Interview: Ben Bradford Talks ‘Alright’ EP, Family and Life Before Music
Ben Bradford is enjoying building himself a career in country music, don't get him wrong -- but it's not necessarily what he saw himself doing "when he grows up."
Bradford began playing baseball when he was three years old, and he even earned a scholarship to play in college, at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn.
"You really want to 'make it', but at some point in college, I went, 'Okay, this is not going to work,'" Bradford tells The Boot. "... You're either going to be a doctor or a musician."
Oh, yeah: Being a doctor was an option, too. Bradford studied biology in school -- he began as a biochemical engineering major, "and then I realized I hated math," he says with a chuckle -- and planned to go to medical school and become a radiologist.
But in 2011, Bradford entered the Texaco Country Showdown, just for fun. He earned a spot as a finalist, placed first locally, then placed second in his state ... "and that's when everything kinda started falling into place," Bradford sums up.
His parents advised him to finish college before pursuing music -- which he did -- but Bradford's family has always been supportive of, and influential in, his career. As a child, the future singer-songwriter learned about country music from his older brother (now a doctor) and classic rock from his father.
"My family is probably my biggest support team, and I couldn't ask for anything more ...," Bradford says. "They just keep pushing me every single day."
And although he passed away in 2008, Bradford's dad still plays a role in his son's songs.
"He has a special place where I can go for a deeper side of my music and my writing," Bradford explains. "It helps me to get that out. It's still an emotion that you'll always carry, the memories and everything, and being able to express that through music has been great."
Alright, Bradford's newest EP, released in December, showcases both of his family's favorite genres: The artist worked with producers Greg Archilla (producer for rock, pop-rock and alt-rock groups such as Buckcherry, Matchbox Twenty and Collective Soul) and Ilya Toshinsky (whose country-centric list of production credits includes, among many others, Dolly Parton, Toby Keith and the Josh Abbott Band) on the seven-track project, and the result is a blend of those influences.
"Having those two guys together, putting them together, was just an amazing combination," Bradford notes. "... I couldn't have asked for a better team."
Bradford's EP is a mix of four songs that he wrote ("That's me telling my story, my background") and three that he found out of hundreds of potential cuts ("Not only are they great songs, but they embody who I am as a person"). Although he wasn't heavily involved in the production, instead preferring to let Archilla and Toshinsky "do their thing," Bradford says that he enjoyed seeing how the songs changed and progressed in the studio. He specifically recalls that "I Need a Cold One," a few-years-old song that's the disc's final track, evolved from "just a couple of chords" to something more swampy and Southern rock-like.
"It's cool to see a song go from just an idea to what it becomes later on," Bradford muses. "... It's like a little baby, watching it grow up."
The EP's title track is one of the songs that Bradford didn't write himself, but he was immediately drawn to its driving, rock-esque beat and melody. At the same time, the lyrics helped seal the deal.
"It's a different way to say a lot of the same stuff that everybody else has said," he says. "When I listen to it, I listen to the lyrics ... My main focus is on how the story's being told."
Bradford will spend much of 2016 on the road, including a string of shows currently scheduled throughout the Southeast.
"Hopefully I don't fall off any stages and rip my pants like I did last year," Bradford says (yes, both incidents happened at the same time). "At least I didn't get hit in the face with a beer can."