthusiasm and sentiment as you move forward.
Andrea: We will!
Ben: Well thank you so much. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today we really appreciate it.
TwangriLa: Can you tell people where they can buy this fine album and find out about upcoming performances?
Ben: Absolutely. Our website is www.beatrootrevival.com. From there, you can get information about our live shows. At the moment, you can’t physically buy the CD on our website, but we are moving to rectify that. We actually didn’t want to be too cavalier about making it available on there. Obviously, you can get our CD from Amazon and ITunes.
TwangriLa: Also on your website, you have a couple of tunes so people can get a sense of what you sound like.
Ben: We do, yes. We have a music player and some live videos as well.
TwangriLa: I think once people hear it, they are going to want to buy this CD.
Ben and Andrea: Thank you so much. It means so much to us when someone who doesn’t have to give us an interview does. We really appreciate that.
TwangriLa: Well, I wish you continued success with your CD and your careers.
You can buy the CD from Amazon here.