INTERVIEW: Benjamin Fitzgerald | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Krzysztof Furgala

Enter into the world of The Cottage with musician and composer Benjamin Fitzgerald’s new release, music that needs no qualifications, explanations or essays, just a mind that yearns for a safe space of tranquillity and peace.

The Cottage is in complete contrast to my other stuff,” explains Fitzgerald. “It came from that idea of release and safety and being calm, being in nature and being content and happy with what you have. For me it’s somewhere in the middle of Northumberland where you’re completely isolated and you can process what you need to process.”

The Cottage’s uplifting, folky strings merge into gentle waves which become an energetic, insistent dance with piano before softening again. To me it evokes the excitement of travelling to that happy place and embarking on a joyful journey.

A self-taught contemporary classical composer, Fitzgerald grew up in Newcastle. “I’m a working class kid from Kenton,” he says, “I don’t represent what most people might think classical music represents and I think that’s such a beautiful niche. My main paying job is to play percussion and I taught myself piano. I’m super inspired by contemporary classical composers but also things like 90s uplifting trance, film scores and whatever gives me the most peace. It’s an obscure but fresh way of looking at it, and I think the reason it’s worked so well is that I’ve been really selective with who I work with; it’s friends from Uni who I can talk to about the concept and play them what I want them to play and then get them to play it back on their instrument.”

Environment is such an inspiration, the further I am away from Northumberland and the countryside the harder it will be to make this music

Curating organically with friends in a studio is an essential part of the process, but what happens after this? I wonder about the performative aspect and whether he intended these pieces for a live audience. “I’ve grown up playing in bands, performing live, I’ve always thought live music is the direction I’m going in. It’s hard to reciprocate feelings and emotion on just a recording.”

Nobody gets away without being asked the tedious lockdown question and he laughs as I ask how it’s been for him. “You know what, lockdown’s been mental but also the opposite of mental.” Something I think most of us can identify with.

He stays connected through social media with people who inspire him and who he can reach out and contact directly. Social media has helped to cut out the middle men and democratise a lot of creativity which can only be a good thing for creators and consumers alike. “When I released my previous EP one of the tracks got picked up by the biggest Spotify classical playlist and my listens went from hundreds to tens of thousands, which for an unreleased artist is unbelievable. It was such a massive feeling of gratification to be put alongside my heroes.”

Fitzgerald’s music is clearly connected to the region in an intrinsic way. “I feel like it’s a bonus to be here, the internet makes it so much easier to connect. Environment is such an inspiration, the further I am away from Northumberland and the countryside the harder it will be to make this music.”

The Cottage by Benjamin Fitzgerald is out now

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