Ben Walsh is a rare kind of musician these days.
Born and raised in the Australian beach-town-slash-hippie-enclave of Byron Bay, his long blond hair and flat-brimmed hat make him easy to identify as a music-maker.
But nothing tells you quite as much about Walsh as his smile: a big, broad, toothy grin that seems to make his whole face open up. He smiles often and he smiles easy, and talking to him, you get the sense that his facial muscles may actually be more comfortable smiling than they are at rest. He’s the kind of person where you feel like he could connect with anyone and form a true friendship within the first 5 minutes of talking to them – and as life so often imitates art, that’s exactly what he seeks to do with his music.
Walsh is a type of musical artist that seems to have gone out of style recently. In a musical climate that’s hyper-focused on individuality, aesthetic innovation, and ‘cool’ factor, his music, his story, and his artistic ambitions are refreshingly simple:
“Really I just want to create music that makes anyone who listens to it feel great,” he says. “Music that’s uplifting, that lets people be in a room and look at each other and hug each other and go ‘fuck yeah;’ music that makes you feel great.”
His origin story is equally refreshing. Walsh didn’t rise out of destitution, inherit a musical legacy, or come to music from a need to spread a doctrine: he just loves to play. He always has – and play is exactly what he’s done.
To date, Walsh has played well over 1,500 shows with his band and as a solo performer. Some have called him the busiest Aussie in the music business. But really, he’s an artifact from another time.
In an era where most artists catch their break from a major blog feature, a cosign from a celebrity, or even going viral on TikTok, Walsh has taken the old-fashioned route. He’s made his name by playing, plain and simple. The story of how he got his first gig sounds like something you’d hear back in the ‘70s:
“When got back from travelling the the U.S and Canada, I was 18, I bought myself a guitar and drove down to where I knew there was a lot of work for musicians,” he recalls. “I introduced myself face to face to every booker in town but at the same time I went out in the country asking for a job as a cleaner or dishwasher, I needed the cash. When the manager saw my hair she knew I was from Byron, guessed that I was a musician, and she just asked me if I wanted to start playing gigs at the bar.”
Instead of getting the dishwashing job he expected, this encounter landed Walsh full-time work as a cover musician at a bar. He started with 6 shows a week, but after a few weeks of playing, the establishment bumped him up to 16 shows a week.
From the start, Walsh had a knack for crowds. But these shows let him see the power that music can have in a room.
“You know that feeling when everyone just gets excited and starts singing along? I love that,” he explains. “I started seeing how ecstatic people got when you play the right song, so it became kind of a game of trying to navigate ‘ok who’s in the audience, what kind of songs should I play,’ you know?”
– Written by Austin Smith (First appeared on Elitemusicnews.com