After humble lo-fi beginnings in the Australian art-pop underground, Donny Benét has expanded his cult-like following across the globe with a resonant array of danceable repertoire of songs dealing with love and affection. His next album marks a new chapter, informed by a wealth of musical and personal development. Enter Mr Experience. Hi Fi Way spoke to Donny about the album.
How are you surviving the pandemonium?
Just, sitting. I don’t know. Trying to do bits and pieces.
Are you continue to keep writing and creating new music to make the most of the down time?
Probably initially, but probably went a bit too hard a bit too early. I think it’s probably more anticipation and anxiety of the album release and weathering the storm of releasing a record during this pandemic.
Is it a double edge sword thinking about whether to release or not but knowing there are people out there wanting new music to listen to?
I think that’s the bonus of that. A lot of people are holding back stuff but the tricky thing will be when touring can happen because I think 2021, if everyone in the world is moving around freely, then there’ll be a gluttony of tours and new records released. I think if you get something out and you do it right and it makes an impact that’s probably a good thing. Staying engaged with the fan base is one way of weathering the storm of all of this.
Is that the hard thing now keeping the album alive until you can tour again?
Touring has been the best way of promoting my music. So I think the tactics and the ways of promoting albums has changed over the years. That seemed to be the most effective way to get out. I have built up my social media fan base so now it is staying engaged with those people, giving them more without giving everything away. This is uncharted territory as well. I’ve been doing my weekly live stream from home and it’s cool. It has its problems because you’re broadcasting your music through an iPhone microphone and camera, which is not ideal, but it is what it is at the moment.
Congratulations on Mr Experience. Did you find it was a challenging album to make, or did it all go as you kind of thought it would?
It was challenging. The benchmark was set with the popularity of The Don overseas and here to an extent. I wanted to make sure that this album is better than the last one. There was a lot of pressure with the writing material. I had covered a lot of topics in The Don and I had to be careful not to do those again. There were a few false starts and there was a lot of cheering in between. It was hard finding little windows to be able to work and focus. I’d find that I would come home from tour, have two days off, and then start writing. Then at the end of that month you would get a real groove going and then you had to put everything down and tour again. The majority of it was written in August last year after my last European tour, so it all kind of came together at the last minute.
It must be really pleasing to have that interest overseas to spread your wings a lot further than in Australia, which can be for a lot of artists a little bit limiting in terms of how often you can actually tour?
Yeah, definitely. The overseas thing culminated from an initial tour in 2018. I ended up going to Europe three times in five months that year and it was insane. There was demand there and there’s momentum, you have to ride that wave of momentum. It is a great trade off. Australia is very tough if you are not getting played by on radio stations, but I think it’s a good challenge because it makes you be innovative in other ways. I am treating Australia more as a home base now and my audience is more a worldwide thing, so I don’t mind.
You must be pretty pleased with their reaction to the singles so far off the album?
They have been going well. I really like the last one, Girl of My Dreams, that is probably one of my favourite songs on the album and the clip is fantastic. I was really, really excited to get them out before this all happened. The next single we put out, unfortunately I was about to start filming clip after I came back from America, just got too tricky.
How do you compare the Mr Experience with The Don? Do you see many subtle differences?
I think the songs are a bit shorter, they are not as indulgent. I probably learned a bit from that. I played around with a few different writing techniques this time. I pitch shifted a lot of stuff in the demo phase, just to get the right keys for my voice, and to get the right key for the song. I think there is more maturity in the approach of it. It is probably a bit more sparse than The Don was. There was that pressure having a really short time frame to write. The Don I had two years to casually make my way through writing and editing. I had to put my head down and just get on with the job.
The cult figure status that you have plus all the fan pages must give you a little bit of a chuckle?
It’s pretty funny. From the musical background I came from it was the most punk thing I could do. It just seems so wrong that there’s a middle aged balding, hairy, chubby guy getting up there. It’s been nice and quite funny to see that carry over.
To be named dropped by The Weeknd must be a little nice feather in the cap as well?
Yeah, that’s cool. That was unexpected. I do not think I had realised the significance of it initially. My record label and a few friends were like, “Wow, that’s a really big deal.” I was like, “Oh, okay. Yeah.” I was probably more concerned about what is happening this year with Donny stuff.
Are you looking forward to touring returning?
It’s going to be pretty weird, I think for the performers and the audience. I am starting to go a bit, I wouldn’t say batty, but because I would have been on tour now. I have been building up to that tour for the last three years so to say I’m anxious a bit and looking forward to it is an understatement.
Interview By Rob Lyon