April 14, 2009Behind the Music: An Interview with Benjamin Pratt
Behind the Music: An Interview with Benjamin Pratt
[Rolodex box being used as slate]
Dr. L:This is an example of how high tech we are here on the Dr. Laura Program, which is me (I am my kid's mom) and we have one of our most celebrated peeps here. This is Benjamin Pratt, who engineers and orchestrates our music. And I wonder, what does that mean? What do you do with music?
Ben:Basically what I do is I take the brilliant answers that you give the listeners and [gestures with thumbs up] I try to encapsulate music coming into the next segments so it just accentuates it. It makes it creative. It's somewhat like sound designing a movie, except it's a radio program. So I try to find music that matches up with the calls and make it interesting to listen to and, of course, make you laugh.
Dr. L:Well...how do you do that in the few seconds you have? I mean, how does that...how many pieces of music do you have and how do you know where to dive in to?
Ben:Well, in an attempt to make myself irreplaceable, I've designed it around my brain, and I've come up with key words. So when you're talking to a caller and I'm sitting back and I'm taking my notes, I think to myself, "What is this call about?" And I've found commonalities between certain topics, whether or not it's sex or marriage, abusive relationships, brothers, sisters...whatever the topic might be, and I've categorized them as such.
Dr. L:And how many do you have, all-in-all?
Ben:I just cracked 1,000.
Dr. L:Oh my gosh!
Ben:So you picked a great time to ask me. I have exactly 1,000 songs. [pounds Dr. L's fist in a friendship gesture] I might cut myself. [laughs]
Dr. L:When you first came aboard, what was it like working on this show? Because this is a different show than sports and other things you've done.
Ben:Absolutely. Because I came from a sports background and so coming to this kind of a show, I walked in a little bit like a deer in headlights because I didn't know exactly what to expect. And previous to working for you, you know, dating your...I could take things for face value. And you can't look at life the same when you know a lot of the answers behind why people do the things they do. When you go to a club or a bar or you're just talking to somebody in a coffee shop, you can see things that you couldn't see before so you can't even plead ignorance. So it made dating very difficult.
Dr. L:So I interfered with your personal social life.
Ben:Yes, my self-destructive...
Dr. L:Until recently.
Ben:Yeah, until recently. But the beauty is that using what I've learned on the show helped me find a fantastic woman.
Dr. L:[whispers & smiles] Yes, she is. Okay, now, what did you...if you ever want to reveal something so personal, what did you, sitting here listening to the show, what was special to you that changed something in your life and your way of thinking? Was there one particular call or?
Ben:I can think of one right off the top of my head because there's been many, because, unfortunately, sometimes you see your own flaws in the callers and you learn about yourself in the process. But one of them was about being on time and this was [both laugh] this was a...
Dr. L:He's still not terrific at that, but all right.
Ben:I'm getting better. And it's partially due to an "ah ha" moment that I had listening to you talk to a caller. You were explaining that being late was saying, you know, "You're not going to control me. I'm not going to play by your rules...I'm not going to show up..." And the key was, you made the point, "Did you ever notice that people who are late are always late the same amount of time?"
Dr. L:[laughs] Yes.
Ben:And I thought to myself...always, and for me it's 30 minutes. That's my number and I...so in the mornings when I'd be getting ready I'd look at the clock and, "Oh! Right on 'Ben' time!" But even...
Dr. L:Which is different from Pacific time...
Ben:Correct. But my girlfriend noticed. She said, "I noticed that you've been just...you know, you move your butt now. In the mornings, when you call me and you say 'I'm on my way to work', I notice that you're there." So it's definitely an improvement. When we're going out on a date, I'm ready to go and I'm sitting there waiting, and now I'm waiting for her.
Dr. L:As it should be.
Dr. L: In terms of working on a show where people are calling in with problems and dilemmas and ethical, and moral, and psychological issues, do you ever go home with any of this rattling around in your head?
Ben:Yeah, pretty much every day. And the...
Dr. L:Is it stressful?
Ben:Um, no. It's only been a little stressful at times when I knew that I saw myself in a call. And you think about it and you say, "Okay", you know, "How does this apply to me?" And it's like anything else: it's information. And it can be used properly or improperly. And I had a relationship once where I think I used it improperly, and I was constantly just putting the girl up against these criteria. And it's very stressful because you're not dealing with a robot, you're dealing with a human being. But using it as a method to understand so you can be more compassionate, as opposed to a tool to check somebody else, is a more positive way to use it. So I've found that it's benefitted me much more as I've matured and understand how to properly use what I learned on the show. So I would say that the only time, non-call related, that I'm stressed out is if we have a technical catastrophe or if an ISDN fails or something like that, that can offer a tense moment. But, you know...
Dr. L:Not because I get tense about it. I tend to laugh when there are electronic problems.
Ben:Yeah, you know, and I just...because my goal is to make...
Dr. L:Well it must help because I don't get excited about it.
Ben:It does. It makes my job easier because it's hard if everyone around you is panicking. And, of course, for me, my goal is to make your life easier. Is to be a support system, and feedback, and to give you someone to look at when you're talking to the callers so you have a person sitting there, and I'll catch you making eye contact with me. And I can see that how I react and what I do can help feed you and it just all works nice.
Dr. L:Yeah. I think you're integral to the show.Have you seen the show evolve?
Dr. L:From what to what?
Ben:Well, when I first started...I've seen it be more creative, and I'm not trying to pat myself on the back, but I like the fact that...getting the feedback from the audience. And the music...the back and forth with you and I, I think is a lot of fun...and the music adds to that. I've also noticed that, from the therapy aspect, watching you as time has gone on, you just get better and better. And I'm not trying to just blow sunshine. Your ability to...the polish in your reads on people when they don't give you information, and you're able to just get a sense. Every year I just notice it gets sharper and sharper. And they'll say three words and you want to take them here and they're just like, "I want to talk about apples, Dr. Laura." And you're like, "No, you want to talk about oranges." And oranges is the answer. The flow of the show is just going smoother and smoother.
Dr. L:I'm always impressed after a call when you ask me some questions, "How did you get from there to there?" "How did you know that?" It's very interesting. During the commercials there's kind of an ongoing dialogue, unless of course I'm thinking, in which case I go, "Benjamin, I can't talk. I'm thinking."
Ben:Yes, well, in the very beginning you said I was too...
Dr. L:Oh yes.
Ben:This was my first time...
Dr. L:You were filling in.
Ben:Yes, filling in and I didn't know what to do. You know, you're working for Dr. Laura. And so I tried to talk to you during the breaks and...
Dr. L:[makes hand gesture of quacking duck] Blah blah blah...
Dr. L:I said, "Please! I cannot work with that man. He won't shut up."
Ben:But I did a great job.
Dr. L:Yes! He did.
Ben: "Just tell him he's too chatty."
Dr. L:[laughs] And I've enjoyed...I think we're working on our fifth year together.
Ben:Yeah, I couldn't believe it.
Dr. L:[extends arms out for hug] Happy anniversary.
Ben:Aww, happy anniversary to you too. Thank you very much. It's a pleasure.
Dr. L:Thank you. Well, we'll see you next time with another one of our magnificent peeps from the Dr. Laura Program. Meanwhile [looks at Ben] wave! Bye!
Posted by Staff at 7:00 AM