Tottenham raised singer Benny Bizzie has worked with the likes of BBK, Ghetts, Dot Rotten and Wretch 32; but what makes the rnb singer tick? We caught up with Benny to grill him on his musical influences, true love and the current state of UK RnB.
For anyone who doesn’t know about you; describe your sound:
Fresh R&B with some of that good old soul stuff [Laughs]. I like weighty & rhythmic, hip hop drums, warm pads, nice chords, some guitar and some space for the vocals to breathe; I’m very selective with my melodies and harmonies too. Simplicity is key! But sometimes I do go overboard with the arrangement [Laughs].
What led you to become a musician?
I remember those days staying with my uncle, he had the greatest selection of Gospel music. As I grew, I got to love R&B music and you could say it got me through those years. Growing up in Tottenham also had its effect, I was in a crew and around a lot of crews, clashing, going on pirate radios, releasing mix tapes, shooting videos with all the mandem, just living and moving with time. Music seemed to be some type of therapy or escape from reality, which was good because otherwise I may not even be here today.
Was it something you always knew you’d end up doing?
Yeah! 100% I’m a dutiful person, I like to keep moving and I’ve worked many jobs, but I always had time for music. Either through writing, singing, developing other acts, linking up artists with managers, playing the piano at church, engineering, I was always around music, and I’m still making music today, trying to break through.
Describe your writing process for us:
I work with some talented composers on the music Cee Figz, Truth BOE, Astrixx, and Skott Summerz. But I like to focus on the lyrics, melodies, phrasing, and structure myself. I could spend a whole day trying to get it to sound a certain way. I start with the chorus 80% of the time because that sets the tone of the whole song, and it’s what works for me; I then try to find a strong concept, some sexy melodies so that it’s memorable and then the right words. Once I’ve got the chorus, it’s a lot easier to focus on the verses, bridge and arrangement. Sometimes all of the above doesn’t matter because a complete song could just come to you when you least expect it.
What would you say is your true love; performing or writing?
Right now I would say writing, because I’ve done that for the last 10 years whilst trying to find myself and grow and I just love the whole process. I’ve written songs with Wretch, Ghetts, Scorcher, Wizzy Wow, Mark Asari, Nathan, J-Warner and I’ve enjoyed every opportunity I’ve had to perform. I know I’m going to love it even more whilst pushing out the new releases.
Do you prefer performing in more intimate gigs or larger venues?
I prefer larger venues because I like the fact that I have to go out there and just smash it; there’s no other way. So I get ready, put on my mean face [Laughs]. Then I sing a soulful number. But you know in the grime days it was all about the hype; there was no such thing as being nervous.
What distracts you whilst on stage?
Nothing really! I’m too focused on the song, my performance. I’m just in my own realm.
Tell us something unforgettable that’s happened to you whilst performing:
I will never forget my first ever performance. I was nervous as hell, I had to be pushed to the stage and I just stared into the crowd, didn’t sing one note, didn’t blink, until the same person who pushed me on, pulled me back off [Laughs]. Ah man, embarrassing! I must have been only 14 or something.
Who would you say has been your best collaboration so far and why?
My best collaboration will have to be with Ghetts; I can’t even explain how much of an artist he is, in terms of output. The way he delivers his pain, struggle, flow and rhymes. It’s really creative and quite scary when he’s in his zone.
Any dream collaborations?
Would love to work with Wale on the same track and write a song for Daley. I will also be co-producing Rebler’s next mix tape.
Is it hard remaining true to yourself when seeking commercial success?
Oh yeah, it’s definitely a lot harder because there are certain demands and expectations of commercial artists in terms of image, song tempo, sound and even down to character. It will most likely take twice as much time for a non-commercial artist to be successful I think, because it won’t be what people are used to. But hey, nothing is impossible and you can always be an exception to the rule.
If you hadn’t gone into music, what do you think you would have done instead?
Really? No music? Oh that’s wrong [Laughs]. I don’t know. Maybe working with Special Needs children or adults. I recently had the opportunity to see the way they face difficulties and it was quite an eye opener.
How would you say the rnb scene differs between the UK and US?
Well firstly, I feel the whole UK rnb scene needs to be supported a lot more. Like 1 million times more. It needs to be given the same kind of attention and exposure it deserves instead of being made into yet another underground genre. I’m scared as this is how genres begin to fade away. In the US, there seems to be a better appreciation of this type of music. People demand it. The rnb community over there is a lot stronger and more united. You have the likes of Tyrese, Ginuwine and Tank coming together to form a group, to fight for this genre. These are big successful artists and you can see the support straight away from fans and the community. We need an awakening of the early days of rnb in the UK. Remember the early Craig David years?
What can we expect from your new EP ‘The Burnout’?
My style of R&B, which is basically a mixture of all my influences, starting with John legend, Ella Fitzgerald, Brandy, Anthony Hamilton, Craig David and some heavy beats/production from Cee Figz, Dwayne Patrick, and many more. Some interesting melodies, arrangements and some of my lessons learned put into words.
What is your favourite track on The Burnout and why?
Can I have two? No? Okay, it would have to be ‘Soldier’ because I wrote my EP at a time when I was burnt out from work, education, family, musical struggle and just life in general. Soldier is that track that reminds me that when I’m feeling all dark and grey like the storms coming round my way, I shouldn’t give up, and I should put up a fight [Puts fists up]. It’s my champion song and my next video release.
Words by Benny Bizzie