Former Santa Rosan Ben Greenberg recently felt nostalgic and homesick for Sonoma County from his home in Los Angeles, so he wrote a song about it.
Living in the “City of Angels” since 2016, Greenberg is making his mark on the indie-folk singer-songwriter scene in the city, crafting heartfelt tunes about self-acceptance, love, loss and home. He recently recorded his forthcoming debut album Son of the Hills, from which several singles have been released; including that homesick song, “Northern Pines.”
This week, Greenberg shares those songs with the North Bay audience in the latest installment of “Luther Locals,” the streaming concert series hosted by Luther Burbank Center for the Arts. Greenberg’s performance streams on Friday, Dec. 18, at 8pm.
For Greenberg, it’s a virtual homecoming of sorts, since he grew up attending concerts and performing on the LBC’s stage and elsewhere in Sonoma County.
Greenberg first found the guitar as an emotional outlet at age 11 after his parents’ divorce and a change in schools. “Music started being a way I could connect with other kids and forge friendships,” he says. “Those are friendships that carried me through and that I still have today.”
In high school, Greenberg split his time between singing in the school choirs and recording his garage bands, a prog-rock outfit in the vein of Dream Theater and an acoustic pop duo. After Greenberg attended UC Santa Cruz, friend and Blue Summit band member Jesse Fichman introduced him to the California bluegrass scene.
“That pushed me in my songwriting and my musicianship,” Greenberg says. “It got me headed in this folky direction.”
Greenberg took his new indie-folk direction to Los Angeles to pursue music there, and last year he connected with alternative-folk producer Jordan Ruiz.
“Working with him cemented that sound for me,” Greenberg says. “I met him at exactly the right time, and having a friend come along and say, ‘I see what you’re doing and there is worth to what you’re doing,’ catalyzed me into making an album.”
For the past year, Greenberg has shared that album by digitally releasing several singles from it. It is tentatively set for a January 2021 release.
Recorded with a full band before the pandemic hit, the songs are musically lush and rhythmically tranquil, with contemplative lyrics that address Greenberg’s emotional and physical journey from Santa Rosa to Los Angeles.
Greenberg scrapped plans to tour this year due to the pandemic, but he regularly performs virtually to raise funds for California wildfire relief and other good causes.
For the upcoming “Luther Locals” streaming performance—which is previously recorded at the request of the LBC—Greenberg re-created the full band recordings on video with the help of editing and his socially distant collaborators, and he will interact with the audience in the virtual show’s live chat.
“I hope people like it,” he says. “I had a good time putting it together, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.”