Getting to Know T'Ben Alleman
Ben is a keyboardist residing in Nashville by way of South Louisiana, currently playing with Ryan Adams. For the last two years he toured with Grace Potter providing keys, guitar, and vocals. Before that, he cut his teeth for two years on the road playing Hammond Organ with Dr. John. Intermittently he has made music with Marc Broussard, Willie Nelson, Better Than Ezra, Jamie Lidell, Ruby Amanfu, Kristin Diable, Betty Who, Sean McConnell, Baby Bee, Motel Radio, Bjorn & The Sun, and more.
He produces bands, writes songs, flies RC airplanes, visits national parks, and shoots 35mm film photos. He records different keyboards, including his beloved 1958 Hammond B3 and Mellotron 4000D among many others from his home. He likes to make stuff on his 4-track and 8-track cassette machines too. If you'd like to contact him for a hang or to make music, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or head to his Instagram.
He is also the significant other to my bestie Andi and I love following their journeys together. When preparing this interview, I wanted to include a lot of her too. It's been fun getting to know Ben through this process and of course, I am crazy excited for the Prisoner tour this year. I must admit I think it's become my favorite album of Ryan's and that is saying a lot. I will never forget the day Andi texted me with the news that Ben had a new job playing with Ryan. For those of you just getting to know me, Ryan Adams is only my favorite of all time. Incredibly excited for both of them and their new chapter out in Nash. (Bio and all photography provided by Ben)
-WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY?
One of my earliest memories is of my Uncle Robby and I playing in the backyard of my family's house in Mandeville, Louisiana. I was probably 3 or 4 years old. We were playing pirates, I always thought he was Captain Hook because of the way my uncle dressed. He still dresses that way today, but now it's a little more western because he lives in Bizbee, Arizona in his little stone house that used to be the town prison. I still believe that my uncle and I were pirates in a past life. That said, I truly have a terrible memory. I struggle to remember a lot of my childhood and often need pictures and stories to jog my memory. Friends and family will tell me stories about things that have happened that I literally have no recollection of. I think it's something that runs in my family from my mom's side. I take lots of pictures because of it and try to be present as much as possible.
-WHAT DO YOU DO BEST?
Playing keys in bands. That's what I've spent the most time doing throughout my life. Beyond playing keys, I think what I offer to bands and songwriters as a musician is a very sensitive ear and a deep understanding of what that person is trying to do musically. Once I feel like I can connect on that level with another musician, I can make unique sounds and musical thoughts for their music that is maybe what that songwriter was always hearing in their head, or maybe what they never knew they wanted. That is what I strive for at least, sometimes I can achieve it and sometimes I don't.
-IF YOU COULD RELIVE A DAY OF YOUR LIFE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
The first gig I played with my middle school rock band. We played my friends birthday party, I wore a curly rainbow wig and my favorite red shit with bright orange pants. We would play Nirvana, Ramones, and stuff like that. I'd love to know what that felt like again.
A SUMMER NIGHT SONG
A 3 AM SONG
A SONG THAT MAKES YOU NOSTALGIC
-YOUR FAVORITE CHILDHOOD PICTURE
-WHAT ADVICE WOULD GIVE YOUR 13-YEAR-OLD SELF?
Never try to hang out with the cool kids in school, it doesn't matter and they don't give a shit anyway. Never stop playing loud unapologetic rock music. I lost sight of those things for a brief period in high school and again in college.
-WHAT IS THE BEST RISK YOU'VE EVER TAKEN?
Deciding to pursue a career in music.
-WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CURSE WORD?
WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR GREATEST LIFE TEACHERS?
My parents for showing me that there is a big world outside of south Louisiana where I grew up and encouraged me to see all of it.
-Lee Hicks was my high school band director (yes, you're speaking to an ultimate band nerd) who bargained with me in my first year of high school. The deal we reached was this: he let me be on the Drumline if I promised (begrudgingly) to play piano in Jazz Band. Little do I know at the time, what I learned in Jazz Band I'd carry with me for the rest of my life and I totally loved it too.
-Ellen Brook was my classical piano teacher for 10 years and was incredibly kind and patient with me. I learned very slowly and had trouble reading music because my ears would always take over. I would fuss a lot about not wanting to play Bach, I was way more interested in Beethoven, Debussy, and Chopin.
Favorite ROAD TRIP MOMENT
A PICTURE That reminds you OF FREEDOM
THE MOST RANDOM PICTURE IN YOUR PHONE
A SONG THAT MAKES YOU THINK OF ANDI
A SONG THAT MAKES YOU THINK OF YOUR MOM
A SONG THAT YOU'RE EMBARRASSED TO LOVE
-WHAT JOB WOULD YOU HAVE IF NOT THE ONE YOU DO?
I would probably be a pilot of some sort, perhaps a crop duster or stunt pilot. For a while I was pretty serious about joining the Air National Guard to try to be a Hurricane Hunter pilot which means you fly C-130's into hurricanes and drop sensors out of the plane that collect important data about what the hurricane is doing. It increases predictions by 30% which is a lot when you're talking about evacuations and people's lives. Being from south Louisiana I was pretty passionate about that. My music career had other plans. I also don't like people telling me what to do, so the military would have been a bad call.
-IF YOU COULD HAVE DINNER WITH ANYONE ALIVE, WHO WOULD IT BE?
Chuck Leavell, a keys player I really look up to. He and I both played with Dr. John early in our careers. From there, Chuck went on to have a long tenure with The Allman Brothers Band and now has been playing with The Rolling Stones for maybe 30 years. He is also an arborist who has a tree farm and is a big supporter of all things regarding the environment. I have a lot of respect for him and hope to meet him one day to swap Dr. John stories.
-WHAT DO YOU HOPE YOUR LIFE WILL LOOK IN 20 YEARS?
I'd love to have my own analog recording studio where I can work on my own music and produce other bands. I think touring will always be a part of my life until I'm not able to do it anymore. The adrenaline rush of playing live with a rock band is probably written into my body chemistry at this point -it's something I crave and need to do for my sanity. I'd also love to take a page from Chuck Leavell or Neil Young and be in a position to help with the environment. I'd love to have an organic farm of some sort and advocate for more change in the ways that we obtain our food. I'd also like to start photographing bands for fun with my film cameras one day.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?
This sounds cliche but I think it's very simple: If you get to make a living doing something you enjoy, you're successful. Many people don't get to have that.
A PERFECT STYLE MOMENT OF SOMEONE ELSE'S
THE LAST SONG YOU COULDN'T GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD
A SONG FROM THE FIRST CONCERT YOU ATTENDED
Fave Photo Of ANDI YOU SHOT
Favorite Photo of a place you shot
-WHAT WAS YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING ENCOUNTER WITH A FAMOUS PERSON?
Oh god. Going to be really honest here. Once I asked Jackson Browne what his name was. Before you shriek in disbelief, read on. To be fair to myself, I had just gotten off stage in Australia seconds before, completely out of breath, not in reality yet, and jet lagged like crazy. I was playing my first show on bass with Grace Potter while our bass player stayed home with his wife to be present for the birth of his first son. Bass is not my primary instrument so I was shaking with nerves, playing bass is a lot of responsibility. Anyway due to all this craziness my brain was swirling in my head like a whirlpool. I enter into a conversation with several folks who were standing side stage for the show, one of which was Jackson Browne. As my conversation ended with a friend, I turned around and Jackson held out his hand and complimented the band. I sincerely said thank you and then I said "It's nice to meet you, I'm Ben! What's your name?" He responded "Nice to meet you, I'm Jackson!" And that's when I knew. I put my hand on his shoulder, still out of breath from the show, and sincerely apologized and explained my absentmindedness. I thought to myself "...of course that's Jackson Browne you idiot." I'm obviously a huge fan and definitely know who he is. I was so mortified, never in a million years would I expect someone like him to be side stage at a show I was playing. I told him how nice it was to meet him and thanked him probably 10 times for coming to listen to our show. He was so genuine and sweet, he didn't even blink an eye. I told him I was a big fan of his and that I normally played keys, not bass. And we started talking about keys and hit it off. I spent the following hour or two walking around the festival checking out bands with Jackson and a guitar player friend of his. It's something I'll never forget. I'm still mad at myself for it, because I never want to be that guy. I just had so much nerves from the performance that I couldn't think straight. I'm glad he is such a sweet guy and understood, and very glad to have witnessed his genuine spirit that day.
-TRUTH OR DARE?
I always used to pick truth.
-ACUPUNCTURE OR PSYCHOTHERAPY?
I haven't tried either but I'd probably go with acupuncture.
WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE THE SUPER POWER TO FLY OR TO BECOME INVISIBLE?
Definitely super powers to fly! Hence my flying obsession. I've always said if I was reincarnated I'd want to be a bird. Maybe an owl, pelican, or hawk. People usually look at me funny when I say that, but I think there's nothing more freeing than to be able to fly at your own will.
SOMEPLACE YOU HAVE CALLED HOME
Favorite Picture Andi Took of You
Favorite photo of water you shot
A SONG FROM THE LAST CONCERT YOU WENT TO
A SONG FROM THE SUMMER YOU WERE 16
THE LAST SONG YOU LISTENED TO
-THE LAST THING You bought online?
A step up transformer box for a synthesizer I bought in Tokyo recently while I was there playing music. It's an 80's Roland analog synth that runs on Japanese power (100v) and now I need it to work here in the USA (120v) so this little box converts the power so I don't fry my synth! However, I did get use it the night of the Tokyo show with Ryan Adams and it sounded glorious.
-What's next for Ben?
Currently I'm on tour with Ryan Adams supporting his new record "Prisoner" and we'll be traveling all over the world for the next year or two. Music will be released from a new band that I'm involved in called Pet Fangs, we recorded a 6 song EP and can't wait to put the music out. In the semi distant future I'll be doing some renovations to my house, acquiring a tape machine for my studio, and thinking about an extended stay in Los Angeles for next winter with Andi. If I'm not doing any of those things I'm usually chilling at home petting my cat, recording music by myself, and laying low with my love Andi.
Thanks for tuning in you guys ! Have a question for Ben?!
Leave it in the comments and I will send them his way!
Check out the tour dates here to see the boys live too.....