The East Row Rabble has been performing around Canberra for years. But its founder, singer, songwriter, actor and director Ben Drysdale, is now establishing his credentials as a solo and accompanied performer. And he learned recently that he is a category winner in an international songwriting competition.
Drysdale was one of three winners (from about 7,000 entrants) in the Win Some Love category of the Unsigned Only music competition, and also received an honorable mention (top 15) in the folk/singer-songwriter category.
At Smith’s Alternative in August, Drysdale performed a mainly folk and blues set with keyboard player Niall Howe. Another performance by the duo is planned for December.
‘I’ve kind of always played in bands with other names, and never come out and put music out under my own name. I write a lot of songs for all those other bands. But I kind of wanted to do something that was a bit more personal and a bit more based on folk and blues,’ he says
‘So I’ve been doing a lot of solo gigs with this sort of music. And it just occurred to me that Niall was going to be a fantastic addition to the kind of folkier, bluesy stuff because he’s, you know, he’s Irish. He’s got roots in Irish folk, but he’s played a lot of jazz and blues over his time as well.’
Drysdale says his musical influences are broad, starting with Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) on road trips to the Coast. He wasn’t interested in his parent’s classical music collection, but was into grunge and was at high school when Kurt Cobain died in 1994.
After studying theatre in Canada, he performed around Canberra as Cardboard Charlie.
He is Creative Producer of disability theatre group Rebus which was particularly hard hit by the pandemic because of the vulnerability of its participants, but which is now back and working on several productions.
In the live performance hiatus during the pandemic, he undertook an online songwriting course, and his current release is a collaboration with fellow participant, Los Angeles artist Justina Shandler.