By Nikki Hedrick
LuLu’s Bay Bash, happening Saturday, May 25, is always a fantastic, family-friendly, and music-filled day that marks the official arrival of the summer season. This year’s performers include Justin Jeansonne & The Dixie Gentlemen, Beachcomber Music Award winners Boukou Groove, True Blue Band, and Ben Loftin and the Family.
Loftin says of born into his exposure to music. “My dad played, so from the time I can remember, it became something that I always wanted to do. And then, when I was old enough to actually hold a miniature guitar, my dad got me a little three-quarter scale and started teaching me chords and songs, and then I just pretty much never put it down.”
Loftin officially took lessons around nine years old, and by age 10, he was already in his first band. Although the fifth grader didn’t take it too seriously at the time. “We just goofed off,” he admits.
Playing in a scattering of bands in middle school and high school, Loftin joined forces with fellow high school jazz band members Marcus Gillard (bass) and Christian Sanders (drums) at age 17. Seven years later, that trio remains together as Ben Loftin and the Family with the additions of Austin Paul Jr. (alto saxophone), Avion Wright (percussion), and Brian Thompson (trombone).
The band’s eclectic sound was born out of Loftin’s solo endeavors. “Being a singer-songwriter, that folky Dave Matthews sound came from me. But I’ve always been really big into reggae, and I’m really big into funk, everything out of New Orleans, and everything very instrumental-based, very jazz-based. So those elements definitely flew in very quickly once the band became an entity of its own and we could start really diving into things like that. It gave us a broader spectrum of what we could do.
“The sound has really just developed on its own,” he says of the collaborative process. It begins with Loftin writing a song, and then the band members writing sections for their own instruments. Loftin compares it to bringing the band “the big picture” of the song that then goes through rounds of tweaks, adjustments and growth as each band member helps craft it.
“We’ve got about six songs in the vault right now that we’re finishing vocals for, and those are full band songs, so I will probably continue to release those as singles over the course of the rest of the year.” He also has an acoustic EP in the works.
Loftin admits that the recording process can be a “fight” for the best possible version of a song to make it onto the recording. “It is a total battle. (We) have had a hard time in the past capturing the energy of the live performance. We’ve got a very energized and dynamic performance, so capturing that in a studio setting took some trial and error, but we have finally gotten to the point where the instrumentation very, very closely matches—if almost not perfectly—the live performance.
“Now it’s a matter of capturing the energy from me personally, vocally, and getting that vocal energy to portray the right way through the studio tracks.”
The goal of the recordings is to have what Loftin describes as “the same energy that you would have in front of 300 people and singing like you have that energy, when really all you’re singing to is a microphone in a room with headphones on. And it’s tough to emotionally put yourself in that same place.”
In addition to new full-band singles to be released throughout the year and the performance at LuLu’s Bay Bash, Ben Loftin and the Family have a party of their own brewing. “We are working on lining up an end-of-the-summer big bash event with us and a couple of other groups.” Although he remains hush-hush on the details, it is something that he is very excited about and hopes to reveal soon.
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