Brit folk-rocker Ben Howard still basking in success 

click to enlarge Mercury Prize-winner Ben Howard’s latest recording is “I Forgot Where We Were." - COURTESY RODDY BOW
  • Mercury Prize-winner Ben Howard’s latest recording is “I Forgot Where We Were."
The past two years have been crazy for British folk-rocker (and part-time surfer) Ben Howard. He thought he finished an exhaustive schedule touring behind his 2011 debut “Every Kingdom,” with its whimsical, beach-inspired singles like “Old Pine” and “The Wolves.” Then he was nominated for a Mercury Prize overseas, plus two Brit Awards (which he won). Post-ceremony, the album experienced a 320 percent sales jump, then rocketed back into the UK Top 10 – necessitating more concerts. Somehow, he managed to record an elegiac followup, “I Forgot Where We Were,” which focuses on his guitarwork.

Is it true your song “Only Love” was featured on Prime Minister David Cameron’s 10-song CD gift to visiting world leaders at the 2013 G8 summit?

Yeah! It’s mental, eh? Just positively mental.

What other surreal moments have you experienced?

I had a funny one yesterday. I walked on the plane, and Neil Young was sitting in seat 1A, as we walked past him, back into economy. That was pretty surreal. I didn’t talk to him, though, because he was jamming out pretty hard, watching Crazy Horse videos.

How’s the surfing?

I haven’t been surfing very much, to be honest. I’ve just been making a record instead, so I haven’t been out in the sea. But I am enjoying myself at the moment, just playing a lot of music.

Post-Brits, did you treat yourself to anything?

I bought a house near my home, in roughly the same area. And I bought a new suede jacket — I’m trying to fit the part, you see. Trying to finally look like a musician.

Was there any sophomore pressure?

No, not particularly. We chose our own pace for what to record, and when to record. And we went home for a bit. We spent probably three years on the road, solidly touring for the first record. So we all went back to Britain and just sat still for a bit. How did you spend the down time?

I did what anyone else would do – I just tried to be a normal person for a bit. I went and sat and had coffee and talked to people, and that was it really. There was no lightning-bolt moment where I went, “Wow! I’ve got to go record this album!” We were all waiting around for that to happen, but then we thought, “We’d just better get on with it.”

Some of the new songs go on for six or seven minutes.

I’ve always been a fan of music being a journey, so a song for me has always been a story, with a conclusion, a middle, and some tension. Or maybe I’m just not able to get to the point quick enough!


Ben Howard

Where: Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland

When: 8 p.m. Feb. 11

Tickets: $32.50 (sold out)

Contact: (510) 302-2250,

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Tom Lanham

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