Photo: Luke Smalley
Who's That Kid On Stage With Justin Bieber? Meet Eddie Benjamin, The Justice Tour Opener Who May Be The Future Of Pop Music
After writing songs for hitmakers like Shawn Mendes — and being mentored by Sia and Justin Bieber — Eddie Benjamin is primed to become a pop star in his own right. As he preps his debut album, he's ready to push the genre’s sonic boundaries.
Not every artist can say they've been on a sold-out arena tour before their debut album has even been released. But Eddie Benjamin can.
The 20-year-old Australian singer/songwriter is currently opening for Justin Bieber on the first North American leg of the Justice World Tour — a slot he earned all on his own.
First gaining attention in a rock group called Haze Trio — which won several talent competitions in Benjamin's native Bondi Beach when he was a teen — the singer relocated to Los Angeles in 2020. His talent was quickly recognized there, too, as he found a mentor in fellow Australian Sia — and, not long after, Bieber.
The two met through mutual friends in 2020, and Bieber has dubbed Benjamin "the next generation." The pop star may just be right: Benjamin has already written and produced for the likes of Shawn Mendes, Cordae, Meghan Trainor and Earth Wind & Fire. And now, he has a viral hit of his own.
Benjamin's piano-backed track "Weatherman" was recently one of the most-used songs on TikTok, with nearly 20k videos featuring the tune. (Since he joined the platform in February, Benjamin’s TikTok videos have garnered more than 30 million total views.) His first single since his 2021 debut EP, Emotional, "Weatherman" expands on the vulnerability Benjamin has unabashedly showcased so far — and serves as a teaser of what's to come on his debut album, due later this year.
The LP will blend his affinity for jazz (he's a classically trained bassist!), retro sounds and hyper-modern sonic techniques. As Benjamin teases, he's ready to overhaul the sound and production of today's popular music. "This album is moreso my foresight [on] where sonic structure should go," he says.
Ahead of his debut LP's release, Benjamin spoke with GRAMMY.com about how Bieber has helped him, his struggles with anxiety, and his plans to shake up the music industry.
So, how did you end up opening for Justin Bieber?
When I first moved to LA, he reached out and was making sure I was okay, showing his support. He became a good friend and a mentor. And I remember I released my first EP and he actually asked me at dinner [at the release party].
Has he passed along any advice that's stuck with you?
I definitely have called him in a time of need. Keeping your body healthy is one of the main things. You're stumbling around up there doing a lot. His set is also really long. The main thing was talking about just staying healthy over the course of the tour, because it's months.
Growing up in Australia, how did you get into the arts scene?
My parents were artists. My dad was a session drummer and touring musician, and my mom was a choreographer and dancer. So I was around creativity since I was really young. They would have Stevie Wonder, Prince, Bach, Mozart records on — an array of different styles of music.
I was never pushed into it, but I had listened to so much music by the time I was 11, and that's when I asked for my first bass guitar. But it was definitely a creative environment where I grew up.
You also grew up in jazz trios playing with musicians older than you. How did that affect the way you approach being an artist?
I came from a jazz and classical background. I think that really structured the way I think about music, and what I have to offer as a songwriter, because I really know how to express myself in many styles of music. Being in those rooms, learning how to be a musician, messing up in front of teachers, messing up in front of people, really having to work hard to be a good player before singing in front of a bunch of people — I think it really, really helped me.
You're a big Prince fan. How did seeing him in concert growing up transform your music career?
I think it started it. I hadn't played an instrument before I'd seen him live. I saw him slapping a bass on stage so confidently — that was one of the first moments that put a battery in my back to go, "Wow, I really want to do that."
You relocated to LA right when the pandemic started? What was that experience like for you?
That was definitely an interesting time, because I got thrown into a lot of rooms. I was working a lot. I was in the studio meeting a lot of people, and then it kind of shut down. I kept working. I was in the studio the entire pandemic. But it was definitely a bit of a shock moving countries and then having the whole world shut down.
Sia took you under her wing a bit, right?
How have you been able to write with such prominent artists so early on in your career?
These people, honestly, are my friends. It happened very naturally. I wasn't ever really trying to go in as a songwriter or a producer. These things happened, and I don't necessarily go into rooms writing songs for other people. I love writing for other people when it just happens, and the connection is real.
Who do you dream of collaborating with?
A lot of them have passed away — I have so many composers I would want to work with. But my dream person to sing a song with would be Stevie Wonder.
Which artists do you feel influenced your debut album?
I don't think that's just one artist.I'm very inspired by an array of artists and their recording techniques. I'm super obsessed with 1960, 1970s and 1980s analog recording techniques and mixing that in with the modern textures and ways of recording. Working with Mike Dean, Kid Culture and Alex Salibia has been amazing for that. We've been able to really hone in on that sound.
In terms of what the album's about, is there a specific theme that encompasses it?
It is a concept album, but it's a hidden concept album where the songs together portray the entire story. The best way I can describe what the album means to me is [that] they're all extreme and pivotal moments in my life in song form. So, the storyline is just extreme experiences that have shaped my life. The album just represents kind of an extremity of those emotions being expressed.
I wanted this kind of idea that everyone has of themselves to be represented in the album. The songs represent an extreme time to me. It's more the idea of getting through these hard times and being the person you want to be.
Can you tell me about your lead single "Weatherman?" Why did you choose to lead with that?
"Weatherman" was created in Malibu with my collaborator, Kid Culture. We were sitting there looking at the ocean, and I remember it was a bit of a breakthrough moment — musically, conceptually and sonically all at once. We knew we wanted to have theatrical, upbeat energy, because I was feeling very pushed around by these outer thoughts, these outer layers we have as people. I was a little frustrated. I really didn't want to feel yesterday's pain, and those lyrics made their way in the song. Then we spent the next three days just crafting the entire arrangement before we had written any of the verses or any of the rest of the structure.
We were just really honing in on a lot of sound design to make it feel exactly how we wanted it to be. We just knew it was the start of that sound. That was actually the first song we made on the album. I didn't overthink it.
Kid Culture co-produced the track. How did you get involved with him?
Funny enough, Kid Culture DM'd me on Instagram, "Let's cook" with a cook emoji. It actually took a while for us to meet up, but when we met up it just absolutely clicked.
He just spent months of his time talking to me and being with me. I think what's really important as a producer is spending a lot of time with the artists, and he did that. I feel like you can hear that in the music. The music is very vulnerable and very real. I think that's because we spent a lot of time together just talking.
It seems like anxiety may resonate throughout the project.
There are a few songs that tilt their hat to anxiety. Honestly, I suffer from extreme anxiety — life-stopping anxiety, can't get out of bed, brain completely frozen. One of those days I got up, went to the studio and made a song feeling like that — that's one of those songs on the album.
I'm still learning how to deal with all those things. I'm not gonna pretend like I have it all figured out. But music is definitely a way to express those hard times.
What do you want fans to get out of your first album?
I think we have a whole new generation of artists who are going to change the wave of music, and this is one of the first albums really pushing that. I have my heart really wide open, and it's a really vulnerable piece of art.
I'm just excited for people to finally see a little bit into my brain. It's not too many songs, it's only seven. I'm already working on my next album. But I'm really excited for people to hear the sonics and hear what we've been working on.
What do you think your next album will look like?
I'm just really focused on pushing the sonics into a new modern place where it hasn't been. I think music has been at a standstill sonically, and a lot of things have started to sound the same.
I don't want to do that. I want to stand out. I don't want to fit in remotely, and I just want to deliver consistently high-level music for a long, long time.
Photo: Lester Cohen/WireImage.com
Meet Justin Bieber With GRAMMY Charity Online Auctions
Bid on an exclusive VIP concert experience to meet Justin Bieber
GRAMMY Charity Online Auctions has launched a new auction offering bidders the opportunity to bid on an exclusive VIP concert experience with Justin Bieber. Open now through Oct. 25, the auction package features two tickets and meet-and-greet passes to an upcoming Bieber concert.
To place your bid on this exclusive experience, visit www.charitybuzz.com. All proceeds will benefit the GRAMMY Foundation.
FYI/TMI: Stars Come Together For Hurricane Sandy, Justin Bieber Breaks The Law
Alicia Keys, Paul McCartney among performers for Sandy benefit; Bieber gets ticketed in L.A.
(In an effort to keep you fully informed, and fully entertained, below we present today's FYI and TMI — news you need and news that's, well, sometimes needless….)
More Stars Come Together For Hurricane Sandy
GRAMMY winners Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, and Kanye West, and legendary rockers Roger Waters and the Who will perform at a benefit concert for Hurricane Sandy on Dec. 12 in New York. Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Robin Hood Relief Fund to aid hurricane victims.
SoundExchange Reports 3Q Royalty Payments
Performance rights organization SoundExchange distributed $122.5 million in royalty payments during the third quarter of 2012, marking the organization's largest quarterly payout since its founding in 2000, according to Billboard.biz. SoundExchange has distributed $326.9 million in performance royalties for the year to date, bringing the organization's grand payout total to $1.2 billion since 2000.
Bieber Breaks The Law
As if Justin Bieber's recent trouble in love wasn't hard enough for the 18-year-old, the teen pop sensation has now run into some trouble with law enforcement. Bieber was ticketed by Los Angeles police on Nov. 13 after he was pulled over in his Ferrari in West Hollywood, Calif., for making an unsafe left turn. On top of that, cops found his registration was expired. Hopefully now there's one less unsafe driver on the road.
MusiCares MAP Fund Charity Auction Launched
GRAMMY Charity Online Auctions offers exclusive memorabilia from seventh annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit
Following the seventh annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit honoring Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan and Vans Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman on May 6, GRAMMY Charity Online Auctions has launched the MusiCares MAP Fund Charity Auction. Presented in partnership with Kompolt, the auction is open through May 19 and features a variety of autographed music memorabilia, including items signed backstage at the MusiCares MAP Fund benefit concert by Linkin Park's Chester Bennington, Gahan and Paramore.
Additional auction items include a framed issue of Rolling Stone signed by the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger; vintage memorabilia signed by Tony Bennett, Jackson Browne, Annie Lennox, Rod Stewart, and Barbra Streisand; guitars autographed by Kings Of Leon, Korn, Tom Petty, Kenny Rogers, and Keith Urban; unique memorabilia signed by Jeff Beck, Justin Bieber, Eminem, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Muse, Katy Perry, and Rihanna; and a 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards VIP Experience for two including rehearsal passes and hotel accommodations.
To place your bid on items featured in the auction, visit www.ebay.com/grammy. All proceeds will benefit MusiCares and the GRAMMY Foundation.
Blues Musician Pinetop Perkins Dies
Blues Musician Pinetop Perkins Dies
GRAMMY-winning blues musician and Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Pinetop Perkins died today of cardiac arrest in Austin, Texas. He was 97. Born Joe Willie Perkins in Mississippi, Perkins gained fame as a piano player on the Chicago blues scene after he joined GRAMMY winner Muddy Waters in 1969, replacing Otis Spann. Prior to that, he played alongside blues artists such as Earl Hooker, Robert Nighthawk and Sonny Boy Williamson, among others. His first GRAMMY Award came in 2007 for Best Traditional Blues Album for Last Of The Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas, an award he picked up again at the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards this year for Joined At The Hip with Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. At 97, Perkins currently stands as the oldest GRAMMY winner. (3/21)
Domestic box office earnings from Justin Bieber: Never Say Never totaled $72.2 million on March 20, surpassing Michael Jackson's This Is It ($72.1 million) to become the most successful concert-themed film in the United States, according to a Billboard.biz report. Michael Jackson's film remains the most successful worldwide, grossing $189.1 million internationally for a global total of $261.2 million. Justin Bieber's film has grossed a total of $10.8 million internationally to date. (3/21)