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Double Treble: Combining Majors Spells Musical Success

Written by Meredith Farley

"Rich with Love," the latest album from Ben Willmott '05

Ithaca has a way of becoming your home when you’re not paying attention. “Every time I go back to Ithaca I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” says Ben Willmott ’05.

Ithaca became both a creative home base and an inspiration for the Boston-based musician, who got his start as a founding member of the Shanty Band during his freshman year at IC. The rock and reggae jam band quickly became a local favorite and they even released an album, This Old Shack.

“I’d never take on a project as big as this before. I applied what I learned at IC’s music school.”

The group disbanded after graduation, but Willmott continued to dedicate himself to his music.

"I love performing and I really want to get my music out there," says Ben.

'I love performing,' says Ben.

The 26-year-old graduated from Ithaca with a double major in business and music. After working with a producer on his debut EP, Nowhere to Go but Up, Willmott released his first full-length album, Rich With Love, writing, recording, and producing the entire album himself.

This proved both challenging and exciting. “I’d never taken on a project as big as this before,” he says. “I applied what I learned at IC’s music school.”

Rich With Love boasts soaring vocals, upbeat lyrics, and a subtle composition which suggests that Willmott’s musical roots go deeper than the Billboard charts; his carefully crafted style is also informed by jazz and classical music.

Ben Willmott performing at the Knitting Factory in New York City. Photo courtesy of Ben Willmott

Ben Willmott performing at the Knitting Facory in New York City.

Willmott had to reach far back to his music theory classes when he began arranging the tracks. “I was excited to arrange all of the horn and string parts because I’d never done that before,” he says.

One track in particular speaks directly to Willmott’s experiences at IC. The track, titled simply “Ithaca,” is a love song to our unique city.

You can hear "Ithaca" here:

Though he’s dedicated to music, Willmott’s business degree comes in handy -- he’s his own manager and tour promoter. “Sometimes it’s me, myself, and I, but I love performing and I really want to get my music out there,” he says. “I try to make my touring circles bigger and bigger each time. They’re all learning experiences for me.”

After Rich With Love’s 2008 release, Willmott embarked on his widest-ranging tour ever, performing at venues from Ohio to Vermont.

“I love playing music for a new group of people every night,” he says. The tireless musician averages about 100 gigs a year.

Recently, Willmott’s touring has taken him to exciting new heights: He played several dates with Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Jesse Harris and performed at the Knitting Factory in New York City.

Willmott’s star continues to rise but he still has his nose to the grindstone and his fingers on the keys.



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