It’s notoriously difficult, at times, for British artists to break in the United States, to garner the same amount of success here than they do in their home country.
“People are always warning you about stuff, about it being extraordinarily hard. But people [in the U.S.] have been amazing,” said Ben Howard.
Of course, the young singer/songwriter has Mumford & Sons on his side, which -- y’know -- helps. He issued his debut album “Every Kingdom” Stateside on Communion, the label and music community founded by Mumfords’ Ben Lovett, nurtured through that band’s fanbase worldwide.
“[Communion] are all big music lovers, and business comes second. When I was talking to other record labels, they were much stricter with stuff, too much of a brand strategy and a business plan. Communion is just making good stuff, and that’s what the music industry needs-- it always needs music fans,” Howard said in our interview. He said that the opportunity to do something of a collaboration with the Mumfords is always up in the air. “A nice thing is everyone keeps their minds open to that sort of thing.”
But, furthermore, it’s easy to see why Howard is breaking out here: as a lyricist and singer, he has a purity of voice, akin to Jose Gonzalez or Damien Rice. “Kingdom” has a close and electric mix, with the intimate sounds of fingers on frets, perfect for this current crest of emotionally immediate post-folkies dominating everything now, from Grammy noms to “The Hunger Games” soundtrack.
He also has the support of fans on the coasts, due to his passion for surfing. Howard said his dream is to have the flexibility to arrange tours around surfing hot spots.
“The funniest thing is hearing people say that I play ‘surf music.’ I laugh a little bit. Surfing got me into everything from Wolfmother to the Black Keys and Foals to a lot of hip-hop. It’s a misconstrued perception,” he says. “It’s also put me on to Ben Harper and Jack Johnson, and what I appreciate about those guys is what they’ve done for the environment, especially in such a wasteful industry.”
Overall, it’s industry that seems to put Howard, 23, off. He played a handful of shows at this year’s SXSW Music Conference, for instance: “It’s a bit too industry to my liking.” He is, however, looking very much forward to performing at Bonnaroo and Sasquatch!, where the possibilities for impromptu collaborations run rampant.
“I love being in a sort of coummunity vibe. The potential is always there.”
"Every Kingdom" is out today (April 3). Check out the official video for "The Wolves," below.