The day-to-day of a musician starting out in a city like Los Angeles is full of diverse gigs, unique survival strategies, and the best part— working with other artists of all different types. For many, the creative community offers support, inspiration, and motivation; and collaboration opens the door to all of these things. We chatted with guitarist/composer Ben Provest about his background, how listening to Rubber Soul led to an impromptu writing session, and his collaborations with fellow artist Maddie Jay.
The HUB: Tell us about what you do musically and artistically.
Ben Provest: Since moving to LA I’ve done a few different things in the music industry. Currently, I assist film composer Christopher Young, write guitar tabs and work with the curriculum development team at Fender, and perform original music with my group Munro The Band. I’ve also enjoyed recording and performing with other artists!
Munro the Band performing live.
The HUB: Walk us through your basic performance rig.
BP: My performance rig is pretty simple. I play a Fender 52’ re-issue telecaster with a mini hum bucker on the neck. My pedal board currently has a TC Electronic Polytune, into an Fulltone OCD Overdrive which goes through a Catalinbread Formula No. 55, amazing for lead playing. After the overdrive I have a BOSS CE-2, which is great for anything 80’s inspired. For delay I use the Empress Tape Delay, mainly to get slapback, but it’s really great for anything. Finally for reverb and tremelo I use a Strymon Flint. I put all this through a Fender Deluxe Reverb amp, which works great for live shows, and sounds amazing recorded with an SM57. For acoustic, I play a Maton with a pick up. It also records very well.
The HUB: Tell us about your experience playing/writing with Maddie Jay. What do you do and why does it work?
BP: Maddie Jay and I have played in a few different bands together, my favorite being a group that played the music of Sting and Paul Simon. Maddie is great to work with, and is super hard working, which always rubs off on the rest of the musicians involved! I’m also so inspired by Maddie’s personal projects. She writes, produces, performs, edits videos, and puts it all together in a very artistic way that just makes sense! I know what her brand is, and I like that.
Ben and singer/songwriter Maddie Jay at a co-writing session.
The HUB: What gear do you use to write with? What about these tools inspires you?
BP: Most of the time I start writing a song with either a guitar, or a piano. Sometimes the lyrics come first, with a melody, which I’ll write down either in a notebook, or on my phone. I then work in Logic to make demos, recording bass and guitars, programming drums (apartment living!), keys and vocals. If I ever go into a studio to record drums I’ll usually be working in Pro Tools.
The HUB: Can you share a story about a musical collaboration that led to something amazing or unexpected?
BP: It was the night before I flew back to Australia after a year of living in Boston, and I had a very rough idea of a song. Just an A and B section that was inspired by Rubber Soul, as I’d been listening to that album quite a lot. My friend Jon was over, just hanging out and thought it was cool, so we started building this Beatles-esque track before I’d even come up with the lyrics to the B section. We bunkered down to finish this idea, staying up all night, making musical decisions without too much thought, and by sunrise had created what I still think is one of our most organic sounding tracks. It was the perfect interplay that makes collaboration so great.
The HUB: What do you try to bring to the table as a collaborator and what do you hope for in your collaborators?
BP: I try to be as supportive as possible, and let everyone do their thing. My favorite thing to do as a songwriter is to bring an unfinished idea to a producer, or band, and letting them react with their musical DNA. It always comes out more interesting than if I was to do everything myself.
The HUB: How does working with other musicians help you grow?
BP: I learn pretty much everything from the musicians I work with. The history of the music we make, the gear that is used to achieve the sounds we’re hearing, the nuances of certain instruments, how important arrangement is. Everything. The whole lot. Sometimes we just sit and listen to a record we love, focusing on just one part, trying to get into the mindset of that musician we’re focusing on. I’ve truly learnt everything from the musicians I play with.
Keep up with Ben Provest at benjaminprovest.com.