Benjamin Francis Leftwich

Benjamin Francis Leftwich

Victoria Reed, Lily Mae

Wed, July 13, 2016

Doors: 7:30 pm

Mercury Lounge

New York, NY


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This event is 21 and over

Benjamin Francis Leftwich - (Set time: 9:30 PM)
Benjamin Francis Leftwich
Benjamin Francis Leftwich is a singer/songwriter whose melancholic brand of acoustic folk-pop has drawn comparisons with the likes of Jose Gonzalez and Iron & Wine. Born in York in 1987 to South African and Australian parents, Leftwich lived a nomadic childhood, spending just as much time in Sydney as in his native U.K.. Inspired by Elliott Smith and Bruce Springsteen, he taught himself to play the guitar at age ten, and fronted indie pop outfit the Nicoles in his teens before embarking on a solo career. After recording his first EP, A Million Miles Out, in Southern France, he supported I Am Kloot, Fionn Regan, and Lisa Mitchell on tour, and attracted attention for his cover version of Arcade Fire's "Rebellion" on Dermot O'Leary's BBC R2 Saturday Sessions show. In 2011, his first single, "Pictures," taken from his second EP of the same name, was declared "The Hottest Record in the World Today" by influential R1 DJ Zane Lowe, with his debut album, Bleeps, produced by Ian Crimble (Mumford & Sons) scheduled to follow. In a departure from his usual sound, Leftwich also penned Euro trance-pop outfit Cascada's "Hold Your Hands Up," with former Fame Academy runner-up Alistair Griffin.
Victoria Reed - (Set time: 8:30 PM)
Victoria Reed
One spring evening four years ago, Victoria Reed played her cards right. Sitting on the bed in her apartment in Chicago's Wicker Park, she shuffled her tarot deck and laid out her life: For her present, she pulled the Death card—"and it felt spot on," she says. A philosophy major at DePaul University, she had fallen down the rabbit hole of reason and was in the midst of an existential crisis par excellence, doubting everything and ready to give up. But then she played her future card: The Chariot. "It's about overcoming any previous difficulties," she explains. "It's about triumph."

And so, after that experience, she did what any budding performer would do: She wrote a song. "Let go and let flow/ I want to tell you that you're not alone," she sings in a lilting alto on "Chariot," the title track of her debut album. "When tides are low/ The calvary best is shown."

Chariot, out February 26, is most definitely a triumph—a deeply personal collection of Americana pop that echoes in your heart and ears long after the record ends. Featuring some of New York's best session players and produced by Jeff Hill, it's a rich, optimistic album that puts Reed's intimate yet inclusive lyrics and alluring voice at the forefront, bringing to mind Neko Case's The Fox Confessor Brings the Flood and Jenny Lewis's Acid Tongue.

Performing was always in the cards for Reed, who was born to a rock musician and a Playboy Bunny in Detroit. Her father, Alto Reed, is the longtime saxophonist for Bob Seger, so she spent her childhood backstage at the city biggest venues and front-row at Tigers and Red Wings games as her dad wailed out the National Anthem. "I don't think there was one moment of my life where I wasn't thinking, Of course I'm going to be a singer someday," Reed says.

She started writing songs in grade school, drawing inspiration from her parents' Carole King and Gordon Lightfoot records, and when she was 14 jetted off to Miami to record a few demos with a successful producer. "I was going to be a young teen pop star," she says, but now is grateful that didn't happen. "I was recording my songs over the tracks that Lindsey Lohan or Mandy Moore had passed on. It wasn't right."

Songwriting took a backseat when Reed moved to Chicago for college and began studying philosophy. She worked at "a spa for the spirit," did an independent study in metaphysics, and assisted her then-boyfriend's psychic mother "teach classes on developing your intuition." But she missed making music and, after a failed attempt at mastering Ableton Live, finally picked up the guitar her dad had given her years ago and taught herself a few chords. Within a month she was out playing open-mic nights and recording bedroom demos, which she posted online.

But her philosophy studies kept pulling her into a dark place and soon she was practically incapacitated by fear. "It was realizing that there is no backstage to life," she says. "I just doubted everything away at one point and I was like, Oh shit." A conversation with a numerologist at the spa where she worked put her back on track: Stop trying to do everything at once, he told her, and just focus on one thing. "I only had one semester worth of credits left to graduate, but I called my parents and said, 'I'm dropping out of school. It's music. I've got to do music.'"

That very same day, Gary Waldman, a manager she had befriended at a Citizen Cope show two years before, emailed her out of the blue after hearing one of her songs on Facebook. "He said, 'Why didn't you ever tell me that you sing and write songs? Come to New York and I'll help you make a cool recording." Reed laughs at the memory. "And I was like, Yes! The Universe supports my decision!"

The next thing she knew, Reed—who had never before played with a band—was in a studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, recording "Chariot" with a group of high-caliber session musicians who had put in time with Norah Jones and Ryan Adams. It was magical," she says. "We didn't talk about what kind of sound we were going for—it just happened."

A few months later Reed packed up her Wicker Park apartment and moved to New York for good. She recorded Chariot slowly over the course of two years, but for her the pace was ideal. "This was all so new to me in the beginning, and as we went along I learned to express what I wanted in a room full of people who had been doing this for years."

One of Reed's favorite songs on Chariot is "Make It Easy," which was one of the last she wrote for the album. "You should wake up with a smile on your face/ Monday, Tuesday, everyday/ 'Cause honey I'm so happy for you," she croons over gentle slide guitar. It's a sentiment she wishes she could have told herself when things were difficult: "I had a funny revelation where I thought about my past self and present self and future self, and I thought, If me today could give advice to me two years ago I would say, 'Are you kidding me? Don't worry! Hang in there! You have no idea how good this gets.'"

Now, Reed says, things are so good that she doesn't feel the need to test her fate with tarot cards anymore. "I don't want to curse myself," she admits. "If I get a bad future card, I won't be able to stop thinking about it." But the double Leo still believes in the stars, and for her 26th birthday had a reading with her favorite astrologer. "She put things in perspective for me in a cool way—what's happened in the past few years and where I'm headed—and it brought me some clarity and even some closure." But Reed, ever cautious, won't share specifics. "It was all positive," she says, her smile audible. "Really positive."
Lily Mae - (Set time: 7:30 PM)
Lily Mae (about Lily's show at Firefly Music Festival) - "Voice of gold...This generation's Joni Mitchell."

For Folk's Sake called Lily "Polished and flawless."

Think Joni Mitchell meets Laura Marling and you’ve got a good idea as to what Lily Mae, 19-year-old contemporary folk singer-songwriter, sounds like. Music industry legend and beloved late president of Blue Note Records, Bruce Lundvall said, “Lily Mae has a signature voice, writes excellent songs, and is a future star.”

Lily was in England, where she was working with producer, Steve Brown (Laura Mvula, Rumer) on select tracks from her forthcoming EP. To celebrate International Women's Day this past March, Lily posted a surprise preview track, "Diamond," from her EP on soundcloud. "Diamond" was WXPN's Pick of the Day that same day.

Lily has worked with Joan Osborne, Livingston Taylor, Ben Taylor, Jay Brannan, Nathaniel Rateliff, Dry The River, John Gorka, Louden Wainwright III, Harry Shearer and Judith Owen, Iain Matthews, Paul Shaffer, Chris Collingwood (Fountains of Wayne), The Marshall Tucker Band, Jenny Owen Youngs, Amy Helm, Cheryl Wheeler, Alice Ripley, The Claire Lynch Band, Sean Rowe, Amy Correia, Caroline Rose, and many others.

On the heels of Lily Mae's debut release, "Early Days," iTunes featured Lily as a New & Noteworthy singer-songwriter. Lily hails from Bucks County, PA, but has quite the following in the UK. "Early Days" has been reviewed on both Folk Radio UK and For Folk's Sake. For Folk's Sake called Lily "a younger Laura Marling before she was scorned by life"."Truly amazing," "prodigal," and "innovative" are all words that have been used to describe Lily's work.
Venue Information:
Mercury Lounge
217 E Houston St.
New York, NY, 10002