Ben Daniels Band
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Ben Daniels Band

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"Chelsea's Ben Daniels learns from his famous father, carves out own niche as a blues musician"

Proving the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Ben Daniels—son of actor Jeff Daniels—has at various times been a filmmaker, an actor and a musician. It’s in that latter capacity that he brings his blues-rock group the Chelsea-based Ben Daniels Band to The Ark Thursday night.

The band, which first formed in 2008, now also consists of George Merkel on guitar, Tommy Reifel on bass, Wesley Fritzemeier on drums/fiddle/trumpet/keyboard/spoons, and singer-songwriter Amanda Merte.

“Growing up I was always making movies. Me and my brother and sister, we’d make all kinds of things. I was always more into behind the scenes—I really liked editing and filming,” Ben Daniels said. “Then I started getting into music and editing music, and I went to school out in Arizona for audio engineering and recorded myself.”

Eventually he turned to the guitar, which, he said, delighted his famous father, also a talented blues-style musician.

PREVIEW

The Ben Daniels Band

Who: Chelsea residents Ben Daniels, George Merkel, Tommy Reifel and Wesley Fritzemeier.
What: Bluesy rock.
Where: The Ark, 316 S. Main St.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday Aug. 15.
How much: $15. Info: www.theark.org or 734-761-1800..

“He’s been trying to get me to play guitar my entire life, but I was always playing with sports and other stuff. I finally decided I wanted to try it … He is very happy I am doing music. He wept openly when I finally came to him and said, 'I am ready to learn the guitar.'”

Ben Daniels said he enjoys jamming with his dad whenever their schedules permit.

“We sit out on the porch or wherever. He teaches me a couple of songs he’s working on, we jam together, do whatever. Sometimes we will write stuff together for fun. He’s definitely got the chops—he’s got a lot to teach me. At the beginning, he just taught me five chords, he said that’s all you need to know to start out.

“Writing a song is my favorite thing to do, my favorite place to be, and it’s what happens naturally,” Daniels added.

With six CDs under their belts—“Coming From The C,” “Checkin’ In To The Michigan Inn,” “Can't You See,” “The Mountain Home” EP, their dual album and movie release “Old Gold,” and the release of their sixth studio album, “Roll,” recently—the Ben Daniels Band is clearly serious about making it long term in the music business. And another album is already in the works.

“We’re getting more shows, playing live, writing, writing and writing,” Daniels said. “We have about 15 songs we’ve been playing for about a year so we can get them how we want them before we record them. We have enough material to put out another one. We’re starting to record; (in fact) we’re going to go record after this interview.”

He said whoever comes to The Ark can expect a great show.

“We just played Blissfest; that was probably our best by far. … We’re pretty much still on a high.

“We’re feeling very good about The Ark and all the things that are happening before The Ark, we are excited about a lot of the new songs we’ve got now and probably a few we’ll come up with between now and then,” he added. - Ann Arbor News


"This Is It"

As we become societally over-stimulated, anyone with a cell phone and Internet can become a recording artist. The result? We’re being inundated with mediocrity. For even the least-discerning palates, it has become nearly impossible to single out the poet from the din of poorly written hooks and recycled synth beats. For musicphiles from the bored to the disconcerted, The Ben Daniels Band is a welcome gearshift.

The Chelsea, Michigan-based band, together since 2008, consists of George Merkel, Tommy Reifel, Rick Hale, Wesley Fritzemeier, and Ben Daniels. The band will be bringing their richly varied sound to the new (and potentially annual) MI-Fest at MIS September 16-18. Frontman Ben Daniels talks about playing a show that boasts headliners like Jack White, Sheryl Crow, and ZZ Top: “I couldn’t really believe it when I first heard that we were going to be there…It will be a great weekend of all different kinds of music and we can’t wait to be a part of that, it’s an honor.”

The band’s influences cover the bases, from hip-hop to jazz, old blues and Bob Dylan to Jack White. Their press and diverse musical interests promise a local band with big potential – the novelty is that they actually have the goods to back it up.

The band’s newest release, Old Gold, appears on their website as an “albumovie” (which, depending on your interpretation, is either an album-length music video, or a movie narrated solely by music). Old Gold’s Mitten-centric footage shows the band’s dedication to their Michigan roots. Daniels says, “We like to have Michigan, to show that, it’s our home.”

Old Gold, an entirely self-recorded project, which Daniels described as “a really fun process,” is intentionally raw. Whether or not you are able to make sense of the pieced-together plot, the soundtrack offers a little bit of everything, including a jazz track with a French voice-over (“Seaweed”), a dance-inducing inducing indie rock anthem (“Make Believe”); a Spanish-guitar-infused love-gone-wrong song (“Ol’ Luana”); a quirky indie-pop love song (“Fool”) and a good old-fashioned ballad (“Old Gold”). Fans of Matt Ward, Citizen Cope and Emily Wells should be especially pleased.

The band has been touring for the last few months and the shows seem to be a success. Daniels says, “It’s been a really, really good time, we’ve just been driving in the RV, playing a lot of new songs. It’s been really cool seeing a lot of different cities, really amazing venues, and meeting a lot of really cool people.”

When their tour reaches its finale at MI Fest, what can newcomers expect from their September 17 show? “We’ll definitely play a lot of our songs that we’ve been playing for a few years,” Daniels says, “we’ve come up with a few new songs on the road that we’ve been playing – they’re going in really good directions … It’s going to be a lot of fun. And really loud.”

Another musical influence for Ben Daniels is a fellow proud Michigander, more commonly known for his silver screen credits and Purple Rose Theatre fame – his dad, actor Jeff Daniels. Daniels says, “I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 20, but he’s been playing all of my life.” He continues, “All the finger-picking and blues stuff that he does – that’s really been a huge influence … it’s been incredible just to watch the stuff that he can do.”

But don’t think that Ben and the band are resting on their laurels, they’re putting in the work, and it shows. Though they definitely still have a gritty, local-band-sound, it belies the quality of their musicianship, which is full of talent and promise. In describing their music, Daniels says, “We’re just getting way more serious about it.” If this is them just getting serious, then good things and good music are in store. | RDW - Real Detroit Weekly


"This Is It"

As we become societally over-stimulated, anyone with a cell phone and Internet can become a recording artist. The result? We’re being inundated with mediocrity. For even the least-discerning palates, it has become nearly impossible to single out the poet from the din of poorly written hooks and recycled synth beats. For musicphiles from the bored to the disconcerted, The Ben Daniels Band is a welcome gearshift.

The Chelsea, Michigan-based band, together since 2008, consists of George Merkel, Tommy Reifel, Rick Hale, Wesley Fritzemeier, and Ben Daniels. The band will be bringing their richly varied sound to the new (and potentially annual) MI-Fest at MIS September 16-18. Frontman Ben Daniels talks about playing a show that boasts headliners like Jack White, Sheryl Crow, and ZZ Top: “I couldn’t really believe it when I first heard that we were going to be there…It will be a great weekend of all different kinds of music and we can’t wait to be a part of that, it’s an honor.”

The band’s influences cover the bases, from hip-hop to jazz, old blues and Bob Dylan to Jack White. Their press and diverse musical interests promise a local band with big potential – the novelty is that they actually have the goods to back it up.

The band’s newest release, Old Gold, appears on their website as an “albumovie” (which, depending on your interpretation, is either an album-length music video, or a movie narrated solely by music). Old Gold’s Mitten-centric footage shows the band’s dedication to their Michigan roots. Daniels says, “We like to have Michigan, to show that, it’s our home.”

Old Gold, an entirely self-recorded project, which Daniels described as “a really fun process,” is intentionally raw. Whether or not you are able to make sense of the pieced-together plot, the soundtrack offers a little bit of everything, including a jazz track with a French voice-over (“Seaweed”), a dance-inducing inducing indie rock anthem (“Make Believe”); a Spanish-guitar-infused love-gone-wrong song (“Ol’ Luana”); a quirky indie-pop love song (“Fool”) and a good old-fashioned ballad (“Old Gold”). Fans of Matt Ward, Citizen Cope and Emily Wells should be especially pleased.

The band has been touring for the last few months and the shows seem to be a success. Daniels says, “It’s been a really, really good time, we’ve just been driving in the RV, playing a lot of new songs. It’s been really cool seeing a lot of different cities, really amazing venues, and meeting a lot of really cool people.”

When their tour reaches its finale at MI Fest, what can newcomers expect from their September 17 show? “We’ll definitely play a lot of our songs that we’ve been playing for a few years,” Daniels says, “we’ve come up with a few new songs on the road that we’ve been playing – they’re going in really good directions … It’s going to be a lot of fun. And really loud.”

Another musical influence for Ben Daniels is a fellow proud Michigander, more commonly known for his silver screen credits and Purple Rose Theatre fame – his dad, actor Jeff Daniels. Daniels says, “I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 20, but he’s been playing all of my life.” He continues, “All the finger-picking and blues stuff that he does – that’s really been a huge influence … it’s been incredible just to watch the stuff that he can do.”

But don’t think that Ben and the band are resting on their laurels, they’re putting in the work, and it shows. Though they definitely still have a gritty, local-band-sound, it belies the quality of their musicianship, which is full of talent and promise. In describing their music, Daniels says, “We’re just getting way more serious about it.” If this is them just getting serious, then good things and good music are in store. | RDW - Real Detroit Weekly


Discography

*All albums may be streamed on Spotify

Roll (2012)
Airplay: "Baby Doll" on WQKL 107.1

Can't You See (2010)
Airplay: "Her Love" on WQKL 107.1

Checkin' In to the Michigan Inn (2009)

Comin' From the C (2008)

Photos

Bio

When Ben Daniels decided he was going to be a musician, it was more than a career choice. A natural poet, this young songwriter went to school on Bob Dylan, Robert Johnson, and Jack White, among others. The son of actor Jeff Daniels, he has quietly monitored what it takes to live life as an artist. Beyond a passed down talent, the Ben Daniels Band believes in hard work, perseverance, and creatively challenging themselves and their audience.

Throughout years of touring the United States, BDB has played numerous shows across the Midwest, New York City, Nashville, and Austin, TX. From their opening song to the finale of their set, the Ben Daniels Band cuts through with their originality, musicianship, and a sound that spans Americana, Jazz, Dance, and Rock. With George Merkel on lead guitar, Tommy Reifel on bass, and Wesley Fritzemeier on drums and mandolin, BDB’s live show never fails to take over the venue and has evolved into a performance that is pleasantly familiar, yet unforgettably unique.

* For video, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FcwLEIhxeU