BACK FROM THE BRINK
We catch up with Yorkshire musician Benjamin Francis Leftwich and discover a man who has found a new zest for life following a stint in rehab that nearly saw him lose it all.
Benjamin Francis Letfwich has just come off stage and as he sits back in his chair with a bottle of water in hand, a huge smile spreads across his face.
Having released his fourth album, To Carry a Whale, last year and just completed his first UK tour in two years, the York-born singer is savouring every moment of his return and the relief is there for all to see.
But for Leftwich, the gratitude he feels isn’t just about being able to hit the road and perform again, it is about being given another chance at life after he spiralled out of control with a drink and drug addiction that nearly killed him.
Talking about his resurrection from the depths of despair that saw him spend a 30-day stint
in rehab in 2018, Benjamin said: “I was in such a state and hurting so many people, it is fair to say that if I hadn’t found help I would be dead now.
“Thankfully the angels were watching over me and I am incredibly grateful to have been given that second chance when I could easily have not made it.”
Following his 2011 debut, Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm, which then drew comparisons with contemporaries such as Damien Rice and Jose Gonzalez, the world looked very bright for Leftwich.
But having got sucked into a world where drink and drugs are so freely available, his life started unravelling and by 2018 he had reached an emotional rock bottom.
Looking back, he said: “I got really lucky when I was 21 and put out an album that loads of people fell in love with. It took me around the world and gave me a life, a house and all this beautiful stuff, but I also lost my love for music at that time, I was dependent on drink and drugs and I was just f***ing sad. That’s the truth. There’s no arrogance or self-pity there, it’s just how it was.
“I’d had lots of so-called success and praise but there was a hole in my heart and I kept breaking the hearts of everyone in my life that I loved and I just thought ‘something needs to change now.’
He remembers the first few days of rehab being “emotionally really quite tricky, wondering do I need to be here, all the kinds of classic denial of an addict or an alcoholic”.
“But there is an amazing sense of camaraderie when you’re in rehab as everybody is in the same boat.
You go to meetings together, you have your dinner together, you have to be supervised at all times.
“But it was definitely hard because many people who go through rehab don’t make it, some of the people I was in there with are dead now, so I will always be grateful I was one of the lucky ones.”
As an artist who has never shied away from baring his soul, the release of To Carry a Whale and subsequent tour provided the perfect platform for the 31-year-old to deliver his most honest and deeply personal record yet. And all while sober.
The title from the album, he says, comes directly from his experience of living as a clean and sober alcoholic – carrying this incredibly beautiful but heavy thing about with you all the time.
He added: “When I was in treatment I was really worried about being able to write songs sober as I’d never written without drugs in my system so this was a completely new and exciting experience which I fully embraced and thankfully since going clean I feel more in love with it, more awake to it and more hungry for it than ever before.
“Maybe I’m getting addicted to songwriting, but it’s much better than what I was addicted to. It’s been a long road but thankfully I now have the right people around me, I go for daily fellowship sessions to help keep me on the right path and I’m a better, happier person for it.
“It was so good to get back out on tour again and play live. It’s made me realise just how grateful I am to be alive and for being given that second chance in life.”