See the video for the first song “American” here
Brooklyn-based singer songwriter Ben Rice has released “American,” the first single from his intimate and immersive forthcoming album Future Pretend due January 22, 2021. See the video here.
Having come of age in early 2000s New York City obsessed with baseball and rock n’ roll, Rice was just in time to savor an iconic run of Yankees championships, and relish the Gotham rock renaissance epitomized by The Strokes. Twenty years later, legendary music venues have been replaced by banks and disposable retail shops and brownstone buildings have been leveled to make room for luxury high rises. Yet, although the spaces change, the spirit lives on with Rice who embraces big city Americana on his debut solo album, brimming with ruminations on culture, society, and personal evolution.
“Over the past few years, I’ve seen my city and my world change so much. I’ve dealt with the loss of friends and family, gotten engaged and gotten to be a part of some amazing projects creatively. I knew these were all such significant life moments that it felt imperative that I was truly present,” Rice says. “We spend so much time mired in our memories, or fixated on a pretend version of a future reality, that we can miss out on experiencing our lives as they are happening. For me, the main concept of the record is the pursuit of being present, framed by the experiences that have taken me to this place.”
Rice spent his early 20s on the road with various indie-rock bands, and later laid down roots as a producer and session musician in Brooklyn, NY at his studio, Degraw Sound, where he recorded Future Pretend. He went into 2020 riding high, playing guitar on a Jonas Brothers chart-topping track; co-writing in LA with powerhouse songwriters; and delving into production on a number of exciting projects. But by the spring of 2020, when New York shut down for the pandemic, Rice was on the brink of a shutdown himself.
“After grinding non-stop for as long as I could remember, I was forced to take a few weeks off, like an extended snow day. Having that time made me realize how burned out I really was and gave me a moment to reset. I had spent the past decade immersed in other people’s music and had shut off a certain creative lobe in my brain, but with this pause, lyrics and melodies for my own songs started coming to me again. Then I realized, ‘I have this studio that is sitting there vacant…’,” Rice recalls.
At the time, New York was the epicenter of the U.S.’s COVID-19 crisis, and the City That Never Sleeps had descended into a trauma-induced coma. Broadway went dark, the subways were vacant, and evergreen bars and restaurants closed their doors. NYC felt like 9/11 all over again. Against this unsettling backdrop, Rice made the brave trek to his studio every day on foot, walking 8 miles armed with a mask, hand sanitizer, and tissues. There, he granted himself the opportunity to create, unburdened by music biz demands or defined artistic parameters. “I devised games to separate my artist brain from my producer brain, and I relied on other senses to guide me. I knew I was getting somewhere when a track conjured up smells, like rain on concrete or the damp wood in my childhood attic. I wanted the songs to be transporting,” Rice reveals.
Future Pretend’s first single, the sweetly melancholic but politically incisive “American”, showcases Rice’s skills as an empathic writer. Here, he writes about feminism and mental health with sensitivity and visceral flair.
Rice wrote, produced, engineered and mixed the nine tracks on the album at Degraw Sound. He is a seasoned musician; outside of his solo career Rice has worked as a producer, studio guitarist, and bandleader. Select career highlights include producing for Norah Jones and Valerie June; studio guitar work for Fletcher and on a Billboard #1 hit for the Jonas Brothers; playing in indie rock bands signed to WMG; and sharing the stage with artists like Arctic Monkeys and Brendan Benson.
A solo album was a surprise gift from the pandemic, enabling Rice to make the most of a forced life pause. He says: “It had been 8 years since I put out a full-length album, and this record woke something up in me. It made me present, and it taught me if you want to do something, you have to be all in.”
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