Breaking Benjamin is my #1 favorite band. It may sound cliché, but they are definitely a band who helped me (and still are helping) when going through hard times. I’m so grateful to have them in my life, my speakers and my headphones.
I had the honor to talk with Keith Wallen, the guitarist and backing vocalist of Breaking Benjamin, about his music career and side project, his main inspirations and musical influences and his future as a musician.
What lead to this change to your musical career (switching from rock/metal to pop/indie)? How did the idea of this individual side project begin?
I really enjoyed the challenge of it all, but I love rock and always will. It was fun to get out of my comfort zone for a bit. I’ve always had other musical projects so this was just a continuation of that.
What are your main musical influences when it comes to composing music?
I was really into Metallica when I was first learning how to play guitar. And then all the 90s bands followed: STP, Alice in Chains, etc. They all had great songs and great vocalists and I was really drawn to that. But I also love synths and 80s music as well: Genesis, Depeche Mode, The Police. Hopefully, all of that subconsciously mixes and has a positive influence on my writing. A boy can hope anyway!
How has the recording process of Allies and Summer Sunday been?
Allies was a bunch of songs that I wrote and produced completely by myself, which was very new to me. Once I found a formula with the sounds, I pretty much stuck to it and kept it pretty simple. With Summer Sunday, that was produced by my friend Colin Brittain, and I was blown away by his ideas. I’m super excited for everyone to hear all the new tunes we did together!
What is the message/meaning behind the song, “Hello Houston” from Allies? It’s a beautiful song!
“Hello Houston” is a song that I wrote about losing my father and losing a parent in general. The feeling of being that much more alone in the universe and wanting to reach out to a friendly familiar voice. That voice was my lifeline and I likened it to the idea of being in space and listening for NASA’s mission control center in Houston.
Are there any upcoming projects? What should we get ready for?
I’m going to release more music in the near future for sure. I plan on it just being singles for now.
Do you have a “dream collaboration”? If so, can you tell me which musicians you would like to work with on your next project?
A fan recently suggested a collaboration with Ryan Tedder from One Republic. I was like whoa that would be awesome! I think he’s a super talented dude and that would be really cool to even just write a song with him.
Where did the idea of naming your EP Allies come from? What inspired you to create Allies?
The name Allies came from the idea of those songs being like small individual therapy sessions to me. They helped me express what I was feeling or thinking at the time. Some writers think of their songs as their children, mine were like friends that had my back. My personal Allies.
Why you choose to cover the song “Wicked Game” as part of your EP?
The idea to cover that song came by pure accident. I was messing around with sounds; I came across the echo-y drum sound you hear in the beginning and just started singing the song to it and I loved it. Slightly different rhythm than the original, but no one will ever do that song as well as Chris Isaak. Such an amazing song and musician.
Is there anyone in particular, such as a family member, musician or band that inspired you to sing and pick up the guitar for the first time? Has playing and singing helped you in some aspect of your life?
Yes, my father was a singer back in the day and my mother was in a traveling dance troupe so they were very supportive of my career aspirations as long as I went to college and had a backup plan. Learning how to play guitar was the single most life-changing thing in my life. Once I decided that music was the path I wanted to pursue, practicing, singing and playing guitar gave me a real sense of purpose.
Throughout your long career as a musician, you have been and currently are surrounded and admired by fans and followers from around the world. Many of them, including myself, are interested in starting to play an instrument or sing. What message would you like to send to those who are beginning to sing or play an instrument?
Well, first off, thank you to everybody that gets out there and supports music! And I’m humbled to have the support that I do and I can’t thank everybody enough for that! It means the world to me. And as far as learning an instrument or singing, just have fun with it, and try not to get too frustrated with the difficulty of learning how to play. Keep practicing and don’t give up!
Keith Wallen is the current guitarist of rock band Breaking Benjamin. On June 24, 2014, Keith Wallen released his first EP named Allies, a five-track indie-pop acoustic/piano project.