Ben Mulwana is a Ugandan-born and raised artist residing in Wisconsin. With soulful lyrics and a diverse range of musical inspiration, Ben's music has a storytelling quality that is both unique and familiar. Whether alone or with his band, he brings high energy, engaging with his listeners and sharing his heart through his music.
Ben released his debut EP, "Wano Naawe", in June 2019; and his most recently released Single, "Lies of the Devil", is available on all streaming platforms. Ben is set to release his next project in the spring of 2022.
And today he's here to talk to us about his music and the heart and soul of it!
Can you tell us when was the moment you knew music needed to be your life's work?
I’ve always loved music, and if I am being honest, I really wish that I had taken my relationship with it more seriously much sooner. I get lost listening to music from many of my favourite artists - Sade, Ron Kenoly, Need to Breathe, X Ambassadors, Ben Rector, and so many others, but when it came to performing and playing myself it felt more like a party trick.
In 2019, I had to quit my job in order to apply for permanent residency status in the United States. As I couldn’t work throughout the process, I realized this was an opportunity to focus solely on my art and get serious with music. I started writing my own songs, and a lot of what I was writing about obviously revolved around what I was going through at the time. One evening after a particularly rough day, there were words that kept repeating in my head - “Wano Naawe” which means “here with you” in my native tongue. From there a song started forming and I just started to pour out on paper all of the thoughts and feelings I was having.
To summarize it simply, the song is about being there for a person that needs you, even when it's inconvenient for you or when you don’t necessarily know what to do to help other than just be present for them. When I played this song for the first time at an open mic a few days later, a man came up to me afterwards and said “I needed to hear that today, thank you.” In that moment, I realized my music wasn’t just a party trick, it could actually impact people in a meaningful and positive way. That’s when I knew I needed my life to be committed to making music that could move people and help them navigate the thoughts, feelings, and emotions we all have.
Where does the soul of your music come from?
I would definitely say my upbringing in a very traditional and religious house-hold contributes heavily to the soul of my music. I was born and raised in Uganda into the Baganda tribe. Our traditions, culture, and beliefs were preached and practiced on a daily basis. Having lived now in several different places, there is sometimes this tension I find myself struggling with when I am either questioning or whole-heartedly affirming the beliefs and customs that were taught to me. I believe that is where soulfulness is bred in music, when an artist performs with an intense immersion and belief in what they are singing about and can showcase their deep love or heavy conflict with something that is at their core in a raw and vulnerable way.
A song like “Wano Naawe” affirms the lessons in kindness, generosity and compassion that my people are always ready to show and teach, while a song like “The Outside” which will be released soon, touches on subjects that would not necessarily align with my people’s culture or beliefs.
We're excited for your musical journey! What is at the heart of your music?
I would love for everyone that hears my music to be able to say, “I needed to hear that today.” It’s my goal for my audience to feel uplifted by a song or at least know that they are not alone in feeling whatever emotion they may be steeped in.
How would you describe your latest single to someone who is new to your music?
My latest single is a soulful groove, full of positive vibes. It has a bit of an R&B feel, which is not normally the tenor of the songs I write, but for this particular one I can honestly say my heart guided me when creating it so I just went with it. I imagine it is the type of track you listen to in the car with the windows down when you aren’t in a hurry to get to any particular place.
It is inspired by my mother and all my memories of home and moving away. Being away for such a long time I often find myself thinking about my family and the place I was raised. This song is a reminder that you are always home as long as you remain connected to the people that love and think about you, even if they are not close to you in physical proximity.
How much love do you put into putting a song together?
All that I can muster up! I am currently working on my second project and I can tell the difference between this one and my first project. With the first project, as soon as I had the period on the last sentence I ran to my friend’s studio and asked him to hit the record button because I was eager to put something down and send it out to the world. Whereas now, I have grown to love the process a lot more and have developed the patience to let a song marinate and mature.I take time to play it several different ways and in different settings so I can fall in, out of, and back in love with it.
I have since put together a band, a group of guys that I love and trust, who also share the same love, respect and appreciation for music that I do. Showing them what I am working on and then putting it together with them has been one of the most rewarding opportunities in my life. It can get stressful at times, but I know that if it didn't then there probably wasn't a whole lot of love involved.
What do you most want to learn about as you create more music for the world to sing to?
This is a particularly hard question for me because I know there is so much I do not know and want to learn about. I want to learn how to write more clearly about matters of the heart and soul, love, loss, joy and more so I can sing together with the world about the things we are all experiencing and use that as a way to unite us as a community.
Is there music that you aren't prepared to release yet? Why?
There are lyrics that I haven't even had the courage to start putting a melody to let alone read back to myself. I once heard one of my favourite artists, James Bay, say, sometimes you need time to go through all the feelings of an experience in order to sing it properly. That is the most accurate articulation of my reason.To put it simply, I am still living through the certain moments and experiences..
Thank you for this interview, we are excited to see what is next! Share all the Socials: