After six-and-a-half weeks on the road and 40 days of touring, Old Sea Brigade arrived in Richmond, Virginia, to perform his 32nd show of his 36-city North American tour. 

Old Sea Brigade is the stage name of Nashville-based singer Ben Cramer, whose music is a blend of folk, country, Americana and indie rock. Clash Magazine, a UK-based music and fashion publication, described Old Sea Brigade’s music as “gorgeous, meditative songwriting” that emits “a sense of Southern gothic.”

Cramer’s music also recently gained the attention of the widely popular medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy.” Old Sea Brigade’s song “Sinkhole,” the opening track to his new record “Ode to a Friend,” was featured in the “Grey’s Anatomy” episode that aired on Nov. 8. 

As soon as the Richmond Music Hall doors at the Capital Ale House opened on Nov. 18, almost an hour before the show, the audience began to fill the hall, sitting down in front of the stage or chatting along the sides of the room to wait for the concert to begin. 

The audience at Richmond Music Hall, ranging from young teens to adults, swayed along to each of Old Sea Brigade’s songs, including “Sinkhole.” Cramer performed seven of his songs, including “Towns,” “Hope” and “Feel You,” with Garrett Hine on drums and Steven Mullen on the keys. 

Although Old Sea Brigade’s songs have been listened to by over one million viewers on Spotify, the live concert gave the audience a unique understanding of Cramer’s music. The expressions and passion on Cramer’s face, along with the emanating feeling of the drums and keyboard as he sang portrayed the emotions behind Old Sea Brigade’s music. 

Cramer, who was born in Atlanta, Georgia, has been singing since he was in fifth grade, when he started a band to perform covers of Green Day songs. 

“[Music is] really just like a creative outlet for me,” Cramer said. “It gives … like a weird feeling I don’t get from anything else, so it feels very free and relaxing and therapeutic.” 

Three days before Cramer’s 21st birthday, his band in Nashville fell apart, so he moved back home with his parents. Unsure what to do next, he began recording with a friend in Florida, and they released Old Sea Brigade's first song— “Love Brought Weight”— in the summer of 2015. The song gained a lot of attention online and created a “snowball effect,” Cramer said. The following September, Cramer then signed with his label, Nettwerk Records.

His name, “Old Sea Brigade,” had no particular meaning behind it, but was a band name he had come up with in high school and never got to use until now, he said. “I wanted to put out music that was my own, but I didn’t want to go by my actual name," he said. "I just thought Old Sea Brigade kind of fit.”

On Jan. 4, 2019, Cramer will release his first full-length album, “Ode to a Friend,” which was named in tribute to the loss of one his best friends to suicide. This 11-track album was produced by Jeremy Griffith, whom Cramer described as his greatest influence. 

When Cramer was in high school, he interned for Griffith’s recording studio. They soon became friends, and Griffith taught him how to record, produced his first extended play record and helped him hone in on his own sound, Cramer said. 

Many of the songs on “Ode to a Friend” were written five or six years ago, and the album is a nice overall summary of his work, Cramer said. This summer, Cramer released the music video for “Hope,” one of the songs on this upcoming album. Atwood Magazine, an independent music journal, premiered the video on its website in August. 

“Old Sea Brigade’s ‘Hope’ shows that simply living and appreciating where you are in life is a much safer bet in achieving the smile we all wish for in our daily lives,” Adrian Vargas, writer for Atwood Magazine, wrote. “At times singer-songwriter, other times indie-rock – no matter the inspiration behind the mélange of styles, Cramer has created a soundscape of the utmost sincerity and beauty.” 

Cramer plays numerous instruments, including the guitar, and writes all of his own songs. His pieces are inspired by all of the little things that come up in life, both the really positive and the very negative, he said. “I’m very inspired by traveling and taking time away from music, as well,” he added. 

When asked about the most rewarding moment in his career, Cramer explained that not every night is an amazing show. But when there’s a really good moment and the show goes well, he tries to chase that moment.

“February of 2016, I did a tour playing in front of literally nobody every night, and I was sleeping in a van. It was really rough,” Cramer said. “Then the following February … I remember specifically, it was one year to the day of this really bad show I played … and the following year, I was playing in London opening a show to like 900 people in this beautiful church, so that was definitely a really cool moment.”  

Cramer ended his performance in Richmond with his favorite song, “Seen a Ghost.” This was the first song that he had cowritten and released, and the way the lyrics flowed rhythmically was different than how Cramer usually writes his own songs. It took him and his co-writer only 30 minutes to write the song, and it came very naturally, he said. 

After his show, Cramer came out to meet with fans — signing autographs, taking photos and chatting while he helped them select shirts and other souvenirs. 

Contact co-features editor Melanie Lippert at melanie.lippert@richmond.edu.