Blues-rocker Benjamin Booker was born into a conservative military family. Yet just three years ago, he found himself living on his own in New Orleans with very little money and a drug and alcohol problem. That was when he wrote his first song, "Have You Seen My Son?," a standout track on his self-titled debut album.
"I wrote as a way to communicate with friends," he said. "If I had something important to talk about, I would just write them something."
Booker's blues isn't what you typically hear in New Orleans, or blues clubs in most other cities. It's raw and often aggressive, fueled by the punk rock that he grew up with in Florida.
"I discovered blues from listening to punk," he explained. "Punk bands I listened to would cover blues songs or reference blues musicians, so I went and looked them up."
He cites soul-blues singer Ted Hawkins, country's Townes Van Zandt and indie rocker Bradford Cox of Deerhunter as influences -- "people who mean what they sing; people who have something to say."
One style he has stayed far away from is blues songs that are vehicles for 10-minute guitar solos. Last year, he famously insulted Eric Clapton in an interview with Vice, saying, "? the white stretch of blues kind of stuff. I hate it more than anything."
Booker's own style quickly built him a following in New Orleans, and he soon found himself playing festivals such as Lollapalooza and opening for Jack White. Eventually, even his parents, who didn't see music as much of a career option, started to come around.
"Of course they were skeptical at the beginning," he said. "I'm not sure I would want my kids to do what I'm doing."
While Booker has come a long way over the last three years, he says the accolades haven't changed him.
"Success is what you make of it," he said. "I have had a very fun year but when it comes down to it, I still go home to the same bed, I still call the same friends and I still go to the same bodega."
If you go: Benjamin Booker is at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday at 9 p.m., 66 N. Sixth St., Williamsburg, $20