After years developing a following in the folk duo Mayhemingways with partner drummer Josh Flewings, Benj decided it was time to try something new. It’s not to say that the group has been disbanded, but experimenting as a solo act gave Benj more artistic freedom. It will also allow him to fill in his schedule with solo performances now that live productions are back in action.
The album, called Community Garden has been almost two years in the making, giving Rowland a project to work on during COVID when the only performances allowed were virtual. It includes ten ballads that tell stories about small town Ontario and the life of the independent Canadian musician. Rowland has followed that path since 2006. Part of the production process was an eight-month delay was for the production of a vinyl version. The album is also available on streaming sites including Spotify, Apple Music, Itunes or bandcamp or on a CD.
Choosing a producer was easy for Rowland. The album was produced by Juno-award winning producer Joel Plasket, with whom the Mayhemingways have toured in the past, so he understood and appreciated Benj’s musical style. Among the tracks is the “Ballad of the Pig’s Ear”, which is an ode to the Peterborough pub that closed in 2017 after 152 of operation. This track won the fourth round of the Don Skuce Memorial Music Collective songwriting contest.
The producer took care to let the artist shine, with minimal intervention. Despite the many layers of sound- percussion, instrument and voice- many of the tracks were recorded live, giving them a raw and honest feel and making the sound easy to reproduce in live performances.
The album launched last month, but an official album release show is scheduled for April 9th at Peterborough’s Gordon Best Theatre. Tickets for the Peterborough release show, which include special guests J.J. Swinn and The Haymakers and Kayla Mahomed, are available in advance for $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Masks will be required.
Rowland has gigs this lined up in July where he will introduce his new works in venues across Canada.
Community Garden is an important venture for Rowland, and the title reflects his philosophy. His mother organizes the Millbrook Community Garden and Benj has embraced his own plot in a Peterborough. Local artist Jo Ellen Brydon designed the album cover, which captures the diversity and mutual support that creates the community in small town living. Rowland sees community gardens as important and challenging spaces, where seeds produce nourishment for the body and soul.
For more information and updates, visit Rowland’s website at www.benjrowland.com. KG