Interview – Boltah

Photo Credit - Brad Dunn

Bring on the chills and new tunes! This October has been a sweet one for musical treats for the eager spooky listener. A prime example is the work by Boltah (Ben Bolter), a multi-talented musician who is bringing a unique taste to the musical scene. With an exploration around an eclectic expansion of genres and styles, the tunes are engaging in more ways than one. Somber journeys are unraveled as the listener is transported to an eerily beautiful world. Impressive instrumentation and calming vocals are heard throughout to add onto this feeling. However, not all of it is straightforward in this way. Power is conveyed in places one might not expect as the events of 2017 influence the tunes to follow. Mr. Ben Bolter made sure to explain every last bit of his latest endeavor.

Ben’s current work is a proud moment for the musician. “I’m incredibly excited because this is my first EP! I’ve been active in the classical and contemporary music worlds for a while as a conductor, but this is my official debut as a keyboardist and songwriter. The music is a combination of brand new songs and a couple that use older material that has since evolved. One distinct element in the tracks is the use of vocal loops and layering harmonies. When I started writing as a solo artist, I found that the use of loops opened up a whole new world of possibilities. My father, Norman Bolter, who is a prolific composer and trombonist, would tell me that when you put certain boundaries in place, it actually squeezes more creativity out of you. It can channel and deepen your narrative.”

When asked about his genre’s longevity in the modern day music-scape, the man gave his honest reply. “This is difficult for me to answer because I don’t exactly know what genre my music is. When I ask others, it’s hard to get a clear answer. So for now, I’d say…. yes, I think it’s holding up!”

Musically, the experimentation grows with each new push. “I want to further explore and expand on live capabilities as a solo performer. As each of the produced tracks also has a live solo version, it’s important for me to be able to use the loops in more dynamic ways. So I am constantly working to enhance and hone those skills. As far as song-wise, I definitely have more political ones in the works. I’ve always been outspoken in this area, but the current political climate is really pulling it out of me.”

Mr. Bolter’s most recent work are the center of attention at the moment. “BB Sky and Anthem serve as the most cathartic for me. BB Sky is one of the first songs I wrote a decade ago but when the loop pedal came into my life a few years ago, the latter half evolved into something I’m most proud of. I finally felt I achieved the sensation of being swept up into the clouds. This is all about my love for the sky and the lyrics were written aboard an airplane from Indiana to Massachusetts. As for Anthem, the most effective political song I’ve ever written and recorded, is my visceral reaction to the current climate and seeks to shine an unapologetically bright light on those that were in complicit in letting this happen.”

Everything here on out is an adventure for this musician. “Honestly, as I have just begun to produce my songs and brand myself as a songwriter definitively, all future performances are ideal. I am so excited to finally share with everyone what I sincerely believe could bring a lot of happiness to people’s lives and inspire those just as countless others have inspired me. At this juncture, an ideal performance would consist of my newest tracks with my buddy and collaborator, Chip Reardin, and possibly another bassist or guitarist. However, I am willing to start off performing as a solo act.”

Difficulties arise all the time for musicians doing it every day. “I would say the first time performing solo with the loop pedal five years ago was the most difficult for me. It was in the echoey lobby of an art museum and it was very open and exposed. Additionally, there were lots of colleagues and friends roaming through there who only knew me as a conductor and classical musician. I remember having much anxiety about having to execute these complicated loops while playing the keyboard and beatboxing. Despite the pressure, I felt a great sense of accomplishment afterwards. It didn’t even matter if everyone liked what they heard. After talking about doing it for so long, I had finally played out as a solo artist.”

While participating in the world of music in its state, Ben gave his thoughts on it all. “That’s a loaded question! I’m very mixed actually even though it is fascinating. There are many incredible artists doing amazing things for the advancement of the art and also those motivated to contributing good to the actual world. I love those who try to do both. Hopefully, responding to what the world needs at crucial times… If you mean the commercial music world, sometimes I wonder where my music could fit in, but that won’t stop me from pursuing all available avenues. I’m saddened when producers or managers attempt to hijack control of an artist’s content in order to use their skills to conform their music and churning out some cookie-cutter lack of substance songs just because they know ‘what sells’. I’ve known a few songwriters who turned down fame because they refused to give up their integrity.” The man went on to explain more. “(Interesting side note): I am a former oboist. My mother is a former flutist and my father is a trombonist who played in the Boston Symphony Orchestra for over 30 years and still performs and composes. For the majority of my life, the classical world was the ‘music world’ to me. I quit the oboe to conduct instead only to discover that I didn’t want to primarily focus on working with conventional orchestras but smaller groups dedicated to what’s new and cutting edge. As a result, the mainstream in both music worlds turns me off at times. At the same time, I’m immensely grateful for the advanced training and inspirational figures I’ve had.”

When music does not take over, other mediums help. “I love strolling through science and art museums. My wife, Monica, and I are also huge cartoon/voice-acting nerds so binge-watching cartoons and playing video games is up there as well. It’s Sunday, my one day off so I’m going to lounge with my wife and my two cats and watch the second season of Stranger Things!”

Jam on.

Give BB Sky and Anthem a listen below: