Skindred’s frontman Benji Webbe and guitarist Mikey Demus dropped into ACM to talk to students about how best to survive and succeed in the music business and also to play a special acoustic set.
Formed in 1998, Skindred have gained an enviable reputation as an ultra-energetic, enthralling, and award-winning live band. Having toured relentlessly, and playing to crowds of up to 500K, their talent, hard work, and dedication has earned the band a well-deserved following and longevity, despite the challenges of an ever-changing industry.
It’s therefore no surprise that ACM students, aspiring to make their own way in the business and aiming to be the Download headliners of the future jumped at the chance to ask Benji and Mikey what their secrets were, and how they have managed to hold on to and continue to build their careers in an industry so full of change. Tenacity is what Mikey claims got him the gig with Skindred: being willing to pack your bags and move your life to wherever the band is; that and the sheer will to want to do it.
When asked by a student what advice would they give to bands just starting out writing their own songs, frontman Benji responded with “Just be true to yourself.” “Enjoyment is key,” he added, especially when it comes to touring. Benji explained how, for him, the years have flown by and how passion has kept the fire alight. What’s more, he reminded the students: once you write a song, you’re stuck with it for life.
There was a perceptive mixture of questions directed to the Skindred musicians about the business side too, and they gave valuable advice on what makes a good tour manager; also the importance of the team around you. Benji and Mikey’s replies were frank and open, and when they talked about the rest of the band and team behind Skindred, it was clear that they see it as a family, feeling a bond with everyone they work with. No separate tour buses for Skindred! (as Benji joked).
Touring can however lead to some very odd experiences: Mikey, for instance, told the group how it felt to be hit on stage by a dead fish! “What drove you to music? ” asked one student. For Mikey, it was watching Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimmy Page that moved him to pick up the guitar. The likes of these greats gave him the fire to play. Mikey was quick to point out, though, how important it is to have your own thing “Pick your own lane!” is his advice.
An important question was raised in the discussion: “Do you think you’d still be where you are if you started out today?” “It’s a different time,” Benji replied, “We’re up against an industry that wants you to fit in a certain pocket. We don’t fit in a pocket: We do what we do.” When asked which song they’d wish they’d written – Benji answered “My Way”: a song whose lyrics Benji described as lasting forever, meaning so much to so many people.
Not only did Benji and Mikey share their insights and secrets of success with ACM’s students, they also played an exclusive acoustic gig, featuring Skindred’s “Nobody” and “Saying it Now.”
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