YORK singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich could not have two more contrasting gigs in his home city over the next fortnight.

Tomorrow he gives an acoustic in-store performance to 50 people at 7pm at the Forty Five Vinyl Café in Micklegate on the day he launches his third album, Gratitude, on the Dirty Hit label.

What follows will be his biggest ever York concert, in the Nave of York Minster on March 29: the only Yorkshire location on his18-date tour of Britain, Ireland and Europe in March, April and May, which includes another church setting, the Church of St John the Evangelist, Oxford, on April 10 and one with a church name, London's Union Chapel, the next night.

Organised by York promoters Please Please You and Ouroboros, alias Joe Coates and Harkirit Boparai, in tandem with The Crescent community venue in York and Leeds Brudenell Social Club, Benjamin's concert at "York's grandest venue" was announced last November, giving him time aplenty to contemplate playing there.

York Press:

"It's going to be crazy playing in here," says Benjamin Leftwich Francis, taking a seat at York Minster

When he met up with The Press on a chilly winter's day, he took the opportunity to sit in the Nave and take in the size and magnificence of northern Europe's largest Gothic cathedral. "Is there where I'll be playing?" said the former Bootham School pupil, suddenly struck by the grandeur of the building, his eyes widening at the thought. "It's going to be crazy playing in here."

Now living in North London, but born and raised in York, Benjamin first played in York at the age of 13 at Fibbers and last performed here at The Crescent in May 2016, since when he has appeared at the Platform Festival at The Old Station, Pocklington, in July 2017.

He follows in the footsteps of The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon in May 2011, singer-songwriter Laura Marling in October 2011 and north eastern folk group The Unthanks, in tandem with the Brighouse and Rastrick Band in August 2012, in playing at York Minster.

"I wasn't a chorister in my school days so I've never sung in the Minster, though I'd walk past it every day on the way to school," says Benjamin. "I feel very grateful to be performing here. Humbled. A little nervous. But I do feel I have to be as spiritually engaged as I would be playing in a club in Alabama on a Sunday night, as marvellous as this building is.

York Press:

"We'll be playing as serenely as we can, as beautifully as we can," says Benjamin

"I'm so grateful to Joe [Coates] at The Crescent and Nathan [Clark] at the Brudenell for showing faith in me to put on this concert; they're dear friends of mine and so supportive."

At this point, sitting in the quiet of the cathedral, Benjamin turned his thoughts to his late father, University of York politics professor and anti-apartheid South African student leader in the early Sixties, Adrian Leftwich, who died in April 2013. "I miss my dad so much, but he'll be here at the concert in spirit and that will be a big part of it for me."

Benjamin had not decided on the set list at the time of this interview but did say: "We'll be playing as serenely as we can, as beautifully as we can."

The Minster setting will play its part. "While I feel there's a difference between 'religion' and 'faith', I definitely have faith in a higher being and I believe one of the callings you can have is the creative arts.

York Press:

"I definitely have faith in a higher being and I believe one of the callings you can have is the creative arts," says Benjamin, seated outside York Minster

"When someone comes up and says, 'hearing your song saved me', that's moving. We can all do our bit for this world in our different ways."

By March 29, Benjamin's follow-up to 2016's After The Rain and 2011's 100,000-selling debut The Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm will have been out for two weeks. "It's called Gratitude as I'd accepted at the end of 2017 that I had to make a difference to how I was treating myself and how I was treating others, and I've done that," he says.

Benjamin underwent drug rehabilitation in Bournemouth, and come early January he marked a year of being clean. "I feel very lucky," he says. "Music is a gift and I'm privileged to be a musician, to be able to make music."

Tickets for March 29 cost £15 in person from The Crescent community venue, off Blossom Street, York, and Earworm Records, in Powells Yard, Goodramgate, York, Jumbo Records and the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, or online at thecrescentyork.com and seetickets.com/event/benjamin-francis-leftwich/york-minster/1288073. Alternatively, pay £18 on the door.