While studying experimental theatre at Dartington College of Arts, Ben picked up a guitar and immediately started writing his own songs. He’s influenced by early Seventies British singer/songwriters, 60’s Psychedelia and Britpop.
His latest EP Inside Outside was released in October 2022.
Lyrically, it explores mysticism, religious figures, icons and symbols, and the moments when the spirit escapes the trappings of the human body.
“Without shifting too far from traditional and expected folk ways of doing things, with Inside Outside, Ben Calvert has crafted something that is both progressive and unexpected but never for the reasons you might think. It’s precisely what the folk world has been needing for a long time, even if the folk world didn’t realise it needed it in the first place.”
(The Big Takeover)
“A sort of male Vashti Bunyan, albeit filtered through echoes of early Morrissey and Nick Drake. For those inclined to uneasy listening in the eerie hours betwixt the shades of dusk and the faint gloom of dawn, Calvert continues to prove to be an intoxicating singular talent.”
(Folk Radio UK)
As an actor in his 20s, Ben went to study experimental theatre at Dartington College of Arts. His experiences would later find themselves documented on his limited edition vinyl EP Dartington Dreams And Nightmares.
A chance meeting with double bass player Joe Limburn at Poole Arts Centre in 1999, resulted in a session at The Royal Academy of Music in London, with backing musicians who were rounded up on the day from the canteen, or fished out mid-lesson.
In 2000 Ben hawked the recordings around the major labels in person, though they thought investing in folky sounding music was a bit of a gamble at the time. The songs finally found a place at prolific indie label Bearos Records, released on 7” vinyl as the state of travel EP to coincide with a show at the Midlands Arts Centre in Birmingham.
The song Leeds For The Winter was played by John Peel on his Radio One show and other radio stations followed.
Shortly after, Ben befriended Mike Stokes of Bentley Rhythm Ace. For a year they worked together, making new recordings and piecing together songs from tracks previously recorded on Portastudios at Ben’s home and in St Mary’s Church, Moseley. Given the nature of Bentley Rhythm Ace’s sound, Ben was expecting Stokes to slap levels of electronica all over the tracks. He was surprised to find that Stoke’s had a love for Neil Young, Karen Dalton and early 90s Indie, and instead brought great sensitivity and lo-fi production to let the songs breathe.
The result was Ben’s debut album The Leafy Underground which was launched at his residency Bohemian Jukebox at the Bull’s Head, Moseley, in the Autumn of 2003. Songs from the album were play-listed and played on national and Independent radio stations on all continents.
Tours followed, playing at venues such as City Folk at The Heavenly Social, (supporting Kris Drever), and blang! at 12 Bar. Bearos Records continued their support and released the EP love;defenestrated in 2005 and The Broken Family DaySaver in 2008. And more shows. Ben joined Guillemots onstage for their final number at Birmingham Academy, and he played support slots to New York Anti-Folk originator Lach, Hamell On Trial, and political folk-rocker Chris T-T.
In 2010 Ben started working with a band as Ben Calvert & the Swifts.
They played their first show in front of thousands of avid ears and eyes when they opened the main stage of Moseley Folk Festival in the early Autumn sun of September 2010 for Divine Comedy. Weeks later they played a sell-out show as support to Jeffrey Lewis. A support slot to Erland & The Carnival followed, then a packed-out show at Birmingham Symphony Hall. That Summer saw them play their first London show on the Headline Stage at St Pancras Station Sessions Festival. In October the band’s debut album Festive Road was released to critical acclaim.
Shortly after, Ben went solo again.
After playing a show at Union Chapel in November 2013, he took a year-long hiatus to write. The single The Sea, The Sea marked his return. The single was self-recorded and self-produced by Ben in his home studio and was mastered by Pete Maher. (Paul Weller, Damien Rice, Beady Eye) Within five minutes of the track being uploaded to BBC Introducing, it was playlisted for the following Friday.
Ben continues to record and release, and you might catch him when he plays the odd show, mainly at poetry and performance events in West London.