Rock ‘n’ roll pianist Ben Waters tells Chanelle Tourish about his inspirations and working with The Rolling Stones.
He’s a favourite of Ray Davies, Jerry Lee Lewis and The Rolling Stones and counts Shakin’ Stevens and Jools Holland as friends. But despite having some of the biggest names in rock ‘n’ roll as his pals, Ben Waters is a surprisingly humble and down-to-earth family man. The British musician and his band – with Ady Milward on the drums and Richard Hymas on bass – will bring their lively, rock ‘n’ roll piano tunes to The Music Room on Friday September 5.
Travelling the world for more than 20 years, Ben has garnered a reputation as an internationally acclaimed musician. While some of the world’s best piano players may have started playing as early as five years old, Ben was a musical late-bloomer. It wasn’t until he was in secondary school that he took an interest in music, after seeing American blues pianist Antoine ‘Fats’ Domino performing on TV.
‘I was watching a video of Fats Domino’s 60th birthday and I just fell in love with the music. I was very fortunate because my aunt and uncle were best friends with Ian Stewart (original Rolling Stones member) and so I started learning how to play by watching old footage of him when he played for the ’70s boogie-woogie band Rocket 88. I just sat there and copied what he did and I knew I had to keep playing,’ explains Ben.
Ben then began gigging at bars and clubs in Dorset, England, and by the age of 18 he was touring with Welsh rock ‘n’ roll singer Shakin’ Stevens.
‘I have been influenced by very early things from the ’20s, through to the rock ‘n’ roll period, to The Stones and The Beatles,’ says Ben.
The 40-year-old has released more than 10 albums to date, including, Boogie 4 Stu – A tribute to Ian Stewart, which features Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman, Jools Holland and PJ Harvey.
‘There’s no other piano player like Ian Stewart, he’s quite unique. For The Rolling Stones’ sound he was vital really. I don’t think a lot of those songs would have been as a good without Stu (Ian). He was such an important figure and most people don’t even know who he is, which is really sad. The Rolling Stones wouldn’t have existed without him,’ says Ben.
Ben credits Ian Stewart, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, as his inspiration. ‘When I started playing with Charlie Watts, we were talking a lot about Ian. So I told him that I was doing this tribute album and he said he wanted to play drums on it. From there the rest of The Stones got on board,’ explains Ben.
The project turned out to be one of Ben’s proudest achievements, with the proceeds going to the British Heart Foundation. His 13-year-old son, Tom, even got in on the action.
It’s clear that musicality runs in the family, with both his son Tom and his 12 year old daughter Molly touring and performing alongside him. While his family won’t be making the journey to Dubai this time, at least Ben’s got his band.
Dhs100. The Ben Waters Band. Friday September 5, 9pm-3am. The Music Room, The Majestic Hotel, Bur Dubai (04 359 8888).
Piano bars to try
Whether you’re a fan of the classical pianists or lively rock ‘n’ roll numbers, you might want to check out these venues.
BiCE Sky Bar
Enjoy views of The Palm from the tenth floor and soak up the classical sounds from the resident pianist from 8pm to 11.30pm.
Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Resort, The Walk, JBR, www3.hilton.com (04 318 25 20)
Marco Pierre White Grill
The mood is set at the piano bar and lounge where guests can enjoy live piano music by Clarita de Quiroz from 8pm to 11pm.
Conrad Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.conradhotels3.hilton.com (04 444 7444)
This stylish and intimate bar comes alive with the sounds of live jazz piano music most evenings from 10pm to 2am.
Grand Hyatt Dubai, Oud Metha, www.dubai.grand.hyatt.com (04 317 2223)