‘Home’ shows a more stripped-back side of the Melbourne-based musician.
Inspired by the desire to discover the truest version of oneself, Melbourne multi-instrumentalist Ben Witkowski has revealed his long-awaited debut EP, ‘Home’, a compilation of five beautifully raw tracks.
Since pressing down on that first key on the piano at seven years old, Witkowski took a deep dive into the world of music. Starting out on the acoustic, stringed instrument, his passion for music was ever-evolving, also taking to the guitar, drums, bass, banjo, harmonica and the violin before he eventually found his voice.
“I’ve been writing music my whole life as a bit of a release, but it’s only in the last few years that I’ve started to try and get it out there and make something out of it,” Witkowski explains.
It wasn’t until 2017, when Witkowski released his debut single, ‘Army of Three’. After then taking two years to solidify his musical style, Witkowski returned to the scene late last year with a stunning glimpse into his triumphant new sound with the brilliantly huge anthem, ‘Mountain Man’.
Earning him second prize in a national song-writing competition, as well as garnering rave reviews around the world, the track proved only just the beginning for Witkowski, who went on to release two more singles in 2020, ‘Real Me’ and ‘Lucky Land’.
Forever evolving and reshaping, Witkowski has now broken open a new chapter with his emotively rich and vulnerable EP.
Released late last month, ‘Home’ captures you right from the start, championed by Witkowski’s deep resonating voice, delicate keys and heartfelt songwriting, leaving you hanging on his every word throughout the duration of the five-track EP.
With nods to the likes of Bon Iver and Julien Baker, the folk-pop and emo-folk influences surge and flourish throughout the beautifully acoustic EP. With conceptual influences more in the vein of Sigur Ros and Gang of Youths, the result is a melting pot of bright acoustic and electric guitars, dreamy cello-bowed electric guitar, beautiful piano melodies, a string quartet and even some harmonica.
Combined with Witkowski’s familiarly raw and powerful vocals and storytelling lyrics, ‘Home’ sees the songwriter replace his usual big sound, anthemic style of indie-rock with a completely stripped-back sound.
“I’m just a one-man band, so it can be quite a lot of work to put a full-band track together,” he says.
“My two true loves are piano and guitar, so I really wanted to centre the EP around those two instruments. I tried putting drums on a couple of tracks but it just seemed to make more sense to keep them all relatively acoustic. I use a cello bow on an electric guitar to create some nice atmospheric ambience, and that’s something I’ve been working on heaps this year.”
From the tender and intriguingly tormented opening track ‘Who I Am’, through to the gentle and hopeful ‘Don’t Look Down’ and a tribute to a friend with a terminal illness with ‘Fire’, the album is a poignant reflection on the places, people, and environments where we can be the truest version of ourselves. Spawned from Witkowski’s own struggles with himself and his identity, the EP is anchored by the effects of the pandemic, with most people using their time in isolation to re-assess what makes them truly feel at ‘home’ – whether that be a physical place or an emotional connection.
“In 2020 I was feeling very lost with myself and my identity. I thought about the places where I felt most comfortable, relaxed, and the truest version of myself. These feelings didn’t necessarily come from when I thought about the house that I lived in. They were more from a whole range of experiences in my life,” he reveals.
“Experiences like when I was travelling and exploring through my incredible home country of Australia; when I was with my family, friends, and intimate relationships; and when I was discovering things about my identity by taking chances and embracing the adventure of life.”
It’s no surprise the pandemic had a huge effect on Witkowski creativity. Working as a tour guide and a musician, his main source of income evaporated within days of the initial wave sweeping the nation back in March.
“I had to take a step back and try and work out what was really important in life and what gave me some direction and purpose. Music has always, always been there for me throughout my life to help me through any situation.
“Sometimes we just have to take the pressure off ourselves, and just do what we love for no other reason than to remember that we love it. If anyone connects with my music and resonates with any of the messages, then that is just a bonus.”
Produced and recorded entirely in Witkowski’s home in Melbourne, the EP proved to be an ideal project to see him through months of isolation during the height of Melbourne’s lockdown, enlisting help from Marshall Street Studios to achieve the EP’s vibrant organic production.
“It was a great project for me. I was definitely an “all the gear, no idea” operator, so it was great to spend time learning about recording and put it into practice.
“I’ve been working heaps with Stu Watts and Bennett Ferguson from Marshall Street Studios in Melbourne. Stu is an amazing sound engineer and has helped me through the whole process of releasing music. He mixed and mastered the EP to perfection. Stu and Bennett have been the best mentors I could have ever asked for.”
Powerful, honest and hauntingly beautiful, you’ll truly feel at ‘Home’ with this release.
‘Home’ is available now on all streaming platforms. Check it out on Spotify below.