Guitar Hero at 17: Ben Heffernan

For the third episode of the podcast, I interview Ben Heffernan from his home basement studio. Ben is an accomplished guitarist, composer, and performer, at the tender age of 17.

After talking to him and listening to some of his music, I realize I’m lucky to have caught him now. In due time Ben will be too popular to talk to me 🙂

Ben shares with me how he got started, his process for learning and practicing, and his tips for us so we too can be better guitarists.

Ben Heffernan


From Ben’s website: Ben Heffernan is a 17-year-old award-winning singer-songwriter from London, Ontario. He has been performing as a solo artist since 2014, and has played over 100 shows since.

Heffernan considers John Mayer, U2, Gavin James and James Bay to be the artists who have influenced his folk-pop sound the most. His live performances have drawn comparisons to Ed Sheeran due to his use of live looping to create additional layers of instrumentation and backing vocals.

Even though 2016 resulted in a Jack Richardson London Music Award win, 2017 has proved to be this young artist’s best year to date. He supported the release of his first EP, Different Wars, with two sold-out London release shows. Different Wars manages to draw from many of Heffernan’s diverse influences yet still retain its identity. Among others, it has drawn praise from Hawksley Workman (Juno-winning singer-songwriter) and Steve Patterson (host of CBC’s The Debaters). Heffernan has been gigging non-stop ever since this release and has several high-profile shows lined up in the near future.

Ben’s Gear

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Ben has several guitars, but his current favourite seems to be his Epiphone Casino. He also showed me his beautiful blue Fender Telecaster.

Main takeaways

After talking to two veteran guitarists in episode 1 and 2, Ben presented me with a bit of a fresh approach.


Ben seems to be focused on songs. Whether he’s trying to play a new song he heard on the radio on the way home from school or composing his own, his approach is to break it down into familiar parts and focus on the difficult ones until he has it down.

He values learning scales, but in his experience, they are helpful tools for those who already have a grasp of the instrument.

Ben is a song guy. While it seems a bit simplistic at first, isn’t it what we all want though? To play songs? So this made a lot of sense to me:

  • Find songs you want to play.
  • Learn how to play them.
  • Before you know it you’ll be writing your own.


Ben also discouraged practicing for the sake of practicing. He is of the opinion that if you enjoy playing as an end in itself, that becomes your practice. You practice because you enjoy your guitar and can’t be away from it for too long. Practice is important, but it’s also important to not let practice take the place of the fun. Practice every day because you enjoy playing the guitar every day.

Encourage your children

As a father of 3 young children, I was inspired by Ben’s story. Here’s a guy who was encouraged by his parents to play music. He also worked hard, saved his own money to buy his gear, and now is actually playing gigs.

If your child shows an inclination to music, let them explore it.

Links mentioned in this episode

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