As Ben Dickey started exploring Foley’s legend, he continued composing and recording music. In 2016, during a period of more than 9 months, Ben Dickey released Sexy Birds and Salty Water Classics, his first solo album under the Max Recordings label.
Dickey’s breakthrough as an actor came about in 2018, in the movie Blaze where he played the role of Blaze Foley, a musician from Arkansas. The director of Blaze was Ethan Hawke, who had previously worked with Ben Dickey on the movie, The Hottest State. Beth Blofson, Dickey’s girlfriend and artist, was Ethan Hawke’s wife’s friend. Although Ben Dickey did not have a significant background as an actor and his experience was lacking, Ethan Hawke decided to give him the role since he felt that having a musician play the role of Foley would make the film more authentic. As part of Dickey’s preparation for the role, he was coached by Vincent D’Onofrio.
Dickey started a study of the works of Foley with laser-like focus, particularly Foley’s singular singing and playing. It wasn’t easy rolling his voice over a loping three-fingered style, and he wanted to perfect it to a T. At the same time, Vincent D’onofrio started teaching him how to become a great actor and helped him get rid of all of his overthinking. Basically, the idea is not to have permission to think. You can flatly take in what you are supposed to say and use your imagination and mind to comprehend the director’s requirements and then go put it forth in front of a camera.
Ben Dickey also developed a bond with Sybil Rosen, the writer of the 2008 memoir which the film is based on, Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley. Sybil Rosen was also a former partner of Foley. Ben Dickey also developed with Alia Shawkat who acts as Sybil Rosen in the film. Blaze Foley had a unique way of talking, and Dickey wanted to represent that in the best way that he could without impersonating Foley. He received support from the entire casting crew and the result was marvelous and authentic.
Although Blaze didn’t do exceptionally well on the Box office, it received numerous critical acclaim. Joe Gross of the Rolling Stones described Dickey’s performance in the film as savvy and emotionally detailed. Peter Travers, a film critic of the magazine, described Ben Dickey’s role as lived-in authenticity. Peter Travers also said that what made Dickey so successful in his performance as Foley was that rather than impersonate him, he embodied him as a flawed human being and a soulful artiste. Ben Dickey received the Dramatic Special Jury Award in Acting during the Sundance Film Festival for his role in the film.
Ben Dickey worked together with musician and actor Charlie Sexton, whose role on Blaze was Townes Van Zandt, Foley’s friend. Charlie Sexton was the producer of 2019’s A Glimmer on the Outskirts, which was Dickey’s 2nd studio album and was released under Sex Hawke Black record labels. Charlie Sexton also played guitar on the album. About two decades before, Ben Dickey had gone through a period where he listened to John Hurt of Mississippi. Once he delved into Blaze’s music and they started shooting the movie, the more Dickey started getting into the 2- step loping blues, and the significant amount you can achieve when you have so little to work with. In a way, it was a recalibration of many of the tendencies that Dickey had. He wrote over 20 songs in a period of two weeks, it was as if he had been hit by an ephemeral. Dickey recorded 9 of the songs in 2017 at the Arlyn Studios in Austin. According to Dickey, AGlimmer on the Outskirts embodies hope in all forms, from the house is one fire & somebody is bringing water, to hey lunch is in ten minutes. He keeps reminiscing on the roving lone fixer. The Eastwood character that roves in bringing justice, and Blaze with the idea that hope is on its way coming on the outskirts.
Seeing Ben Dickey is in many ways like bumping into a friend that you have not seen for quite some time, but you are excited to meet them. Although Ben Dickey occasionally visits Little Rock, he has resided in Louisiana for the past several years, where he continues composing music and acting.