Photo by Micky Clement

Photo by Micky Clement


BENJAMIN CLEMENTINE

Raised in a strict religious household in the tough Edmonton section of London, singer, songwriter and pianist Benjamin Clementine started to teach himself the keyboard at age 11, stumbling upon classical rather than contemporary pop; a sparse piano solo by Erik Satie in particular transformed the way he played. At 16 years old, in a rare moment of permitted TV watching, he caught New York avant-gardists Antony and the Johnsons performing the disarmingly naked “Hope There’s Someone” on the BBC. “I was confused, scared…it was another world,” says Clementine. “When it finished, I went back upstairs to my piano and started playing chords.”

Inspired by figures like Leonard Cohen—and with no emotional or employment ties to keep him in London—Benjamin left for Paris at age 20; sleeping rough, working in kitchens and busking out of economic necessity. First in the corridors of the Place de Clichy station and then on the metro, he built his voice and refined his craft as he made enough money to move first to a hostel and then into a room of his own. Having eventually returned to his hometown of London, word spread from across the continent to the point where Benjamin Clementine’s U.K. live debut took place on national TV when he played two songs on Later…With Jools Holland. At 6’3”, dressed in his now-trademark overcoat and bare-feet, Clementine cut an extraordinary, puzzling presence, causing a small storm on Twitter, and Paul McCartney amongst the first to congratulate Clementine on an “amazing” performance.

At Least For Now, Clementine’s debut album which Capitol Records released in Summer 2015, has since earned him critical praise and UK’s prestigious Mercury Prize. The New York Times has called the album Clementine’s “declaration of selfhood,” and described his voice as a “frequently stunning instrument, a bladelike tenor that can swoop into either a clarion cry or a guttural scowl.” NPR Music has declared, “A startlingly unique voice takes art pop into new corners,” adding, “Clementine is nothing if not audacious on At Least For Now.” The Wall Street Journal wrote, “It’s a recording that invites dedication to a performer who is willing to share what he feels without idealizing his journey toward self-discovery.”

Last Updated: January 27, 2016


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