He has been in the game for 12 years and is still going strong. With the release of his new album, Awake is the New Sleep, and his tour kickoff on Feb. 22, musician Ben Lee proves his strength and redefines himself after a string of defeats.

“[Feb. 22] will be like my prom for me. My friend and fellow band member Lara is taking my manager and me out for a special breakfast and then maybe I’ll go buy my record. Maybe I’ll buy 50,000 copies so I can get onto the top 10 albums for the week,” he says.

With more albums than he can remember, 26-year-old Lee has embraced and defined the mellow, indie-pop style that fellow artists John Mayer and Howie Day have recently adopted.

“I think life is most exciting and music is most exciting when it is full of joy. It comes from being connected with people and the world. I saw an opportunity to connect and a responsibility to help,” he says.

Although a solo artist at heart, as a teenager, Lee was a member of the Australian band Noise Addict, and more recently he has created an album and toured with Ben Folds and Ben Kweller in The Bens. He has also created his own record label, Ten Fingers, to help give new artists a start.

“[The Bens] are all friends and the idea came to Folds one day in the shower,” he says. “Next thing we were all on a plane to Nashville, wrote some songs and went on tour.”

Born in Australia, Lee is a “nomad of the world” and finds his creativity and inspiration from people: “Everyone is a teacher; they teach you what to do and what not to do.”

Although Lee claims he doesn’t follow fashions and trends and doesn’t live the rock ‘n’ roll star lifestyle, he dated actress Claire Danes for seven years, has his own online blog (which can be found on his official website and loves Jay Z.

“I find him very inspiring,” Lee says as he holds an impromptu tribute to Jay Z’s lyrics and spits some of his rhymes in his Australian accent.

Awake is the New Sleep has a seemingly upbeat vibe throughout the 14 songs and is the quintessential falling-in-and-out-of-love-but-surviving-through-it all album. The hypnotic lyrics about relationships, life, helplessness and hope-and the sedative music-allow Lee’s charm and laid back demeanor to shine through.

“I love to sleep, when I just wake up from a nap is my best time to write a song,” he says. “The album is more of a metaphor for coming out of the slumber of selfishness.”

Although Lee doesn’t have any scheduled Florida tour dates, he will be performing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien on March 2. But between his melodious voice, humble attitude, sense of self and soothing Australian accent, what about Ben Lee is there not to love?

Bari Lieberman can be contacted at