How Cornwall played a massive part in Brits winner Ben Howard's success
DESPITE this year's Brit Awards being a bland, safe and ultimately depressing display of how conservative the British music industry has become, there were a couple of wonderful surprises for Cornish music fans.
Ben Howard, who first started performing and gaining a fanbase while a journalism student at Falmouth University in the Noughties, not only won Best Breakthrough Act but the highly sought after Best Male award at the star-studded event at London's O2 last night.
We are now waiting to see if the internet rumour that he would surf naked at Fistral, Newquay, with manager Owain Davies (who also attended Falmouth Uni) if he won will come true.
Ben, from Totnes, spent a couple of years living and studying in Falmouth, where he first played live with many of the brooding songs that have gained him international acclaim such as The Wolves and Old Pine.
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I first started writing about him four years ago when only a matter of weeks after venturing out on the Cornish gig circuit he unexpectedly won the Red Stripe Awards for best unsigned act in the country, beating 150 other bands and musicians.
It was soon after this that Ben signed to the prestigious Island Records, after releasing a couple of self-released EPs.
When the Old Pine EP came out he popped into my office for a chat – a copy of the CD he gave me to review blew into our neighbouring river as we chatted outside. We watched it float away – me aghast and Ben cracking up, which is very him.
Only one colleague recognised him then – 18 months on it would be a very different story, although he's still very unassuming for a man whose debut album, Every Kingdom, has made the charts in the UK (where it has reached platinum sales), Australia, Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, France, Denmark, Ireland and even made the Top Ten in the US.
Ben's success is a coup for Cornish promoters SW1 Productions who believed in him from the start and have put on gigs for him from the smallest Cornish venues to Plymouth Pavilions and, in August, as a headliner at the massive Boardmasters festival.
Katy Thomas, of SW1, told me: "I first met Ben in 2009 when he contacted SW1 about getting some shows, I remember instantly liking him when we met even without hearing a tune. We then offered him an opening slot at The Acorn, Penzance, that April.
"A lot of what we do as a promoter is going on gut instinct and from that very first performance I knew he was going to be someone worth working with, it wasn't just the fact that he could hold a tune. It was his tenacity that really struck me.
"From there we worked up from his first 80-capacity headline show in the Wig & Pen in Truro in 2009 onto the first of his Boardmasters slots where we saw him perform with India Bourne for the first time and we've basically watched it grow and grow since then, working closely with his management and agent to see him selling out two headline shows at the Plymouth Pavilions last year.
"We have remained friends since the first day we met and I can honestly say that the whole journey has been a real pleasure. I have watched him and his management build such solid foundations, which are now paying dividends … the fact that we have played a part in this journey is an incredible result for our company.
"We are excited about what lies ahead for him and obviously delighted at his Brit successes; we literally couldn't be happier!"