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Broadwing

Katherine-based musician Ben Allen is an electronic artist – but this year he set himself an ambitious task, to push himself beyond the boundaries of his preferred genre. The challenge? To enter a song in every category for the NT Song of the Year Awards. And it paid off.

By Liz Trevaskis

Allen – who performs as Broadwing – took out the Folk category for his song Pockets, which went on to impress the national panel of judges who awarded him the overall prize. So let’s be clear; that’s an award for the best song in the NT – in a style that he just dabbles in.

“I wrote an entry for all but the Heavy and Urban/Hip Hop categories which may be the best outcome for everyone involved!” he jokes. “I just ran out of time. I still intend to write a song in both of these genres, just for my own amusement. If they turn out to be the train wrecks I’m expecting they won’t see a public release.”

Allen says the goal was to sharpen his song-writing skills, and that the approach was inspired by a recent project where he covered his favourite songs from Central Australian artists including Unbroken Expanse, Dave Crowe, Katie Harder, Skank MC, Colin Lillie, Jacinta Price and Gareth Dawkins.

“I really enjoyed re-interpreting songs that were very different from my own and wanted to recapture that sense of freedom,” he explains.

The importance of the Alice Springs music scene on Allen’s success cannot be understated. Allen, who only recently relocated to Katherine, says he was heartbroken to leave the vibrant and supportive scene in the Centre.

“I will continue to collaborate with a lot of those musicians. The town just seems to draw creative people in like a magnet. But the iNTune conference I attended recently in Darwin was pretty uplifting and I was amazed at the calibre of the artists up here. Katherine also has its own scene centring around the monthly jam night, which has been a great way to meet local musicians. But I intend to head up to Darwin for gigs as much as I can and work with anyone who’s interested.”

And as Allen looks to carve out his place in the Top End, will his success as a folk songwriter change the direction of his music?

“I don’t think it will in a conscious way. I don’t often have a clear style in my head when I write – the songs tend to steer themselves. I’ve never been entirely sure what to call what I do anyway. The song I usually end my live sets with (Marching into the Sea) was recently compared to the progrock band Tool, so I’ve given up trying to define my style.”

So after mastering electronic, folk AND prog-rock, who knows what we can expect from Allen in the year ahead – but a gong in the Heavy or Urban/Hip Hop categories at next year’s Song of the Year Awards is probably not out of reach.

WHEN: FRI 7 AUG, FESTIVAL LOUNGE, RAILWAY CLUB | SUN 9 AUG, FESTIVAL PARK, BAMBOO BANDSTAND

INFO: darwinfestival.org.au

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