In this instalment of ‘Good Fellas’, we take a look at the story and work of musician Ben Coyle-Larner aka Loyle Carner.
Ben is a musician from South London whose music has been described as sensitive and eloquent as he raps openly about his life over mellow, jazzy beats. But, his openness and introspection goes further than his music.
Ben’s a bit of a king when it comes to owning your story and being proud of who you are. His stage name, Loyle Carner, is a spoonerism of his real last name and a very cool nod to his dyslexia. He’s spoken openly about his ADHD before, referring to it as ‘the best and worst thing about him’. Cooking was something he found all encompassing and it helped to channel that energy into something productive. He now runs a cooking school for 14-16 year olds with ADHD to help them do the same. And he only went and named it ‘Chilli Con Carner’. Genius.
Coyle-Larner is also an ambassador for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), working on confronting the issue of male suicide – the single biggest killer of men under 45. You don’t need us to tell you that men don’t talk about how they’re feeling enough. And Ben doesn’t need us to either – his second album ‘Not Waving But Drowning‘ confronts the idea that battling mental health isn’t always obvious. It can look like someone’s successful and having a fantastic time in life, but really we can have no idea what people are actually going through.
It’s a nod to the thousands of men who need to talk but won’t search for it.
Ben entered the music industry with an EP called ‘A Little Late’ which featured a track called ‘Cantona‘ – a tribute to his late step-father and his idol. He then released his first album, ‘Yesterdays Gone‘, and the front cover is the entirety of his family and friends (and his dog). One of the most touching tracks is ‘Sun of Jean’. Ben’s mum – a huge presence in a lot of his music – reads a poem she wrote about him over a piano melody played by his step-father. That personal touch is rife throughout all of his work.
His second album, ‘Not Waving But Drowning‘, starts and ends with two open letters. The first to his mum about moving out to live with his girlfriend, and the second a reply to Ben to say “I’ve gained a daughter, I’ve not lost a son”. ‘Krispy‘ is a song to his best friend Rebel Kleff – who he stopped talking to – asking to move on from their differences and get his best mate back. He leaves half the song as instrumental for Rebel Kleff to write a reply. The album features recordings of him talking to his friends and family. One where he tells a music colleague that his son is “lucky to have a good dad like you”. Music doesn’t see emotional intelligence and honesty like this very often. A guy who wants to talk openly about his life to millions of listeners and empower them. A guy who wants to tackle the stigma around masculinity. A guy who knows that there’s nothing weak about being honest.
Even despite being a trailblazer for openness and emotional maturity in men, he admits it’s still hard even for him. We can’t blame him; can you imagine writing your life down and releasing it for the world to hear? On ‘Krispy’, it’s clear that men still struggle to talk and explain what they mean to each other. He wanted to say all these things to his friend but didn’t feel like he could just do it. So, rather beautifully, he put it all into a song. It proves that men can tell each other how they feel. We’re all fallible because we’re all human. However you want to do it is perfectly valid and means just as much because you’ve done it. You’ve opened up. And that’s a pretty great start.
Changing the face of masculinity is a hard thing to do. Slowly but surely, and with the help of role models like Ben Coyle-Larner, that face is changing. Being sensitive and vulnerable is a fucking strong thing to do as a man, but it’s one that will help you and your friends around you. Help a mate out and start the conversation. You’ll never know who’s waving and who’s drowning if you don’t.
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