It’s not very often you get the chance to have a casual conversation with a seasoned musician who’s worked alongside legends like lead guitarist Steuart Smith of The Eagles, but I had such an opportunity to speak with long-time performing musician Ben Mason, after the Super Bowl on Sunday in anticipation of his fourth album “Flesh and Bone” set to release on February 7th, 2018. In Ben’s words, “It’s about my personal journey and imbued with a sense of darkness to grace; it’s from a place of reflection.”
A typical day in the life of Ben Mason begins with a healthy breakfast; some hard-boiled eggs, toast, and coffee, all with the beautiful backdrop of the Rappahannock County, located about an hour west of DC in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. His vista is also home to the sacred ground of the Pawmunkey Indian Village by the Thornton River, which has also been blessed by a medicine man of the tribe. *All photos have been graciously provided courtesy of Ben Mason himself*
He speaks of being drawn to this place like a magnet, to explore his Native American roots, having moved out of the city 18 years ago to collect his thoughts in solitude with nature for inspiration in a quest of silence away from the hustle and bustle of the city-living rat-race, after some personal life trials and tragedies. His home sits on a geological Pangaea, where all the continents were once connected together. This gives the area a unique collection of minerals and rock stones like Unakite, the state stone of Virginia, having a combination of Green Epidote, Red Jasper, Blue Quartz, and Pink Feldspar.
Being away from the city lights, he can easily view the Milky Way and Geminids. It’s also home to a wide variety of wildlife such as coyotes, bears, cougars, bobcats, and eagles. Having two sons aged 18 and 21, the youngest will visit spending time together with Ben enjoying target practice. The eldest attends Virginia Tech, where he’s a member of the a capella group Juxtaposition.
Ben says that he’s become a bit of an amateur archeologist, finding objects like arrowheads by the river that he uses to tell stories in either his music or artwork. But he also spends time working on his vocals, to keep himself from losing them, practicing piano and even working on his book titled “Big Boy Movers, Sex, Trucks, and Rock and Roll”, which is currently in the editing stage. “In it”, he says, “it talks about me starting up a moving company called ‘Big Boy Movers’ after the music deals were starting to go sideways.”
Having some curiosity of my own, I asked Ben about working with lead guitarist Steuart Smith of The Eagles, who is featured on his upcoming album release. Ben says, “He’s a very good and dear friend. We used to play together in bars 6 nights a week until I was 30 back in DC. Steuart seems to have the gift of being able to make a song imbue the sense of seeing a person’s body through song. He’s very supportive and will even honestly tell me if he thinks I’ve missed the mark on a recording. He’s like a Rembrandt with a huge heart!!”
I also asked about working with Mary Chapin Carpenter’s renowned producer, John Jennings. “We were really good friends when he was alive. I remember we were at the same club, Mr. Henry’s back in the 70s or 80s. Being an acquaintance, Chapin sang some demos for me. He was such a giving person. He produced my album ‘River Deep In Me’. We played gigs and guitars together. He was attracted to the 5 types of songs I do: spiritual search, soldiers, history, love and life experiences. ‘Bull Run’ is a very true song, and was named after a civil war battle in 1862.”
Having listened to a few of his tracks on his upcoming album as a preview, I couldn’t help but notice that his voice hinted of influences of Bono from U2. When I asked Ben about this, he replies with a chuckle, “There was a young lady who made the same comment to me about 10 years ago after a gig. I have Irish, English and Scottish in me; it’s all about the passion and grabbing the rope that’s pulling the truth.”
Having heard a few awesome stories already, I had to ask if Ben had any other stories he could share.
I remember a night having a beer at a bar in 1967 with Jack Bond and Chapin had demoed a song. Roy Buchannon was there too and a young man walked up and said ‘I don’t think I can do this anymore. I think I’m just going to back to England and do my own thing.’ It was a discouraged Jimi Hendrix. John Jennings had once said to me that if he was to have ever recorded Hendrix, he would simply turn on the tape and let it roll.
On the road, there are nights that might never end and famous people will show up to see you. I’ve seen Steve Stills in the crowd, heard of famous actors being there, things like that. I remember Woodstock in 1969; I was 17 at the time and I was working and playings gigs and couldn’t go. I met a friend 35 years later who I knew had gone to the show. There was a gig I played and an elderly couple walked in; very classy dressed. The man was a sea captain. After the gig, the lady said, ‘I like your band. Our son is in a band. What was the name of it?’ The husband looks at the floor and says, ‘The Doors.’ Their son was Jim Morrison, who was kicked out of their basement for smashing too many guitars on a pole.
On a trip to New York, we met up with a sorority for a party; they were all gussied up of course. At 6am the next morning, the girls were all in a tizzy about a naked curly-haired girl passed out on their couch that they had never seen before. I asked, ‘So who is it?’ After we turned the person over, we found it was Peter Frampton.
Ben says that he sometimes travels into town to tend to an artistic repair business he has in the city or to play gigs.
To quote Ben Mason himself, “For me, man, it’s all about the art and music!”
Mason will celebrate the release of “Flesh and Bone” on February 7th, 2018 at his Grand Prize Winning Local Songwriter Circle at Pearl Street Warehouse in Washington, DC. The event will feature Americana singer/songwriter Kipyn Martin and Folk/Americana music from Tony Denikos. The show begins at 8 p.m. with doors at 7pm; tickets are $12. For more information, please visit the Pearl Street Warehouse website HERE.
Please join Ben on February 10th from 1-4:30 pm at Gadino Cellars in Washington, Va, to
celebrate the local Rappahannock County release of “Flesh and Bone”. For more information, please call 540-987-9292 or visit the Gadino Cellars website HERE.
For more information about Ben Mason’s EPK album titled “Flesh and Bone”, please visit Ben’s website HERE.
Chad! Wonderful work. thank you for telling my story from the ground up. My life described gives my sons some legacy after i am gone. thank you man. And come on down and visit. Maybe we’ll find an arrowhead.
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It was an honor and my pleasure telling your story! Thank you, Ben.