Benjamin Verdoes Songwriting Interview

Benjamin Verdoes Songwriting INterview

Benjamin Verdoes – photo by Megumi Shauna Arai

Benjamin Verdoes Songwriting Interview

Current City- Seattle, WA
Record Label- Brick Lane Records
Most Recent Release- ‘The Evil Eye’

Band Affiliations- Iska Dhaaf, Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band

Brief Intro- Benjamin Verdoes is a songwriter from the Pacific Northwest often known for his unorthodox approach to composition. In the last decade he has written four albums, two as a part Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band. The Evil Eye, which he began composing in 2011, is the first recording released under his own name. Verdoes also currently plays alongside Nathan Quiroga in the emerging Seattle band Iska Dhaaf.

Our Scattered Words- What is your songwriting/composing process and does it vary greatly on the other projects you’re involved with?
Benjamin Verdoes- I write using several different methods, although most of the things I write happen when I am not intending to write. I go into a strange zone where I forget what I’m doing. It is similar to a daydream. I think that is where my psyche unravels into ideas. Other times I make loop of parts I like and walk around the house singing with them.

Our Scattered Words- Do lyrics come quickly or do you revise them over a period of time?
Benjamin Verdoes- Some lyrics come right away or before the music. More often I get a few lines and expand and refine them over a long stretch of time.

Our Scattered Words- The bio info for Iska Dhaaf says that you were inspired by Sufi poetry.  I always encourage people interested in songwriting to study Rumi and Hafiz because I believe those two were so incredible in telling moving stories with such minimal words. Plus, they see right to the truth of emotions and relationships. How did they influence you and Nathan?
Benjamin Verdoes- I think Nathan and I were both at a point of searching and transition when we met. We were looking to get beyond ourselves with our art, and in our personal lives. Sufi poets and mystics are inspiring because they are profoundly human and spiritual at the same time. I would say the transcendence of their writing came from their ability to reconcile life’s seemingly impossible contradictions, namely the eternal and the ephemeral. And yes, perhaps they are concise because they rely on triggering things within a person rather than trying to create something that seeks attention.

Our Scattered Words- I really like and am intrigued by your description of your new album, ““The Evil Eye is a record I made for a beautiful person. It is a rebuttal to those seemingly powerful forces that tell you what you can and cannot do–the eyes that watch carelessly and tongues that move thoughtlessly in an attempt to describe and limit something that is spiritual and perfect. It is a love story.”  What is the thing you’re reflecting on that’s “spiritual and Perfect”, the person? Love? What are the forces fighting against this ideal state?
Benjamin Verdoes- All of the above: the person, the relationship/love, and the story we created together. Not to say that there are not struggles or problems, but that our connection is based on something eternal and beautiful. Perfect is a strange word. In fact, it doesn’t even exist in a few languages I’ve learned/ learned about. To me, it means something that is true and intuitive.

People (myself included) often fall into the mode of thinking that everything in love, life, and relationships is in the final outcome, or in the endurance in our life span. While that is important and may be true to an extent, I think each moment and connection is eternal. I tried to reflect that element in the songs. In some sense, the forces fighting us were people who were hoping or guessing the relationship would end. But also, anything that tried to take the focus off of what we were/are creating, including flattery, insincerity, or negativity.

Our Scattered Words- We all have “unknown fears”, especially those of us working as artists.  What fears are your biggest hurdles and how do you get past them?
Benjamin Verdoes- “Unknown Fears” is about anxiety, specifically the point when it all blends into an unclear feeling of discomfort and stress. It’s mostly tied to social situations. I tend to worry about offending people or not engaging them thoughtfully. Sometimes I am just off, and I get anxiety about conversations. The song is about triggers and things that set you off into that realm and render you useless in your attempts to communicate or connect with others. This includes, to some extent, performing music.

Our Scattered Words- What constitutes a good story for you?
Benjamin Verdoes- Something that is honest and skillfully told. Something that impacts me and causes a reaction.

Our Scattered Words- What are you most proud of?
Benjamin Verdoes- In regards to music, the fact that I continue to make songs and records, and that I have pushed myself to try new things.

Our Scattered Words- What do you wish you did better?
Benjamin Verdoes- I wish I were better at recording my own music. I am working on it.

Our Scattered Words- What is your favorite songwriting lyric?
Benjamin Verdoes- Nate wrote the words to this song, and it has become very important to me. At the current moment, these are my favorite words:

Our Scattered Words- 
What advice would you give to young songwriters/composers?
Benjamin Verdoes- Be honest, read a lot, be patient, and don’t quit.

Our Scattered Words- If you could go back and be part of any album session what would it be?
Benjamin Verdoes- I would have liked to hear Otis Redding’s vocal performances and the process of his records.

Our Scattered Words- If you could sit down and talk about songwriting with anyone, who would it be and why?
Benjamin Verdoes- Leonard Cohen. He is such a great storyteller and draws from so many sources. His songs stand alone. He is a poet, novelist, and incredible songwriter.

Benjamin Verdoes on the Web
Iska Dhaaf
Twitter  @benjaminverdoes   &  @iska_dhaaf

All interviews and Bonus Materials, including Benjamin Verdoes, will be archived alphabetically HERE for easy access in the future.

Bonus materials for Benjamin include 3 music videos of songs he’s been enjoying lately.

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Thanks for spending some time here,
Our Scattered Words



Courtney Jones Video Premiere & SXSW



SXSW week is here.  Personally, my favorite festival.  I’ll head down on Friday, after catching Toby Goodshank open for Macauley Culkin’s new Velvet Underground cover band “Pizza Underground” that changes all of the lyrics to be about Pizza… here on Wednesday night.

But first…
I’m honored that Courtney Jones asked me to premiere her new video, “City Lights”. Many of you have already viewed it at Our Scattered Dreams.  It’s too large a file for this WordPress site, but please stop by and view it.

I started this blog less than a year ago and have interviewed so many great musicians, and hope to share many more interviews with you.  If you’re attending SXSW please check out these musicians that have been interviewed here.

Andrew Belle
Jessie Frye
Golden Youth
Kaela Sinclair
Small Houses

Also watch for upcoming interviews with other SXSW performers like; Elizabeth and the Catapult, Holly Conlan and The 1975.