Home > Interviews > Interview: Ben Hazlewood sails away on an ocean of sadness

Interview: Ben Hazlewood sails away on an ocean of sadness

Seeking atonement and kneeling at the altar of your emotions, you begin to unthread the yarn of human existence ⎯⎯ and that begins steering relationships down one of two paths: deeper, richer, more intimate connection or disturbing isolation. “Oh, sister, I know it seems unsure / Come daylight, we’ll feel the sun,” Ben Hazlewood, of The Voice Australia fame, decries on his weary and bruised anthem “Sail Away,” a seminal cut on his Eos EP. Chiseled of a smattering of biting electronica, hard rock and faded, tethered pop, the track is critical to reigniting a kinship with his sister. “[I was] trying to reach her and not always being able to break through,” he contends in an interview with B-Sides & Badlands, shedding light on the accompanying visual, which seeps into his dim state of being. “It took me a while to get back into the same headspace I was in while writing the song, but once we had run it a few times over, it all hit me again, and it was like I was reliving that exact moment,” he extends with pointed thoughtfulness, transporting himself back to the hours of tireless filming onset.

“It was intense. We shot the video through the night, so lack of sleep and being in the  middle of the desert ⎯⎯ where they built the set ⎯⎯ had some challenges,” he discloses, noting the waves of excitement and adrenaline, as well as a couple hearty glasses of whiskey, as his drivers to finish. Coming off that emotional high, “I slept,” he says. Day two of filming also gave him a moment to reground himself. “I had to be in the water for most of the morning so [that] helped bring me back,” he reports of filming on a beach in Malibu, the sun shining down sharply and prophetically.

The fretful and meditative clip (below) was directed by Sarah Scarlet, creative director of MINT artist management, and became “a process that we adapted and changed several times to make it work to achieve the best outcome. It was so important to both of us that the main elements and emotions where as real and raw as possible,” Hazlewood remembers. On reaching a level necessary to convey the song’s urgent message, he admits it only took an hour to get “in the zone.” He adds, “It was hard for me to judge if it was coming across as planned ⎯⎯ Sarah and I both knew what we were trying to capture. As she had the screen in front of her, I really relied on her guidance and trusted that when she felt we had it, we were good.”

“We both know where we we’ve been and we won’t go back there again,” he affirms, unyielding, about leaving the past behind and starting anew. The clash of chunky guitar and fire-roasted drums rise and fall around him, and he might be a little worse for wear, but he is victorious. In his personal life, he is “still learning” to let go, mirroring his deadly journey in the song. “I think that this is why this song is so close for me. It’s as much about my struggle to appreciate what I can control or change things as it is about the story of someone else’s pain.”

While his own scars slowly dissolve, he still finds it difficult to balance his own mental health and helping others ⎯⎯ “that I can’t help anyone around me until I’m solid in my own mind,” he says. “Putting me before others is definitely something I struggle with.”

Between a pair of EPs, Vanta and Eos, Hazlewood has dealt heavily in his relationships with “people close to me and using some of their stories,” he determines, turning his eyes to the next chapter, which “is more about me and my life and what I have been through. The release of [those EPs have] given me more strength and confidence to write directly about my experiences.” Darker tones have also informed much of his previous work, as you can witness on songs like the stark, haunting “Darkest Hour” and the mystical “Undone,” but that has transformed, too. “I am in a place now where I am being naturally drawn to a lighter side,” he says.

Gin Wigmore, singer/songwriter out of New Zealand, then became on of his most crucial collaborators, who schooled him on being “more honest and open and finding ways to express sentiments that have been said a million times in a new way,” he retells. “I am always learning when it comes to writing. I guess, it is like a muscle; the more you do it, the stronger it becomes.”

Follow Hazlewood on his socials: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Website

Jason Scott

Editor-in-Chief of the Badlands, spinning those B-Sides. Love Parks & Rec. Addicted to high-priced coffee drinks, alt-country and synth-pop, and never know when to quit. Got a cat named Jake--and she doesn't like you very much.