Then&Now: Benjamin Clementine

British-French poet, musician and recording artist from London Benjamin Clementine has had a rough childhood. Despite that, he has managed to grow into an admirable avant garde musician. On 13th May Benjamin will perform at COMPENSA concert hall in Vilnius.

Benjamin Clementine THEN

Benjamin was born in Crystal Palace, London, and he was the last of 5 children. As he was bullied in school, he found himself drawn to the literature of the Bible as well as poetry, especially the works of T.S. Eliot, William Blake and Carol Ann Duffy. Benjamin would skip school to spend all day at the library.

Benjamin`s older brother Joseph pointed out different types of books and dictionaries for him to read. But when Benjamin was 11, Joseph bought a piano. After Joseph had finished his daily practice, Benjamin was the one to play with the piano. In a few months he started imitating the work of fin-de-siècle composer Erik Satie, learned from hours of listening to Classic FM. For the next 5 years Benjamin continued practicing.

At age 16 Benjamin left school and ended up in Camden Town, homeless. At the age of 19 he relocated to Paris, where he spend a number of years playing in bars and hotels. Eventually he bought a half-broken guitar and a cheap keyboard, and for the next three years he wrote songs. He became a cult figure in the Parisian music scene.

After four years living as a rover, Benjamin was discovered by an agent whilst walking back home from an evening performance. The agent introduced him to a friend, who later became Benjamin`s manager for a period of time. In 2012 when Benjamin played gig at the Festival de Cannes, he met Lionel Bensemoun, a business mogul in France.


Benjamin Clementine NOW

After meeting Lionel Bensemoun, they decided to make a record label “Behind”, so that Benjamin could record his music. After that he was invited to the Rencontres Trans Musicales of Rennes in France in December 2012, where he performed first time on the big stage. Benjamin eventually signed a music license contract between Capitol, Virgin EMI and Barclay.

In June 2013 Benjamin`s first EP “Cornerstone” was released. Later that year on an episode of the BBC TV show Later With Jools Holland, that also included performances by Paul McCartney, Arctic Monkeys and others, Benjamin performed the EP`s title track. McCartney afterwards encouraged Benjamin to continue his musical career.

After a gig at the South Bank Center, the London Evening Standard`s David Smyth said that Clementine`s performance reminded him of Nina Simone.

Studio album “At Least for Now” was released in 2015. On the 13th February it reached the iTunes Top 10 in Italy, Switzerland, Holland, Luxembourg, Poland, Greece and Belgium, but in France it went number 1. The album was certified Gold and won a prestigious Victoires de la Musique (the French equivalent of the Grammys) award for best new artist. “At Least for Now” also won the 2015 Mercury Prize.

To witness Benjamin`s performance live, get your ticket here

What do you think?

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