Most people know Ben Ford as the charismatic front-man at special events, but behind his public persona is a surprisingly different character.
When he’s not performing as his alter ego DJ Ben, the 41-year old is introspective and shy by nature.
“I’m the person who might quietly leave a party early – I don’t need to be the centre of attention,” he says.
“If you asked mum and dad they would say I was always telling jokes but I wasn’t the jokester.
“When I’m at work with the microphone in my hand I’m the entertainer, but I live on my own, I like quiet time and I enjoy my own company.”
By contrast, Ben’s professional persona is larger than life.
For eight years he co-hosted one of Fresh FM radio’s most popular programmes and went on to work the nightclub circuit as a popular DJ.
He built a loyal fan base and many high-profile friends, including radio and TV personalities Andrew “Cosi” Costello and “Sam Mac” McMillan.
“It was awesome, the best,” says the single dad from Tanunda.
“I met some of the most well-known names in the industry including Armin Van Buuren, who headlines massive festivals around the world. It was a huge rush.
“The friendships were awesome too. Some of my best friends now are from those days.”
The secret of Ben’s success was his vast musical knowledge – he also writes and produces music and aspires to compose film and television music – plus his intuition for the mood on the dance floor.
“As a DJ you need to be able to put your own musical interests aside and watch carefully, are people dancing but also are they enjoying it,” he says.
“The aim was to keep as many people as possible happy at the same time. Occasionally you’d get the whole room, and that really was something.”
When Ben finally called it a day on the eve of his 400th radio show, he relocated to the Barossa to “settle down” and re-invented himself as a wedding MC.
He is considered the consummate entertainer, winning guests over with his natural sense of fun, perception and observational humour.
His unique style has earned him the Australian Bridal Industry Academy title of best wedding MC in South Australia four years in a row and the national title in August this year.
“It comes very naturally for me,” says Ben.
“If I see something in the room – it might even be awkward – I don’t ignore it, I highlight it.
“I introduce the clown to the room, or the person who yells ‘wooh’ when everyone else is quiet.
“It creates smiles and laughter anywhere I go. It’s my thing; I love it.”
It has secured him an enviable reputation and almost weekly wedding engagements as well as a regular gig as the “trivia guy” at Greenock Hotel.
“In 10 years’ time I want people to say ‘remember how cool that wedding was and all the fun elements we didn’t expect’,” says Ben.
Most days it’s a good reason to get up in the morning. And then there’s the days when it’s a little harder.
Ben is candid about the personal challenges in his life, which have included a relationship breakdown and fertility issues resulting from a rare syndrome.
“That was one of the hardest things to go through, learning from the fertility doctors that I might never be a father,” says Ben.
“I don’t think about it every day, but occasionally I get down in the dumps and it’s hard to shut it out. That can be difficult.”
While eight-year-old daughter, Georgia isn’t biologically connected, their hearts beat to the same rhythm.
“She’s intelligent and mature and gifted; almost everything I wanted to be, she is,” Ben says.
“When I have this amazing person by my side singing all the words to a song, that’s because of me – I know that’s because of me.”
Ben’s remarkable openness shines a light on mental health and while he wears his heart on his sleeve, he’s a stronger person because of this vulnerability.
His experiences have given him a strength and empathy he never expected, qualities well-suited to his “day job” as a personal carer at Barossa Village.
Above all, it means Ben never misses an opportunity to make someone else smile.
“It seems like a natural gift to enable other people to have a great time,” he says.
“I love making people smile and if I make them laugh it’s a bonus.”