INTERVIEW: Breaking Benjamin guitarist Keith Wallen splits his passions with solo releases

Breaking Benjamin, Keith Wallen

Keith Wallen (second from left) of Breaking Benjamin. Photo courtesy of Chris Yankton.

Very little time is spent idle for Breaking Benjamin guitarist-singer Keith Wallen. Along with his work with the modern rock heavyweights, Wallen also finds time for solo work. He released a debut solo EP, Allies, in 2014, and since then he’s released singles of and on.

Breaking Benjamin Chevelle, Three Days Grace, Dorothy, DIAMANTE
5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 18
Concord Pavilion
Tickets: $30 and up

Wallen released his latest single, “Crows,” last spring. The intro layers acoustic and electric guitars and recalls Alice in Chains while lyrically featuring political overtones about the cost of inaction.

“This one definitely has a darker feeling to it,” Wallen said. “I’ve had this song for a little while and always liked it; it was just a matter of finding the right time to put it out.”

The song’s accompanying video sees Wallen in a barren desert, a stark visual that serves as a dramatic portrayal of the song’s message. He said that being the focal point in front of the camera still doesn’t come naturally for him.

“You never want to show up to a place and shoot and be in the middle of a bunch of stuff going on,” he said. “I’m a little self-conscious so I tend to think, ‘Oh my gosh, people are looking at me!'”

The West Virginia musician initially cofounded the band Copper in the early 2000s. The band released three albums and toured with Thirty Seconds to Mars, Shinedown and Breaking Benjamin before going on hiatus. Wallen then connected with Las Vegas hard rock band Adelitas Way, with whom he toured and recorded for two albums and cowrote material on a third. In 2014, when Breaking Benjamin frontman Ben Burnley made restarted his namesake band following health issues and an extended legal battle with his former bandmates, Wallen got an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“Somehow Ben remembered me from touring with them; he hit me up and asked if I wanted together and jam,” Wallen said. “Now here we are, five years later. It’s been going strong; it just gets more fun.”

Breaking Benjamin now includes Burnley, Wallen, guitarist Jasen Rauch, bassist Aaron Bruch and drummer Shaun Foist. Any doubts about whether the band could reach its former heights were quickly erased following the release of 2014’s Dark Before Dawn, with hits “Failure” and Angel’s Fall.”

The band is now touring in support of its most recent album, Ember, which continues carrying the torch of its melodic hard rock sound. Breaking Benjamin has spent a considerable amount of time on the road and now embarks on a summer amphitheater tour with Chevelle, Three Days Grace, Dorothy and DIAMANTE. Wallen said he’s excited to share the stage with so many of his contemporaries.

“I’ve been listening to these bands for a long time,” he said. “I remember hearing all these bands back when I was doing the Copper stuff and thought, ‘Man I gotta get there.'”

The new Breaking Benjamin lineup offers some additional flexibility for the band to explore musically on stage. With multiple singers, the band can not only better replicate the layered studio vocal sound from the albums, but also throw some curveballs by allowing Wallen and Bruch to split time singing lead.

“I was a little terrified at first when Ben asked me to sing ‘Sooner or Later,'” Wallen said. “I thought people were going to throw things at me, but the fans have been really great and welcomed all of us new guys.”

Wallen has enjoyed being able to split his time between Breaking Benjamin and his solo work, saying there’s freedom from expectation that comes from writing and recording his own music. One-ff singles are currently more fun for him than trying to put an entire album together.

“There’s no real rules; I don’t really have any kind of box that I need to stay in,” he said. “I’ve got all these songs here, why not just put it out? It’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of work, but I signed up for this, and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing.”

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