I was very excited to have a coffee and chat with musician, Ben Richards. Back in early 2017, he took part in the Ladders Programme which we are proud to be delivering to encourage 17-24 year olds to pursue their career goals in either Music, Film & TV or Software Development. From Ben’s experience, it was clear that his time on the programme was a musical and personally beneficial experience…

When did your passion for music arise? Was it something you learned in school, or a hobby?

Well I always liked the idea of it. When I was a toddler, I used to have plastic guitars and pretend to play them! Then when I was 10, I got a guitar off my Auntie and started playing properly. From there, I was taking grades. I studied a bit of it at GCSE, but mainly just kept on practicing and practicing.

Are you in any bands at all at the moment?

I’m in a band called Carabiniers at the moment. Someone described it as indie/thrash!

Cool! So, when you started Ladders, what did you feel at first – were you nervous, apprehensive or just excited?

I felt very nervous at first but once I was there and everyone was so laid back, I felt fine! And yeah, I was very just excited.

Let’s talk about the experience itself. What would you say was your favourite experience from the course?

I enjoyed the different parts equally, in their own ways. I didn’t think I’d enjoy the tours as much as I did to be honest, but it was quite interesting learning all the ins and outs of the industry.

And how about the final project – what did you work on?

I wrote a song called ‘Stay in Bed All Day’, but it’s still sitting there on my laptop. I need someone else to sing it because I can’t sing it so well!

Mentor, Sam Burt, and musician/technician, Dean Thompson supporting students in their projects. 

Amazing, so I’m assuming from that you got a full experience of writing a song?

Yes, and it was great.

So, in what ways has the Ladders experience helped you musically?

It made me realise that it’s a lot harder than you would expect in the music industry – you have to put in a lot of effort. Musically, it helped me grow and collaborate with people to come up with refreshing ideas. I think the most beneficial part of it was having the experience of playing with other people. It helped me understand that musically you must communicate with other people as well, and not stick to your own thoughts and ideas.

Speaking of communicating with other people – what were the people like, who you were working with throughout the process?

They were lovely! A lot of people were working on their own projects – I send over ideas to one student now and then, who works in the hip-hop genre. I don’t know much on making beats and that kind of thing, but he and a few other people are showing me the ropes.

Would you say it was Ladders that got you into that aspect of music?

Definitely. I wasn’t interested in it at all. I’ve always liked hip-hop, but I never thought of it as something I’d be good at. But I’ve just realised now that you’ve got to practice, and you’ll get there!

Totally agree. I understand that from a first glance, it looks so complicated but once you know the ropes it’s almost like second nature. You’re right, it’s about persistence!

How about personal skills, like soft skills and employability skills?

At the time I was in a bit of a limbo and then going on the course, getting out most days, meeting people and having structure was really good for me. It made me realise that it was very good for my mental health so I’m going to need to start committing to this lifestyle properly. Overall, it was just very good for confidence and gave me that motivation I needed.

What was it like working with Sam?

Ah, it was excellent. He’s the boy! He is still helping me now, giving me advice. I told him that I wanted to pursue guitar teaching and I kept mentioning grades and qualifications and he simply said  that all you need is good communication skills. So I’ll hopefully start teaching soon.

Great! So, going in to what you’re doing now – and what are you hoping to do?

At the minute, just having fun. I keep losing my love for music. So I thought it’d be best to go back to it, mess around with friends and write tunes. So that’s what I’m focusing on – just trying to find the love for it again. I think after that I’ll really want to crack on, focus and make a career out of it. I’m also hoping to study Music at the Academy of Music and Sound.

It’s interesting you’re mentioning that idea of falling in and out of love with music. What are the ways in which you are tackling that?

I want to find my own sound but I can’t seem to find it at the moment – I’d always say what I’m doing falls under the indie genre, but I keep jumping to genres like Country and Rock!

I think it’s good that you’re doing that though! Sometimes it takes a lot longer than you anticipate to really find your voice and your place in the industry, so that’s great.

How has Ladders influenced your choices?

At the time, before I started Ladders, I thought I’d just have to get an ordinary job and settle down, and not really do what I love. But what it made me realise is that it’s not as impossible as you think but it just takes a lot of effort and a lot of work.

Ben and his peers during his time on the Ladders Programme, working at Blast Recording Studio.

Is there anything about the music industry that you’re excited about?

What excites me at the moment is just playing and recording – especially recording. Just trying to record that perfect sound, really interests me. In terms of Newcastle, I feel like there never seems to be a real scene here which is a shame.

Would you like to see that grow in Newcastle and would you like to be part of that?

Yeah, why not! You’ve just got to make it your own because there have been scenes in Newcastle in the past.

Finally, would you recommend Ladders?

Yeah, and I’ve already recommended it to many people. It gives you a lot of confidence, better understanding and it is a lot of fun!

Check out Ben’s work here:

Carabiniers;

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/carabiniers/situations

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/1TK2HmtLgz18n8GgvOb9Ym?si=DulLwN99Svy3f6EbQgozyg

Facebook: @carabiniersmusic

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/carabiniersband

Twitter: @carabiniersband

Trip-Hop piece (collaboration with Matt Coyle): https://soundcloud.com/matt-coyle-4/another-way

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZBwWpyRcg1zsW0fqwPcuXQ

Interested in taking part in Ladders Music 2018/2019?

Click here to find out more.