The Persevering Artist
"Ben Union is the living, breathing definition of a modern classic. The Seattle/Tacoma-based sensation is a rare breed of artist, pushing the edges of his music closer to the luminous polish of current hits only to reveal timeless influences and instincts. His art is a stiff cocktail of tried and true ingredients shaken with a mixer sweet enough to keep you consuming it for the rest of your life.
Union is a deliberate songwriter, his sonic libation adhering to the highest standards of a reckless night. His lyrics don’t sleep and his rhythms are driving stolen wheels on a suspended license downhill toward a cliff. There are unmistakable flavors of R&B and soul, hints of reggae and funk, and a splash of low-end beats poured over a light serving of rock for refreshment. At the end of the night, you don’t care what’s in it; You know it tastes good and does its job every time. Ben is that time you drank all that champagne and rum punch and never got the hangover you most certainly deserved.
In the white collar world of entertainment, Ben Union is a blue collar man who looks better in a suit than the guy whose name is on the tag and wears it like he doesn’t even care. His lyrics and melodies carry the familiar traces and notes of all the dues a man should pay, tearing up clubs from the back of a van and paying his bills by the sweat of his brow, earning him the callouses, scars and aches of life that few men know in their youth. His songs are a story that every person can relate to; Whether pointing out the lies you tell yourself or bringing you to tears with a heart-wrenching ballad of love lost, Union is a refreshing voice of truth in a culture of feigned honesty. His music is like a 5-o-clock shadow on a pretty face that’s not there for the sake of fashion, but because it’s a cold world out there and a working man has no time to primp at dawn. Truth is rough, but sets you free. Ben Union has been liberated.
Ben is the 2nd of 5 sons born to itinerant ministers. While the church is a birthplace for more household-name artists than you can count, most are typically born in rebellion rather than emancipation. Union's life was once seemingly predestined. He was blessed with a stable home and loving, committed parents who raised him with strong values and dedicated work ethic. They weren’t wealthy, but they were provided for. A powerful communicator and gifted leader, Ben’s dad was a lightning rod who wasn’t afraid to preach the truth and wouldn’t back down from a battle, and Ben developed a similar toughness and uncompromising commitment to authenticity.
Ben seemed to have many of his father's gifts. By 19 he was traveling the world, leading thousands in songs of faith and preaching from pulpits around the globe. His gifts and genuine passion set him apart, but his guitar sealed the deal. Ben was a star. Not yet old enough to buy a drink, Ben marched on the evangelical world undefeated, on what seemed like a true righteous path. He was plugged in — to his Fender amp, plugged into an endless circuit of revival meetings, plugged into something bigger than himself. He was hitting all the right notes, but all things must pass and all good songs must end. He had been climbing to the very top of a castle that was made of sand. In a story that will be told another day by another man, he never saw it coming. The party was over, and there he was...lost, wandering, disillusioned, walking across a great desert with very few friends left. No job, no paycheck, no support system. The young man who had been certain what his future held was caught in a fog with no compass, no lighthouse, and no one looking for him among the wreckage, with some trying to drown him. With no vision or sense of purpose, Ben just needed to feed himself and went to work with his hands. He labored long and hard and the days became a blur of aimless survival. He was in a haze of hopeless despair which seemed to last for lifetimes.
When Ben woke from this spell, he found himself in what looked like a space suit. He was lying under a giant nuclear reactor, as the voice of David Brynne in the song 'Once in a Lifetime' spoke to him and said, "Why are you in this military installation, maintaining this nuclear reactor? Why are you here, why aren't you playing your music?" There lay Ben Union, underneath this shiva, this destroyer of suns, on a military base as the radiation seeped around his suit at levels the government deemed safe-ish. He wondered how he went from preaching to thousands to this moment of quiet lonely anguish and self realization, performing one of the worst jobs on the planet, a completely expendable human being as atoms split just feet from his skull. Ben left that day and never looked back.
Ben took every penny he had to his name, recorded some songs he’d written in the “desert” and bought an RV. What happened next sounds like a fantasy: Ben started driving. He booked gigs, he picked up bands, he developed his sound and earned his road-warrior stripes. Like St. Augustine, he tried everything that came his way. Before long he had a following, a new flock that stuck with him this time as he experimented on stage, explored his own mind, challenged his own thinking, and all the worlds of darkness and light that had once been forbidden. He gradually came out of the desert and began to smell the sweet air of success but he was hungry for more.
Ben went back and listened to his recordings, looked back on his live shows, and it was all very good, but it wasn’t undeniable. This time, he wanted to build his musical home on solid bedrock, even if it was just a shack. Listening to all the songs he had crafted, that he had once been forbidden, he wanted a sound that would go on forever. He wanted to proclaim his true voice and he wouldn't play another show until he delivered. He threw it all out and spent the next 2 years writing, honing his craft, and finding truth...and somehow, along the way, he found his freedom and redemption in his journey.
Ben Union is a train that is traveling on both sides of the track, and he's pulling up fast with the finest work of his career. His new release is packed with ready made hits — songs ready to burn like gasoline. Ben Union's new work is mischievous, yet mature in the sense that he has wandered through the broken glass and impenetrable night to find his true voice. It can be said with a straight face: Ben Union's journey to this new place, in his way, rivals Robert Johnson's run through The Crossroads. It has the brutal conflict of Jerry Lee Lewis' own Memphis dance down the highway with good and evil. It's a road story that reads like an American myth. It's impossibly true. Back to a place where he found his voice through these songs.
This is the sermon Ben Union has delivered. Welcome to his third act."-Davin Michael Stedman
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