After 16 years and nine albums as songwriter-performer-producer with Tracey Thorn in Everything But The Girl, he spent the next 10 at the helm of his award-winning electronic label Buzzin’ Fly, and a radio residency on BBC 6Music before returning to his roots as a solo singer and songwriter with Hendra, his second album in 2014.
Arriving 31 years after his UK Independent Chart No.1 debut, it met with wide acclaim at home and abroad for its eloquent lyrics and stripped-back aesthetic. It featured prominently in end-of-year round-ups and pipped Anna Calvi and Blood Orange to win Best ‘Difficult’ Second Album at the AIM Independent Music Awards 2014.
Now he is set to return with another solo album, Fever Dream, released worldwide on April 8 on Watt’s own imprint Unmade Road through Caroline International.
Self-produced at London’s famous RAK Studio 2 and mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering in Maine it takes Hendra’s sonic template of open-tuned folk-jazz, distorted string-bent rock and soulful rumination and adds a fresh grainy intensity.
It renews key partnerships with Hendra’s vaunted guitarist-sideman Bernard Butler (of Suede fame) and engineer Bruno Ellingham and sprinkles guest vocal cameos from Boston’s dream-folk singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler and Hiss Golden Messenger’s MC Taylor.
“At the album’s heart I just wanted to deepen existing relationships,” Watt says.
“Two years of playing live with Bernard has created a strong bond; the music we make feels spontaneous, ardent, unsentimental. We just went in and did most of it live. Small room, small band. A harder edge. Instruments spilling into each other.”
The pair are joined by drummer/percussionist and longtime ally Martin Ditcham (Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden) and new double bassist Rex Horan (Laura Marling’s Once I Was an Eagle / Neil Cowley Trio), who in Watt’s words “brilliantly blurs the boundaries between folk, jazz and rock”.
The Ben Watt Band, featuring Bernard Butler, will be playing songs from the album along with older favourites, when they go out on tour this spring. They will be appearing at the Belgrave, in Leeds, on Thursday, May 26.