A while back Kari had the opportunity to set up a feature with Stitched Sound about our friend, singer/songwriter Benny Bassett. His album These Dreams, which also features a cover artwork by Kari, came out earlier this year. You can check it out on Spotify right now.
Band Name:Benny Bassett
Acoustic Rock, Singer-Songwriter
How and when did the band form/ when did the artist get their start?
I became a solo artist in April of last year after serving as a co-frontman and lead guitarist for Chicago band Vintage Blue. My former band Vintage Blue had the good fortune to play some great shows, with a ton of great musicians, from Fitz & the Tantrums, to Sister Hazel and Lifehouse. With the band I was able to build a ton of goodwill with regard to not only my performance, but my personality and my care for the art form of songwriting. I have used the foundation of the band to immediately expand my touring and fan reach, from the Midwest, to both coasts and even Canada. I started the solo project by doing a home show tour, playing in living rooms, backyards and house parties. Those opportunities gave me some time to build my chops as an entertainer and player, but also to grow as a touring musician.
Has your local music scene influenced you in any way?
The Chicago music scene is unique in many ways. It doesn’t get the notoriety of New York or Los Angeles, and many of the talented writers are fighting the harsh winters to flock to Nashville in hopes of becoming the next Chris Stapleton or Taylor Swift. But Chicago has some seriously dedicated and talented writers and performers. When I first decided to pursue a solo career I spent time going out to solo shows of other Chicago musicians, like my friend Edmer Abante, Jay Langston, Jess Godwin, Sam Wahl, Micheal McDermott, and many others. I wanted to see how they handled the stage, the pace and their performances. I learned a lot from watching them perform.
As a band/artist, what is the biggest challenge you have faced?
The biggest challenge for all of us that create, is to find a platform to connect with people. For musicians, stages are our primary source of exposure, but beyond that, it is incumbent on us to find unique ways to promote our brands, our music and our personalities. In 2016, there are so many ways to do this, but the space is crowded. Musicians at my level constantly struggle with finding a “right place” to exist. We hire publicists, marketing folks, managers, promoters, etc, but there is never a guarantee. I have found that nothing replaces playing. The stage will always be the best place for you to make your name.
Are there particular artists that have influenced the music you make?
I think that everyone starts with a base of influence that you have no control over … the artists your parents, siblings and friends listen to, all become part of your story. Those bands for me were, Billy Joel, The Police, Average White Band, Steely Dan and the Beatles. Then, as you get a little older and start developing your own musical tastes, you wander through phases, in sync with your own life. In my teens I listened to Nirvana, The Doors, Mystic Roots, Aerosmith, Mudhoney, Pixies, and Metallica. Then, as my music tastes refined and I started playing instruments and writing, I listened to more of the kind of music I was writing, The Eagles, The Band, Dave Matthews, as well as more R&B and Rap, like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, TLC, SWV, Joe Public, and Arrested Development.
Today, as I have ventured more into the Singer-Songwriter realm, I have really focused on learning from those that have gone before me. Matt Nathanson, Tony Lucca, Erick Baker, Shawn Mullins, Will Hoge, Stephen Kellogg, and many others who have carved their own career out of sincere, deep and meaningful lyrics and stories. Those are the kinds of things that I strive to write and sing about, so they are my new torches on this journey.
What are your plans for 2016?
2016 is a HUGE year for me in my still fresh solo career. Last year I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants. My band had unexpectedly split up after having the most exposure we had ever had … debuting on commercial radio and playing alongside international superstars on the Rock Boat. I took the momentum and just started playing everywhere and anywhere. In 2016 I will finally be releasing my debut solo EP, titled These Dreams. I could not be more excited. There will be much touring for sure and I will also be participating in as many industry conferences and events as I can to introduce my new project to the world. I have already showcased at the Folk Alliance Conference in Kansas City, and look forward to performing at RedGorilla Fest in Austin, Texas and participating in NACA regional meetings later in the year. I will also be creating two new music videos and look forward to finding new artists and cool new venues around the world!