Ben Pearce’s “What I Might Do” has moved in a blur since its release a couple weeks ago: It quickly claimed the top spot of the deep house charts and is currently stalking its way up the single-digit ranks of the Beatport Top 100.
The Manchester producer’s slinky late-night deep house and skillful handling of a bluesy vocal sample is what’s taken him there, and “What I Might Do” is set to become one of the year’s biggest tunes. Here, the rising star describes pulling his hair out for hours over a production, and what it feels like to realize that your track is about to hit the big time.
Where did you grow up, and where are you based now?
I’ve always lived in Manchester and probably will for some time; I’ve got great friends here and the music scene is brilliant.
How did you get started with DJing and/or making music?
Just from going out to electronic music nights. I lent some old turntables off a friend, and making music followed when I got some programs and started making loops of noise. I sit on my laptop most nights pulling my hair out for hours.
How would you describe the music that you make?
“Varied” would be the best word. I’m always wanting to dip into new areas; I suppose right now it’s quite deep soul- and garage-tinted house.
You had a lot of high-profile support for “What I Might Do” very early on. When did you first realize that it was about to blow up?
I guess I never really thought that much about it. I had my friends telling me they knew it would, but I just took everything with a pinch of salt. When I first started hearing the names coming through, it was great—still a sense of disbelief about it I think.
What can you tell us about the actual production of the track—like the arrangement or use of the vocal sample?
It was a long time in the making, tweaking parts of it for months. It’s probably the longest I’ve ever spent on a track because I usually work very quickly. I’m glad I procrastinated because the end result has been worth it. The arrangement was pretty much always the same. I added the higher pad quite late on, and when I had the base of the track, my girlfriend suggested the vocal. I threw it over and it just worked.
Do you DJ or play live? How would you describe your sets?
I DJ right now with vinyl and CDs. I’m drawn to the idea of a live thing, but that will be in the future definitely; what Jacques Greene and Carl Craig do live is just mind-blowing.
Did you have any mentors when you were starting out? Who helped you get established?
There was some local guys that helped out DJing, and with production I was pretty much self-taught, but getting together with other producers really helped. Eddie Regan, who produces as Isherwood, showed me a lot of stuff.
When did you first feel that you had finally discovered your own individual sound?
I still haven’t, I don’t think, because my influences are drawn so far and wide it’s harder to find a medium. I think I’m starting to get a bit more consistent now with my most recent productions, so hopefully for the rest of the year there’ll be a trend of sorts.
Are you the type of musician who knows what kind of track you want to write before you sit down to make it, or do you create music more from a process of experimentation?
It’s definitely trial and error. More error than trial I find sometimes, but I can get a whole track almost done in two hours. Recently, I was on the way to Brighton to play at Schtumm and I had some remix parts freshly downloaded. It took just over two hours and I had a finished track, which I stuck a quick master preset on and played it out and it worked a treat. I think it has to be a creative thing; I can’t plan it.
When you sit down to make a track, what’s the first thing you typically do?
If it’s an original, I’ll try to find some inspiration, or just start with a drum beat. If I have a remix to do, I’ll listen through the parts and see if anything strikes me. It’s usually quite a quick process for me, but I like to go back to tracks on different days with a clear head just to re-listen and change things.
Where do you record?
At the moment, it’s in my living room of my flat. I’m hoping to get a studio/office with our label soon, or I may invest into one myself.
Do you currently have a favorite piece of gear or software?
I really like Omnisphere just because of how powerful it is, and the sound design is amazing. I’m itching to get in the market for some hardware.
Which record do you wish you had made?
Maybe John Talabot’s album Fin, especially the track “So Will Be Now.”
If a wrecking ball were headed for your house, which one record would you rescue before it hit?
Now that’s a question! Probably my EP because it’s going to go on my wall as a memento.
When you’re not making or playing music, what’s your preferred pastime?
I read that as pasta-time, so I’m going to answer penne.
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing with your life?
Wandering the yellow brick road with an aching in my mind that something was missing? I was actually going to do a physics degree. I’ve forgotten most of it all now, but I love it, so probably that.
Tell us about your upcoming gigs and releases!
I’ve got some remixes coming up next for Bridge The Gap, Southern Fried, and Under The Shade, with an original track coming out on our label Purp & Soul called “Hurt.” Gig-wise, I’m in London a lot, for my single launch and our showcase; Belgium, Cardiff, Nottingham, and Bristol are all coming up.