Ben Matthews, Managing Director and founder of The London Essentials, is known for creating the perfect vibe at soirées, parties and gala events from here in the city to global destinations far and wide. His band is one of the most highly sought after, with a reputation for setting exactly the right tone and giving guests a hugely memorable interactive experience. The London Essentials have played on separate occasions for HM King Charles, Oprah Winfrey and David Foster (pictured below) as well as with Andrea Bocelli and rock star Steven Tyler. Here Nicky Summer meets Ben (centre left in the brown suit in the lower image) to discuss how he started the business, his VIP clients and what he offers the exclusive world of global events:

NS: “Ben, you’ve put together the most charismatic and eclectic group of musicians and I know you’ve been in very high demand over the summer – how did you first start out in the business?”

BM: “Our first ever gig was at the Roof Gardens in Kensington, London in 2008, although I’ve been playing music with my family since I was five years old… my first paid gig was when I was only twelve!”

“I’d always played music with my mum, dad, and brother, with my dad often bringing a particular style of showmanship to it. If there was a crazy idea and we could make it work, his default setting was always to say: “Yes!” and I’ve inherited some of that positive thinking ‘say-yes’ attitude, for sure. Watch our skiing and crane videos (mentioned further down this conversation) or just talk to our overworked insurance adjuster for verification of that! My mum’s just finished the songs to a musical at age 81 so I’m just hoping to stay just as active as her well into my career!”

Whilst still playing in the family band, I went to drama school then I did a stint in the busking capital that is Nice, in the South of France. So setting up The London Essentials was very much a natural progression and combination of all things for me…

Ben Matthews, Founder, The London Essentials

NS: “When you decided to put together a band, was it difficult to find the right musicians? Who are they and what was the process?”

BM: “It takes a particular kind of performer/musician to do what we do and there was a lot of trial and error when we first started out; I eventually found everyone through word of mouth. There are five of us in the line-up but ten of us all together – the line-up is made up of two acoustic guitars, a double bass, a sax and a drum, with everyone singing and also taking turns to lead…”

We’re lucky enough to be brought into some pretty exclusive places and parties so trust on the part of the client – and also us having a lot of nerve – are massive elements…”

Ben Matthews, Founder, The London Essentials

NS: “Growing up surrounded by music myself, performing in a live band sounds like a dream job to me, travel obviously being an added bonus. What would you say are the pros and cons?”

BM: “Travel has advantages and disadvantages – with air travel being what it is, we’ve all had to buy new suits twice in this past year because our luggage didn’t arrive at our destination – however, withstanding all the chaos, we’ve never missed an event. There are always a few cultural differences that influence our performance in terms of the songs we choose, or perhaps depending on the level of interaction that naturally occurs. Typically, our clients tend to be pretty confident, which means the level of interaction can get quite high!”

“We made a fun skiing video a while ago and we’ve had lots of requests to ski into events since. We’re lucky enough to have some very zany clients, one of whom thought it would be a good idea that we arrived by crane. Of course I said yes, absolutely! We got up to 25 meters, so the adrenalin was really going as we descended into the crowd singing Nessun Dorma… then a couple of songs into the performance, I started to get shooting pains in my left arm. I thought it was a heart attack until I had a good look and realised that the crane driver had swung us into a cactus as we lifted off! Gotta love adrenaline!”

We’ve performed across the world, from London to Australia and pretty much everywhere in between. We’ve even performed mid-air on an A340 plane en route to safari at Victoria Falls. (Pictured below, right, the moment a guest discovered the ’pilot’ they’d been chatting with for hours beforehand was actually a member of the band!) We haven’t played on a hot air balloon yet, but fingers crossed our paragliding video is getting closer…”

Ben Matthews, founder, The London Essentials

NS: “That sounds like a blast – there’s nothing like working for international clients and an elite group of people – they’re often the most appreciative too… which of your performances has been your favourite, so far? 

BM: “There are three or four highly memorable occasions: Prior to Covid, while we were travelling, we’d always try and pop into a local hospital or a hospice to play some songs; they’re certainly the most challenging places to play at emotionally, but they’re also the most rewarding. We were playing for an event in Barbados, at the lovely ‘Lone Star’ restaurant (above, left) – I love that place! – and the day before we’d arranged to play at the local children’s hospital. It was sobering, however being able to give the kids and their parents a few moments to take them out of their difficult situation was priceless…”

“Of course, in a purely hedonistic way, it was also amazing to play for King Charles, Oprah Winfrey at the David Foster Foundation gala, and probably the most ‘pinch yourself’ moment we’ve had so far was getting the nod from Steven Tyler to join him on stage for ‘Walk This Way’ when he played in London a few years ago – that was fun! We’ve also played at lots of crazy private parties, and they must remain ‘off the record’ – but, yes, we were there!”

When we’ve travelled, our accommodation has included some spectacular ‘band apartments’, but generally we tend to stay in nice hotels. If we end up entertaining on safari, then give me a tent any day – as they say, you don’t have run as fast as a lion, just faster than a guitarist!”

Ben Matthews, founder, The London Essentials

NS: “There are cover versions of various artists that tend to get the crowd going, no matter who the audience happens to be – for example, Tina Turner or ABBA! What’s your experience of this?”

BM: “As we’re so interactive we’ll tend to pick songs that really tell a story; this also means that certain songs which might not look obvious on paper, turn into theatrical magic. I find it hard to keep a straight face when the guys sing ‘Call Me Maybe’, it still gets me in stitches. But obviously we’ll play all the big hits too – by ’Queen’, ‘The Rolling Stones’, Michael Jackson, ‘The Beatles’ …the list goes on. Oh – and of course, we can also do a bit of Beyonce to Spice Up Your Life!”

It’s not every day you get to entertain one’s King; I can’t reveal what I’d just sung but I can confirm his Royal Highness has a great sense of humour…”

Ben Matthews, founder, The London Essentials

NS: “That playlist alone wants me to get my Jimmy Choos on the dance floor! By which measure do you personally judge the success of an event you’ve performed at?

BM: “Our goal is always to bring as much joy as possible, so we judge the success on the smiles on people’s faces; every event we perform at is a chance to change the emotional state of a room…”

This year so far we’ve performed mainly in Italy, Switzerland, France and the US; a typical event includes two or three twenty-five-minute sets between the tables and staged between the courses…”

Ben Matthews, Founder, The London Essentials

NS: “There’s nothing better than a career where you can mix business with pleasure – what would you say has been your most fun event?”

BM: “We had a rather special night in Positano… we were outside ‘Chez Black’ restaurant on the beach, waiting to get picked up for an event but they just didn’t turn up so we thought we may as well just have dinner. Of course, we had our instruments with us and we have a rule about requests – if anyone asks for a song and we have time, we always play. Someone requested Nat King Cole’s ‘L.O.V.E.’ and we had three different people – who had obviously been waiting for the right moment that night – get down on one knee and propose, all in one song! The whole restaurant was buzzing, it was beautiful…”

NS: “That’s incredible – I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about it! Is that now one of your most favourite memories of an appreciative audience?”

BM: “People do say a lot of good things when we’ve played and we’ve had many memorable experiences – for example, when we first met Andrea Bocelli and his family, he invited us to join him on stage the next day in Agrigento, at the Roman ruins of the Valley of Temples. We thought ‘how very kind of him to say’, but there’s no way it’s going to happen. Flash forward to his manager’s phone call for rehearsal the next day; Bocelli is a man of his word and a very kind man – that was unbelievable…”


“Regarding our bus journey around London landmarks (see video above): If there’s a specific aim for everything we do, it’s to connect and bring joy; it’s a really simple idea but in the age of smart phones, negative algorithms and ever decreasing attention spans, that concept seems more relevant than ever. So, the idea of a bus journey around London was not only just bound to be fun for us, it was a way of creating as many specific moments of connection as we could – from a split second with a stranger, to a moment of complete freedom within the band. We’re often told that someone is looking for a ‘cool’ band. I’d like to think we’re the antidote to cool… ’cool’ tends to be a lot more about fear and ego. It’s almost part of our job description to forget cool and be as open as possible to help break down the barriers, because, luckily for us, humans still enjoy connection, it’s just that we all forget sometimes. So it’s our job to remind everyone that life is for living!”


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