The life of an independent musician is only for the dedicated. Just ask Ben Bostick, who's headed to Lengthwise Pub Saturday night.
A lot of music critics say Bostick is headed for a big career, but he's earning it: A creature of the modern era, this 33-year-old performer writes his own stuff; produces, prints and sells his own CDs; and promotes his own career with only a very little help from a publicist. For now, he also makes the bulk of his living busking (street performing) on the Santa Monica Pier when he's not performing at The Escondite in downtown Los Angeles.
He's also carving out his own musical niche.
"I coined a term — outsider country," Bostick said. "It doesn't fit the mold of country music."
"There is definitely a mold to country music, and I don't want to get pigeon-holed because I have so many influences," Bostick said.
Some of those influences are obvious. Merle is there. So is Elvis. There is also more than a touch of Cash. And Springsteen. And many more, to be sure, and Bostick admits that, while he wants to avoid being "pigeon-holed," he said that in a way, there's nothing really new in country music.
"I have this theory that pop music is the rearranging of cliches," Bostick said.
Bostick mentioned such common ideas, as a lost love, regret, hard times, among others, but he uses them to tell his own story.
Bostick grew up in South Carolina, listening to the 1990s version of country music, and only later listening to the previous generations of country music performers. Despite his interest in music, he majored in English at NYU in Manhattan.
"Which is sort of how I came to music — through the lyrics," Bostick said. "I'm a word guy."
He also seems to have that knack, so necessary for a songwriter, to find the right music, and imagery, to go with the right words. Listen to "Wait for Me" and listen to how affecting simple lyrics and simple music can be. Watch the subtle video for an even better impact. The humorous (because it's true) "Running on Fuel" is every stressed out person's lament in rockabilly style. The video, a clever collection of vintage film, commercial and cartoon images, shows us that nothing has changed from generation to generation.
After finishing college, Bostick spent the next several years working at a wide variety of jobs: ranch hand, a newspaper intern and writer, film production assistant. His film activity, which even included writing screenplays, got him to Los Angeles with a longtime friend who also had a band. Bostick played in that band and started his own, a funk band. Still not satisfied, Bostick started writing original material with his own lyrics.
"Everything fell into place," Bostick said. "Open mic events turned into full shows."
"I started busking on the Santa Monica Pier and discovered I could make a living at it," Bostick said. "I went full time last year."
In addition to growing critical praise, Bostick was nominated for an Independent Music Award and a spot on the Songwriter Serenade competition.
Bostick released his first album, "My Country," last year, and releases a new album this week, which will be available in CD and vinyl at Lengthwise Pub. Bostick is backed by his band, The Hellfire Club, which includes Katin Burns on drums, Luke Miller on keyboards and Kyle La Lone on guitar.
"If you asked me two years ago, I didn't have a clue that I would be doing this," Bostick said. "I knew it was possible; I just didn't see any pathway to do it full time."