The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone worldwide in one way or another. To learn more about how independent musicians are dealing with the pandemic, we interviewed Benedict Cork, an extraordinary singer-songwriter from the United Kingdom who recently performed for Sofar Sounds Listening Room.
Sofar Sounds is an international music organization whose goal is to support local musicians and create intimate performance spaces. Pre-COVID-19, guests would apply for a lottery system of Sofar Sounds tickets to be able to attend shows in secret locations with a local and diverse lineup. The goal was to bring performers and guests closer together and create a safe space for both parties.
Unfortunately, as of March 13th, Sofar Sounds had to cancel all of their shows and completely switch gears in order to support all of their artists. To help out their performers, Sofar Sounds launched an online Listening Room where musicians perform and receive donations from fans. On top of the listening room, Sofar Sounds also created a Global Artist Fund with a goal to raise 250,000 dollars to pay over 1,000 artists during these uncertain times. The organization promises that 100% of all donations goes to Sofar artists.
Thank you so much Benedict for taking the time to talk to us. Your music is so raw and beautiful and I am thrilled to share it with our readers. Could you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your music style?
I like to describe my music as soulful piano-led pop. I’ve played piano for most of my life – in and out of bands when I was a teenager, and then in saloon bars and piano bars across London when I first moved to the big city. I fell in love with playing the songs of some of the great storytellers like Carole King, Elton John, The Beatles, Motown and this started my love affair with classic singer-songwriters. When I started making my own music, I wanted to blend that style with some of the music I love today, like Bon Iver, Jessie Ware, Emily King and Lianne La Havas.
What is the situation in the UK related to COVID-19 and how have you been dealing with it so far?
It can be pretty overwhelming at times. It feels like we have a week’s worth of hard-hitting news every hour at the moment; so I’ve tried to limit my daily intake of it. As long as we’re all keeping informed and safe, I think it’s ok to stop scrolling Twitter and the news websites for the latest headlines as otherwise it can be all consuming.
The first week of isolation was pretty tough. Having everything pulled – shows and studio sessions – one by one, and not knowing when I’m seeing the people I love next was sad.
But then I realised how fortunate we are to be living in 2020 when we can video call family across the world in a second and stay connected in that way. I’ve been trying to keep myself occupied learning how to play the guitar, cooking loads of new dishes and catching up on loads of series and books that I’ve been meaning to get to for ages. I’ve just been focusing on each day and having loads of online quiz nights and dinners with my friends.
Has your creative process changed since being quarantined? If so, how?
I love collaborating and working with loads of talented musicians from different walks of life; so not having access to studios and face to face sessions has been a challenge. But I’ve also really enjoyed the forced pause and time to reflect. I’m lucky that I’d just finished my next project when lockdown hit here, so have spent the past couple of weeks finishing up artwork and release plans to put it out, which has been a really nice distraction.
I’m also trying to not put too much pressure on having to be productive at the moment.
When it feels right, and when little ideas hit, it’s been really nice having the time and space to work on them. But I don’t subscribe to the idea that you have to come out of this pandemic with a brand-new shiny album, or novel, or workout regime. I think just keeping afloat and positive each day is a victory in itself.
How can people support musicians like you during this trying time?
We’re so lucky to have social media to keep us inspired and positive at a time like this. I can only imagine how lonely isolation would have felt twenty/thirty years ago. When I’ve been feeling a little low, I’ve been jumping on a livestream and singing some songs from my bedroom – just as much for me as for other people. To have a positive bunch of people at the other end, in their living rooms, wanting to also feel that shared sense of community too has been really beneficial for me. I know other musicians have been feeling the same love online as well.
There are also plenty of ways to support artists financially too, especially for independent musicians whose income stream has been pretty much wiped out for the next few months. Streaming and downloading music, buying merch, purchasing tickets for rescheduled shows are all great, and also some livestream concerts like SoFar Sounds have been including a donate option so you can contribute a little in that way too.
What has your involvement been with SoFar sounds? Do you have anything else planned for the future with them?
I’ve been playing SoFar shows for a few years now and I love the whole vibe of the set-up – super intimate, acoustic and really focused on the music. They reached out a couple of weeks ago to trial out their new Listening Room, for livestream concerts over the next couple of months, and it was a really positive experience. I did a little half hour set from my bedroom, just me and the piano, and we had a really great bunch of people listening in and interacting. I’d love to do another soon, perhaps around the release of my next project over the next few months.
Where can people stay up to date with you and your music?
I’m on the socials at @benedictcork. I’m living alone right now, so you can watch me slowly losing my mind day by day on there. And then I have two EPs out on all the streaming platforms – ‘Pianos Tapes’ and ‘Letters To Strangers.’ Plus, there is new music dropping really soon.