Ben Arsenault | Hold On To You: Exclusive Video Premiere

The Real Ponchos frontman steps out with a preview of his upcoming solo debut.

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Ben Arsenault wants to Hold On To You when the road turns rough in his tenderly romantic new single and easygoing road-trip video — premiering exclusively on Tinnitist.

The lead single from the B.C. singer-songwriter and Real Ponchos frontman’s upcoming solo debut, the sparsely beautiful roots number is a fitting first offering to Arsenault’s new wound and style. Setting his intimate hickory-snap vocals atop a gorgeously glowing union of campfire acoustic guitar, glistening pedal steel, breezy harmonica and cheery organ, Hold On To You would make a fine soundtrack to a summertime road trip — especially the one depicted in its charming, diaristic travelogue video.

“I wrote this song on a road trip in Big Sur and some of the imagery, like the lonely rock in the ocean from the first verse, comes from that,” says Ben. “The subject of the song, what I was holding on to, was originally the wheel of the Nissan Pathfinder I was driving. Then it evolved and became about relationships and how you have to be vulnerable to be supported by love.”

Photo by Alex Guiry.

Known as the singer and guitarist in Vancouver alt-country jam band Real Ponchos, Arsenault is now pursuing a solo career in more traditional, roots-based music, which he sees as a tribute to the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Merle Haggard and all the great country singer-songwriters. On his self-titled solo album due Dec. 2, Arsenault sings about moving from isolation to connection with the people and places that fill our lives. With the road-worn vulnerability of Hold On To You and the tension between longing and patience in We’ll See, the album is an invitation to listen to the feelings and forces that we habitually tune out. While it travels well-worn paths of folk and country music, at its heart the album is a reaction to the heavy pace of modern times.

Photo by Alex Guiry.

In addition to Aiden Ayers (fiddle, guitar, piano, bass), the album features stalwarts of Vancouver’s roots music scene: Scott Smith (pedal steel, electric guitar); Darryl Havers (organ, piano); Todd Biffard (drums); and Ben’s Real Ponchos bandmate Michael Wagler (bass). The playing leans into simplicity and character and the result is natural, down-to-earth music.

The album was produced in close collaboration with Ayers, who, in addition to playing on all of the songs, handled engineering and mixing duties. Everything was recorded in a tiny basement studio on the east side of Vancouver on an old tape machine. Ben and Aiden welcomed these boundaries and worked within them to create heartfelt and timeless interpretations of Ben’s songs. Their preference for full takes, the humble studio and Ben and Aiden’s friendship creates a warmth felt throughout the album.

Speaking of friendship, Ben continues to play and record with Real Ponchos. Since 2010, over the course of countless tours and three full-length albums, they have built a cult following with their psychedelic-country-soul jams. The Ponchos will likely be seen and heard supporting Ben as he takes his new songs to the stage.

Hold On To You officially arrives Sept. 23 on Spotify, Apple Music/iTunes and other digital retailers and streaming services worldwide. Watch the video and listen to the song above, check out Real Ponchos below, and get ahold of Ben Arsenault at his website, Instagram and Facebook.

Photo by Alex Guiry.