Faces of Bushwick: Ben Mish
November 11, 2021
To celebrate our longtime partnership with Bushwick Book Club Seattle, we’re speaking with local musicians who have composed and performed songs inspired by the written works of SAL speakers. Learn about these hometown talents and discover their music in our Faces of Bushwick interview series.
In this installment, we talk with Ben Mish, a skilled piano man with a soulful voice, and one of the frontmen of the band Left Hand Smoke.
What SAL event did you write a song for? What book inspired your song?
I wrote a song called “Ready to Fly” for the SAL event with Mary Szybist and Robert Wrigley. My song was inspired by Incarnadine by Mary Szybist.
Where can we find your song online?
What surprised you about the song that emerged from the process?
It made me realize that when you read something by a particular author their voice is in your head, and you can actually write while being influenced by that voice. It is similar to listening to a guitar player, and then realizing that you are influenced by their phrasing for guitar solos. When I was in college I wrote a lot of lyrics that I was proud of, and I think it related to the fact that I was taking poetry classes at the time and being exposed to great writing.
What do you love about writing music inspired by literature? Is it different from how you write songs otherwise?
I once heard that if you write a song for a movie it’s easier for some people since it gives you a framework that involves a direction and a theme. The process of grabbing things from your own experience and making them into songs can be unwieldy, but writing based on a book can give you more focus.
What are you reading now? Or, what book have you recently enjoyed that you’d recommend to others?
I am reading Lord of the Flies [by William Golding]. I read this growing up, but wanted to go back and read it again. It is still just as powerful.
Do you have a recent project to share—or something new on the horizon?
My band, Left Hand Smoke, released a new album last December called Shackshaker, which you can find on Bandcamp. We played a few shows to support the album this summer and fall, most recently the Belltown Rock-the-Block Festival and an outdoor show in Burien, so stay tuned for more live shows.
I’ll be performing with Bushwick Book Club this Saturday as part of an evening of musicians and artists premiering new, original works inspired by Frank Herbert’s Dune.
Thank you, Ben! To learn more about Ben’s work and upcoming shows, visit his website.