Ben Hughes releases the final album in his year-long project, reflects on the process

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Ben Hughes
Ben Hughes | photo by James Suit

It’s twelve months later and Ben Hughes has accomplished what he started out to do last January. With this month’s If We Could Only Let Go the New Jersey-based musician has released an entire album each month in 2015, sharing old solo recordings and never-released band material in a true DIY spirit. To give the project a proper wrap, we asked Ben to reflect on the process and his experience over email.

If you’re thinking that releasing an entire album each month for a full year seems like an absurdly stressful thing to put yourself through, Hughes agrees and acknowledged the ridiculousness of the goal before committing. But he had good reason to create this challenge for himself.

“Unlike the other projects I’ve been a part of, Night Windows [started out as] a solo project. So, I wanted to embark on something that would help clear out my closet, and set the stage for what’s to come.”

His immense back catalog of unreleased material (40 albums worth) and a chapter in Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work also inspired the project, which allowed him to evaluate his growth over the last several years as both a songwriter and musician.

“I noticed how important influences and filters can be. Some phases I could tell I was listening to this artist or that artist, and it would make me sound better or worse. I eventually found my voice and what vocal range worked for me, but still influences are very important to me. I constantly seek out new music to get excited about. That excitement can find its way into my writing and keep things fresh and feeling new and exciting.”

With some songs dating back to 2006, Hughes was able to approach his collection of recordings with 20/20 hindsight and learn from what he would do differently now.

“I was able to act as a filter revisiting the old albums, and tried to weed out the bad stuff. It would’ve been nice if I opened my doors to more filters back then though (recording and mixing wise). Some of my favorite songs had to stay unreleased, because their quality was just unlistenable.

“Ultimately though for me, finding that space where I can be completely reckless with no self-doubt, no second-guessing, no filter is still key. ”

If We Could Only Let Go is perhaps the most ambitious of the albums, featuring twelve brand new tracks recorded during the final two weeks of November. To get everything done by December, Hughes tied himself to a strict “recipe” of a simple instrument set-up, a target number of tracks and an allowance to “go off the deep end with vocal harmonies and the MiniKorg.”

Was it all worth it?

“It made for one roller-coaster ride of a year. I was overwhelmed with how much support and love I received during the process, and I’m proud to have finished such a mountain of a project.”

Though this phase of his musical career is complete, Hughes and his bandmates in Night Windows have big plans for 2016, including a new full-length and a compilation of local artists.

Listen to If We Could Only Let Go below and dig through Hughes’ journey here.

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