BEN

Meet Ben. A gifted musician and songwriter from Sydney, Australia, who decided to make Berlin his home a few years ago. His journey has not always been an easy one. The cosy living room in his Prenzlauer Berg apartment offers the perfect scenery to not only hear some of his favourite guitar tunes, but also find out about the ups and downs – and ultimately about the dream that kept him going.

An Aussie in Berlin – how did that happen?

I was studying a mix between songwriting and theology in Sydney, Australia, when I met a German girl called Vera. We started dating. At the time, I didn’t know what to do after my studies. Vera’s plan was to stay for a year and then go back to Germany. I said to myself: “Okay, if we are still together after this one year, I guess, I’m going to move to Germany, too.” However… I ended up moving to Berlin (laughs).

Well, that sounds like a pretty good reason…

For sure, it was a good decision. Now it was all about figuring out what I wanted to do here. It seemed like a good idea to continue studying music – it was not as easy as I thought though. The program I really liked required knowledge about music theory that I didn’t have and it was in German which I didn’t know. They liked my music and me as a person, but others were more qualified than me.

How did you deal with that response?

I decided to learn German and take the test, but also applied for another program that was easier and had less to do with music. 10 days before the semester started, I got a call from the German university that I was accepted. I couldn’t believe it. I remember my dad was really sceptical, but I wanted to give this a try. I couldn’t have done it without Vera who, by the way, had become my wife in the meantime. I’m so thankful for her. She is my “life pal” and biggest encourager who pushes me to keep on going.

“It was a childhood dream that never went away. Everyone else wanted to be a firefighter, I wanted to make music. I used my mum’s pots as drums and made a guitar out of everyday stuff.”

Did you always have that passion for music?  

I tried different things and worked in different areas, in business and with insurances, but the dream to make music never went away. I always said to myself, I at least need to try it. If I fail, that is one thing, but if I don’t even try, I’m going to regret this for the rest of my life.

Can you tell us a bit more about that journey of becoming a songwriter?

Sure. The journey began in my teenage years, when a friend of mine and I just started to write songs for the church we were a part of. Songs about friendship and what was happening around us. With time, I developed, and also started to write about other typical things like love, heartbreaks, loneliness… all these things that you write about when you are trying to figure out life.

So it was all about expressing your journey through creativity?

Yes, I like to write stories. The musical part is cool, but for me it is all about the story and the journey. I personally find that I have written the best songs when I was processing my faults.

What does “unfinished story” mean to you? 

Unfinished story means that it is never over. God always has a plan for us – a next step. We are all working through our insufficiencies and insecurities, but God is working through every situation. Anyone can write a sad song, anyone can tell their bad stories, but the greatest songwriters are those who deeply connect with people. They use images and metaphors – yes, probably about the sad part, but also pointing to a bright future and something on the other side.

“I write from my unfinished story – my struggles, my faith and my life.  It is relatable. It opens up an opportunity for people to overcome their struggles through connecting to mine.”

What would you say is your biggest challenge at the moment?

How to figure out life and do what I do well. I want to build my career around what I love to do, which also sometimes means to fight the opinions of others. I mean, no parents want to see their kids involved in music, in terms of career (laughs, jokingly).

True. What is it that kept you going? What is your biggest dream?
When I am writing a song, I’m always thinking of two things. Can people sing this? And can I take people on a journey – from where they are to where they want to be? So it all comes down to giving them something they can relate to. This is my dream. To get there, it will take a lot of work, practice and preparation. For me, the dream is not about how many clicks you get on Spotify, but about helping people.

What is key for you on that journey?

Investing into friendships with the people around me is everything. If I am alone in my cave, things get depressing (laughs). It takes vulnerability and accountability to work in a team, but inspiration doesn’t come from sitting alone at home. If you want to write songs that move people forward, you need to be around people. Since I came to Berlin, I have always been blessed to have a strong community around me.

What is key for you on that journey?

Investing into friendships with the people around me is everything. If I am alone in my cave, things get depressing (laughs). It takes vulnerability and accountability to work in a team, but inspiration doesn’t come from sitting alone at home. If you want to write songs that move people forward, you need to be around people. Since I came to Berlin, I have always been blessed to have a strong community around me.

“I am thinking about the life that’s going to be changed when someone hears the song. When writing, there is one essential part that emerges easily, the inspiration, but the rest is hard work.”

Who or what inspires you and why?

I look at the best. People who have done whatever they do really well. I read books from Bob Dylan for a musical perspective – he is really inspiring. For songwriting, people inspire me that are bold enough to do it differently. Songwriters like Joel Houston from Hillsong United found a way to take subjects and stories that are thousands of years old, but make them relevant for us today.

 “I am thinking about the life that’s going to be changed when someone hears the song. When writing, there is one essential part that emerges easily, the inspiration, but the rest is hard work.”

Who or what inspires you and why?

I look at the best. People who have done whatever they do really well. I read books from Bob Dylan for a musical perspective – he is really inspiring. For songwriting, people inspire me that are bold enough to do it differently. Songwriters like Joel Houston from Hillsong United found a way to take subjects and stories that are thousands of years old, but make them relevant for us today.

What does Easter mean to you?

For me, Easter is the ultimate unfinished story. It is God saying that it is not over. Jesus dying on the cross is opening the door for us to enter into a new life – an eternal relationship with our creator. His resurrection gives hope, joy and freedom. It gives us the chance to live out our own unfinished story from a place of being forever accepted, forgiven and loved.

Thanks, Ben, for sharing your story.