Creativity doesn’t always come naturally. Just like a garden, it must be grown, cared for, and worked on in order to produce beautiful results, whether it be ripe fruits and vegetables or music. Based out of Charlottesville, Va., folk singer-songwriter BEN EPPARD knows very well that music takes work, and he constantly tries to sow as many seeds in the local community near and far with the strength and kindness of his voice and guitar.

Eppard took some time to answer our questions about his involvement in the local music scene and how touring and gardening has shaped his songwriting, as well as his new album in the works.

I understand that you are a board member for a music mentoring organization called the Music Resource Center in Charlottesville, Va. Can you tell me about how you got involved with that and why it is important to you?

The Music Resource Center is a place where young people in my hometown make music. They can learn songwriting, how to make beats, or play an instrument. It was started by musician John Hornsby and was championed by the DAVE MATTHEWS BAND. The idea is to keep kids out of trouble by giving them something productive and interesting to do. I joined the board this past summer because it’s a great cause, and I don’t know how to sit still.

As an independent artist, you do quite a lot of touring. What do you enjoy most about getting out on the road and playing new places?

I love seeing new places and meeting people. I travel a fair amount even when music has nothing to do with it. I break the Myers-Briggs personality test for extroversion – so there’s that, but every coin has two sides. Touring can also be a lot of driving and alone time. Frankly, it all balances out. It’s really the craft of songwriting that keeps me going.

I’d be writing songs even if no one heard them. When people do, that’s a bonus.

What inspired The Hitchhike Interviews and where you are at with it?

Last year, I concocted this harebrained scheme to hitchhike between all of my shows, which came to 143 rides covering more than 4,400 miles. It was inspired in part by a shambolic trip home from backpacking Mexico when I was 24 and, in part, by my own curiosity into why people choose to help others – especially when there’s risk inherent in doing so. Eventually, I’d like to cobble together a book of the “interviews.” Admittedly, that’s taking longer than I imagined.

I can tell you that I was passed by 19,189 cars. Yes, I counted.

How do you feel that your experiences from traveling have helped you to be a better songwriter?

A better songwriter? I don’t think it has. At times it’s given me interesting material to work with, but good songwriting is a craft and travel can actually be a distraction. For me, good songwriting has two ingredients – something worth saying and a way of saying it. There’s a lot of latitude in both of those categories, but ultimately, inspiration (the thing worth saying) can come in a flash. The way of saying it, however, generally takes time. Or at least, it takes time to do it well.

Writing is a learned discipline, so that’s where I try to focus my effort. The experiences come on their own in time.

In addition to traveling, you are an avid gardener. Do you feel like any lessons you have learned from gardening apply to your music career as well?

There are strong parallels. It’s called work (laughs).

Also, I feel like I should confess that I have been a bad gardener this year. I was out of town too much. We harvested a respectable crop, but it looks like a jungle right now. Can someone loan me a bush hog?

Since releasing A Hollow Note and Work, you have posted about new music that is in the works. Can you tell me about that, what listeners can look forward to, and when you plan to release it?

We’re working with Jeff Romano of Jimmy Dog Studios on some new tracks. These recordings are somewhat more complex than my releases to date. I’ve brought more friends into the studio than in the past. For example, Julia Kwolyk has been a big part of my live performances recently, and she finally plays violin on these tracks. We’re going easy on the timeline though.

It’s more important that we get it right.

What is your motto for life, and how do you try to follow through with it?

I want to be strong and kind. Those things sometimes feel mutually exclusive. Strength is often associated with cruelty. It’s not easy.

This is a life’s work, but I think that’s what I want to be.

For more updates on BEN EPPARD, be sure to visit his website, “like” his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter and Instagram, and check out his music on Soundcloud.

Joe Fitzpatrick

Joe Fitzpatrick

As editor-in-chief, Joe is very passionate about promoting music and culture in Virginia and DC. A resident of Fairfax, Joe enjoys going to shows, checking out local breweries, and trying new foods with his girlfriend Alex.