Ask any musician what the best part of the job is and every single one will tell you the same thing - playing live. Nothing compares to that rush you get as you step out on stage, full of adrenalin. No matter if you're playing a grubby pub venue for 12 people or an arena show for thousands, those first few seconds are the best feeling in the world.
I've been lucky enough to play some really high profile opening sets - life changing opening sets - that have pushed my career to where I am today. The first of these life changing shows happened at the end of 2010 when I was asked to support The Stereophonics in Milan for F1 Rocks. I couldn't believe it. The Stereophonics are one of my top 10 all time favourite bands, and Kelly Jones is one of the most inspirations singer/songwriters in the world...and I was going to open their show.
Calling up my band to tell them the news was hilarious. They all thought I was winding them up! Once I had them convinced of the truth we all flew to Milan where we were picked up by some very fancy cars and taken to our hotel and then the venue. We were playing in an amazing warehouse-type location in the heart of Milan and as we arrived and headed to the backstage door we could hear 'Maybe Tomorrow' blaring through the corridors. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. I never thought I would be in a position to casually hang around and watch The Stereophonics soundcheck, yet there I was!
We soundchecked straight afterwards - an unusual experience because we were all so used to doing everything ourselves and getting on with it but suddenly we had lots of people rushing around after us and making sure we were set up. We rocked it then headed to our dressing room. As I was walking down the corridor, I bumped into Kelly Jones himself! I thanked him for having us support him and letting us play to his audience and he was very friendly and welcoming - such a great guy.
Our stage time was 8pm and I will never forget the moment I walked out in front of 8000 people in a country I'd never visited before, played them my songs and somehow they were all singing them right back to me. Unreal.
After that, each moment just got bigger and better than the last. I finished recording the album - Tales of Flying and Falling - on the 21st December 2011. I worked on it with the legendary producer Dave Eringa at the infamous Rockfield Studios. The same studios Led Zepplin, Coldplay and Oasis have all recorded albums. You can imagine how excited I was when I was told I'd be working there.
On the day we put the last mix down, my manager phoned me and asked if I'd like to support The Wanted on their UK arena tour in February. 24 hours later I received an email with 100% CONFIRMED as the MAIN support act... BEN MONTAGUE! I scanned the list of dates and all I could think about was the fact that in three months I'd be playing the London O2 Arena. Talk about an early Christmas.
Fast forward to March 2012, and I'm in the tour bus on the way to the O2 Arena. A few months back I'd seen the incredible Jamiroquai play this venue and thought to myself "one day, I'll play here..." I couldn't believe it was happening so soon.
That evening I sat in the dressing room waiting to go on stage, listening to my song 'Love Like Stars' through headphones and thinking about how I can make this night the most memorable night of my life. Then it hit me - something I had seen on TV - I had to light up the O2 Arena...
We finally got called to the stage - I hugged all the band and we wished each other luck, then before we knew it the lights had gone down, the crowd was roaring and there we were in front of 18,000 people at one of the greatest live music venues in the world. I played through my set as normal, and then before we went into 'Love Like Stars' I asked the audience to pull out their phones and turn the arena into a starry sky... and they did! It looked great - such a good way to wrap up the show.
I came off stage buzzing. That show has been the high point of my life and career so far and I can't thank The Wanted enough for giving me that opportunity. I look forward to the day I return to the O2 Arena to play a headline show of my own!
Ben's single Another Hard Fall is out now through Nusic Sounds/EMI.
His album Tales of Flying and Falling is out in January 2013. To check out a preview of the album click here.
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