Student Spotlight: Benjamin Roustaing on Streaming and Success – Soundfly

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Student Spotlight: Benjamin Roustaing on Streaming and Success

British/French singer-songwriter, Benjamin Roustaing, was cowriting and ghost-writing songs for other artists in LA, Nashville, and New York, when he came to Soundfly for a chord theory mentorship session in April 2018. We got to see first hand just how talented Benjamin was, but at that point he still didn’t have a single published song under his own name.

His first single, “Wait,” came out in October 2018, and since then, his slow release of singles has earned him millions of plays across dozens of platforms, and a permanent spot in some of the world’s biggest taste-making playlists. And that’s….exactly why we’re back in touch with him today.

Just a couple months ago, some of us at Soundfly got a notification that an artist we follow has released a new track on Spotify — we checked it out, and yet again another soft, sincere transmission from the acoustic pop factory of Benjamin Roustaing had made it into our headphones. Only this time, when we checked how his tracks were doing, we noticed that two of his singles had over 2 million plays on Spotify alone!

What, other than finely tuned songwriting chops and a hustling sensibility, contributed to this well-deserved success of late? We talk about all of that and more with Benjamin below. If you’d like to learn more about working one-on-one with a Soundfly Mentor to achieve your musical goals, go ahead and fill out this form to tell us what you’re working on, or simply get in touch.

Hey Benjamin! Let’s start with an easy one; how would you describe your musical style?

I’d say it’s acoustic, heartfelt pop with quirky elements thrown in there.

I’d agree with that assessment! What’s your songwriting process like typically?

That’s a difficult question because it tends to change. Having said that, I’m fortunate enough to have a studio in Stockholm, and just making the journey to the studio sets my mind to “I’m going to sit down and write something” mode.

When I sit down, and start to play around with chords or if I have a cowriter who’s playing, I tend to immediately feel an emotion or memory based off those chords, I then have a pretty clear idea of the elements I want to use to tell that story. What often takes longer is finding the exact words to describe that emotion or situation, which often means I tend to write songs in pieces — a chorus and verse one day, and then the rest another, or maybe just the pre-chorus. It depends.

I find it hard to write in a place where there’s distractions, I want to get myself lost in what I’m doing, so having minimal interruptions is key.

I’m also really lucky that my writing partners all happen to be insanely talented musicians and can capture the “feeling” of the song in an instant, which really helps with the flow in a session.

Have you been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic at all?

Because up until this point I haven’t done much live performance, the impact has been minimal since a lot of my “success” has been online. But I have so many friends in the industry who have suffered terribly from COVID-19; and I just hope the pandemic hasn’t wiped out a generation of creatives due to the financial struggle.

Hearing a ton of José González and Jack Johnson in your songwriting, as well as a sort of soulful, Hozier-style vibe, just wondering who your references or inspirations are for your vocal sound?

I mean I’m honoured that you hear that in the songs, I’ve listened to all three artists you’ve mentioned growing up. I think “Banana Pancakes” has to be one of my favorite songs ever. To be honest, I’ve never thought too deeply about my vocal sound, I’ve always just sung like that.

I think where those influences play a part is around the type of music that gives me goosebumps, and for me when I hear a folky, stripped back, acoustic soundscape, it always reminds me as to why I love music.

At this point, it’s been two years since your session with Soundfly. If you can remember that far back, what was the goal of your mentorship session with Joseph Capalbo?

At the time, I’d just moved to Stockholm and had started getting into production. But I felt I wanted to get a better understanding as to why certain chords or notes hit better than others. And I sought to understand how someone can build tension and movement in a song, and then resolve it at the right moment or not at all, for that matter.

And how did working with Joseph help you as an artist since the session ended?

As I mentioned, the session gave me a better understanding of why certain things in music make you feel a certain way. And this better understanding led me to writing with more confidence, ultimately, which I personally think is one of the key elements in being able to write a song of which you can be proud.

You’ve seen a pretty spectacular bit of success recently (2.5 million streams on “Old Days” and counting!). I’m curious what kind of promo you’ve actively done around your music in the past year, versus how much was more like “right place right time?”

I think it was a number of things, firstly I started working with AWAL and they’ve been great at helping me streamline and improve my release process. They have undoubtedly have helped me gain exposure especially on Spotify and Apple Music.

Alongside that, I’ve been working closely with some fantastic YouTube music creators such as Apeiron — who have been instrumental in helping me increase my fanbase and exposure. So I’d like to say a big thank you to both AWAL, for being a fantastic distributor and partner, and to Apeiron for supporting and helping my music get heard!

In a similar vein, what’s one thing that happened in 2019 that contributed to a spike in the attention you’ve gotten?

Most definitely the spike in attention has come from the exposure obtained through playlists and YouTube. Now, AWAL will be the first to say that playlisting is really a fraction of what defines a successful artist career, and I’m completely in agreement with that. I think as artists we rely too much on playlists and not enough on connecting with fans directly, whether that’s digitally or face-to-face.

Don’t get me wrong, I think streaming platforms and the potential exposure artists get from them has literally revolutionized the industry. Music that would have never gotten airtime on commercial radio in the past is now being listened to everywhere in the world! But, building a sustainable artistic career has so many different elements to it, and I’m seeing and understanding that more and more as I look to progress in my own career.

Lastly, the only place we can look from here is to the future. So what do you have coming up?

I’m currently working on my first EP, which was going to be released this month, but I’ve decided to go back to the drawing board; as I think I can write better songs for it. I’m hoping to release the first song from the EP in late August.

Aside from that, I’m also releasing music in a band with one of my dearest friends, which has been such an amazing experience. And finally, I’m producing as well as writing for various artists, with most of them being based here in Sweden.

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Jeremy Young

Jeremy is a Montreal-based musician, sound artist and improviser who loves giving advice to emerging artists on how to make their tours more effective. He writes, records and performs electroacoustic "concrète" music for tape, oscillators and amplified objects and surfaces, as well as solo guitar. He has performed and released material throughout Europe and the UK, Asia, the US and Canada, mostly with his trio Sontag Shogun.