Alec Benjamin discusses the inspiration behind his recent single “Jesus in LA” for the latest video installment of Rolling Stone’s “The Breakdown.” The track is the third single Benjamin has released since his 2018 breakout album Narrated for You.
“When I moved out to California, I went to college for a few semesters and then I got a record deal,” Benjamin explains, “and I thought, ‘All right, like, this is going to be it. This is going to be my big break.'” However, the singer-songwriter’s “big break” was put on hold when he was suddenly dropped from the record label. “I lost all the songs I had been working on for years,” recalls Benjamin. “As pretty and cool as Hollywood is, there’s a little bit of a dark underbelly, so that’s what I wrote the song about.”
More from Rolling Stone
- The Breakdown: Violent Femmes' 'Blister in the Sun'
- The Breakdown: How Grace VanderWaal Embraced Spontaneity While Writing 'Ur So Beautiful'
- Watch Alec Benjamin's Poignant Video for 'Must Have Been the Wind'
Benjamin describes how he knew the song’s title before the rest of the lyrics followed. “Sometimes I write out 50, 60, 100 titles on a piece of paper,” Benjamin says of his writing process. “Jesus in LA” was one of them. “I thought it would be cool to tell the song through a story about me meeting the devil and looking for my savior,” he says.
While the lyrics strongly relate to Benjamin’s own life, he was also influenced by someone close to him caught up in the party scene and struggling with drinking. Benjamin remembers being told, “You’re not gonna find your happiness out there doing that.” This piece of advice inspired him to write the chorus, which he launches into on acoustic guitar, singing: “You won’t find him down on Sunset / Or at a party in the Hills / At the bottom of the bottle / Or when you’re tripping on some pills.”
Though Jesus and the Devil are central figures in the lyrics, Benjamin insists it’s not a religious song — even though those who don’t listen closely may mistake it for one. He reflects on how this has fueled his self-doubt. “Sometimes I’m like, ‘Oh man, maybe it was a mistake to put out a song that has Jesus in the title.'” But he doesn’t dwell on this for long. “Lyrically, it’s nice to take risks sometimes.”
Best of Rolling Stone
- Killer Songs: The 10 Creepiest Country Murder Ballads
- 20 Iconic Guitars
- Jimmy Page Before Led Zeppelin: 20 Great 1960s Session Songs
See where your favorite artists and songs rank on the Rolling Stone Charts.