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Meet Ben Wachman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ben Wachman.

Ben, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Music was always option number 1 with no backup plan. I’ve always felt like if you have a fallback plan, you’re probably going to use it. It’s just human nature. So if you eliminate that option, you have to make the first thing work. I would always say growing up, ‘I don’t care if I’m living in a cardboard box. As long as I’m doing music full time, I’ll be happy.’

Lucky for me I had the discipline and drive to make sure I didn’t have to live in those conditions while making a living off of my art. I came from a musical family. My 2 older sisters sang, danced, and were heavily involved in musical theater. My mom was a voice teacher, and my dad was always a lover of music and sang in a group growing up. I was thrown into the musical theater by default but realized by the time I was 12 or so that it wasn’t for me.

My first instrument was saxophone which I played for 3 years but unfortunately couldn’t relate to at the time. So, I picked up the guitar and eventually piano teaching myself how to play my favorite songs and music on the radio by ear. My first home was in Garden Grove, and I was there through 3rd grade before my parents wanted to put my sisters and I in a better school district. They applied and got an inter-district transfer for me to go to school in Los Alamitos.

After transferring to Los Alamitos, I sang in choir through Middle School and High School receiving several honors, scholarships, sang in the All-State Honor Choir, and through my training and preparation got accepted to Berklee College of Music. I opted out of going there right away and did my first 2 years at Fullerton College to save up and go through their transfer program before heading over to the east coast.

Money was far from a luxury for my family; so not having the option of my parents taking care of payments like most of my peers, it was a big choice and decision to take on that kind of debt for music. Private schools aren’t cheap… even with the scholarships I received. But, I had my heart set on going anyways, so I took out a loan and did my second 2 years at Berklee College of Music graduating on the Dean’s List with a Bachelors of Music in Songwriting.

Since then, I’ve been in Orange County making my way in the music industry meeting some beautiful people along the way. I’ve been lucky enough to have partnered up with Molly’s Music over the past 6 years and earn a living teaching music privately. Their professionalism and willingness to work with me has been amazing and is the reason why I’m able to pursue other avenues in the music industry.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I’m not sure anyone who’s self-made has a smooth ride to success. I think the biggest adjustment for me after graduating was the fact that you have to do everything yourself. I spent my life and schooling becoming a musician. I was a theory nerd reading about modes, chord functions, composition, while everyone else was reading the latest Harry Potter book.

It was a rude awakening to find out that to make it in the business you have to be your own promoter, videographer, photographer, PR agent, booking agent, manage your social media, and the list goes on… I didn’t have experience in any of that and was totally lost on how to get what I could do out to the public. As a result, I put my trust in others who could potentially do for me what I didn’t know how to do for myself. I initially invested in a 4 song EP entitled ‘Leave Me Alone’ and started pitching through leads I had via Berklee.

I got connected with a producer, and he offered me an Artist Development contract which is rare and near-extinct these days. He had connections with labels, publishing, I did my research, and he checked out. It was great because he 100% believed in my talent/skill set and invested in everything, so I didn’t have to spend a dime on recording, creating music videos, advertising, or anything at all. All I had to do was what I do best, make music and perform.

Fast forward 2 years were going on 3; I had found that I really lost myself in the project and was just a face or puppet to represent his music and sound. We ran into a series of, and his connections were uninterested in the music. So, with the project going nowhere fast, I chose to leave the partnership. Unfortunately, there was a contract involved and things got ugly, attorneys were involved, and we split on not the best of terms. All of our music that we did together was thrown away, and I was forced to start over again.

Shortly after, I was connected to a local label who was interested in working with me. The owner of the label had a plan via testing to make us successful and profitable music artists. There was a group of us that bought into the plan and things were exciting as I was rejuvenated with new hope. The only difference was this time around it was 100% on my own dime. I chose to invest and create the product and if the product passed testing then the label would promote it and we would all profit.

Of course, going in everyone had confidence that their art would pass, why wouldn’t it? I think the part I missed, is the factor of you selling commercial music that will sell to the masses. Finding that balance between pleasing your own musical standards while not over complicating so everyone can enjoy as well. After a year and a half of creating songs, trying to fit into this plan, we all went our separate ways.

Although I’m still on good terms with the label and owner, there were a lot of emotions along the way. It was hard to go through another heartbreak, but I was left with the mindset of this is just one person’s plan. Just because you don’t fit into their plan doesn’t mean that there isn’t one out there that you do fit into. It doesn’t mean you can’t create your own.

What else should we know? What sets you apart from others?
I’m heavily influenced by the music of the 60s and 70s. I love old school soul, blues, RnB, funk, and jazz. I’ve always written my own music, so you’ll always find me singing with a guitar in my hand or sitting behind a piano. I feel I’m different than others due to the combination of my influences and today’s music. I specialize in taking retro sounds and putting it into a pop format. Taking music knowledge and using it for twists and turns that catches the listener’s ear without going over their heads.

Being a musician and trying to take art and turn it into a business has always been a struggle for me. What’s exciting is finally being at a place where I’ve gathered enough knowledge through my own and others mistakes and had enough experience to attack with a plan, business smarts, and strategy. I’m at a place where I’m confident with my sound and I’m able to combine it with melody and commercial attributes to please both the musical expectations I put on myself while making it relatable to the general public.

What I’m even more excited about is that this time around I’m doing under my own name and business. I’m not Ben Wachman singer-songwriter affiliated with “______.” I’m artist ‘Wachman’ under label WachmansWorld promoting my newest album that will be released in the New Year entitled ‘Unamused.’

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
This is a hard one for me, and honestly, the definition of success is constantly changing. When you’re young, your dreams fly so high that success is defined by being the next Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson or whatever superstar fits into your music genre preference.

As I’ve gotten older, it’s become as simple as creating a steady second avenue of income. That could vary from having extra money to put gas in your car, to pay your rent for the month, to buying a home.

The above applies, but I think what’s most important for me is also being respected by my peers and colleagues. Being called on when in need of something I can supply and being recognized in a positive light for my talents and skill set.

I’m so thankful for my students and how some of them have been coming to me for 3, 4, plus years now. Considering 90% of my students are 20, and up, it adds another level of respect in my eyes since they aren’t kids who are being forced by their parents to learn from me.

They’re coming to me on their own accord and willingly investing in my knowledge. Next stop is earning that same level of respect on the performance and creative side of music.

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