Arts / Ben finds the words (and music) to propose

Musician Ben Drysdale fronts the East Row Rabblers… “It took me about six months to convince her that we were really together.”

WHEN musician Ben Drysdale wanted to find a really romantic way of proposing to his future wife Kaila, he looked no further than his own music.

Now the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist from Canberra’s funk and soul outfit, East Row Rabble, is releasing an EP and the single he used to propose, “Good For Me”, an occasion he counts as “a culmination of my two greatest achievements to date” – the other one was his marriage to Kaila in November, 2016.

Producing albums and playing music are only just some of the activities for this busy Canberra artist. Three days a week he’s a co-director with Cara Matthews and Robin Davidson of Rebus Theatre for Social Change, for two days a week he manages Belconnen Community Service’s “Gallery@BCS,” he plays regular gigs, and last year he found time to take a six-week honeymoon in the US and to perform as an actor with The Street Theatre in its poetry-based production, “Under Sedation”.

Kaila and Ben on their wedding day in November, 2016.

But first to that romantic proposal. Kaila, now a youth worker at the special assistance Galilee School, was the younger sister of a high school friend and he hadn’t seen her for 20 years.

“We had some casual courting, but it took me about six months to convince her that we were really together,” he tells “CityNews”.

Music to the rescue. When things weren’t going so well, he played her “As the Hail Rains”, a sad folk song he’d written in 2015 for his award-winning “Beth n Ben” album – it did the trick and they were back together.

Drysdale later used “Good For Me” to propose to Kaila at the Woodford Folk Festival on the hills overlooking Queensland’s Glass House Mountains – that worked, too, and the couple were soon married.

With all this going on, the album he had put down in 2016 at Sam King’s Merloc studios in Watson with musicians Cameron Smith, Tim Bowyer, Josh Buckler, Niall Howe, Adam Rown and Angus Ogborne had lain fallow. But Drysdale, normally an acoustic performer, was galvanised into action after attending the “Grow My Music” seminar in Sydney during August last year and hearing, “you need to put something extra in when recording, because listeners are not getting the live energy that you always get in gigs.”

Via the conference convener, Martin Brown, he met music producer Jon Reichardt, who has worked with hip-hop heroes the Hilltop Hoods and Bliss n Eso but who now uses music to tackle mental health issues, who insinuated extra layers of guitar and also organ. The EP was mixed by King and mastered by Canberra’s Kimmo Vennonen.

The result is self-described as “a slick mix of funk, reggae, blues and soul with upbeat party horn lines”, with Drysdale’s songs exploring world issues and daily curiosities with “honesty, hope and a little cheekiness”.

East Row Rabble EP release and single “Good for Me” at the Polish White Eagle Club, 38 David Street, Turner, 8pm, on June 22.

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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