THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
Best Music Video ‘I Choose the Whiskey’ • Best Band Website • Best Country Video • Best Country Songwriter
24th May, 2018 1
In the grand coral of contemporary Country music, Donald Benjamin is truly an iconoclast who feels more comfortable carving his own musical territory than running with the pack. Receiving a total of 14 nominations between himself and his bandmates at this year’s 32nd Review Music Awards, Benjamin has made numerous inroads advancing his musical career, as can be witnessed by the remarkable 18,406 ‘likes’ he currently enjoys on his facebook page.
It's been over a decade since Donald Benjamin first emerged on the Michigan music scene. From the beginning, this multiple award-winning songwriter, and former 102.5 WIOG Mid-Michigan Idol semi- finalist, shattered all expectations, beginning with his 2002 debut, "Destination Unknown." Its title track reached international radio, garnering him immediate status as an up-and-coming songwriting talent.
After a rigorous solo touring schedule from 2002-2012, culminating with several awards, and Sevox Radio naming his demo for the song "Used To" their 2012 "Song of the Year," he has, since, gone on to further success, with two highly-acclaimed efforts, "Reborn" (2014) and "Southbound 75" (2017).
Now a proud member of the Country Music Association (CMA), this intrepid songwriter/performer and the man AMB Magazine called "one of country music's future leading men," is touring, nationally, while promoting the current radio single, "I Choose the Whiskey," which on September 10, 2017 hit #1 on Florida Country Radio; and in January of this year reached #27 on the Iceman's syndicated Top 40.
Recently I had the opportunity to discuss Benjamin’s evolving career, share thoughts about his wins at this year’s Review Music Awards, and survey the contemporary landscape of the country music scene.
Review: Seeing as you won two of the major video awards for Best Music Video and Country Video, along with Best Band Website, this would seem to indicate that the articulation of your presentation in terms of how you like to render and establish yourself before the public are important qualities that contribute to your success. Please tell me about how important these platforms are for conveying your musical message to the general public, as well as your fans?
Benjamin: Today's music industry is a far cry from just a decade ago. More, now, than ever, branding and visual presence is as important, if not more so, than the musical product, as seen by the growing influx of businesses catering to this side of the industry. We're at an impasse, with the advent of social media marketing and advertising overshadowing the music, itself. Evidence can be seen in the sheer number of "YouTube generation stars" being discovered. That leaves independent, as well as signed artists, no choice but to put more emphasis on their marketing.
People, with today’s technological workings, have short attention spans. They want the info and they want it easily attainable and quick to digest. As such, websites need to be eye-catching, while employing a simple, speedy delivery of information, within the user's fingertips.
It's similar with videos. You have an estimated 10-20 seconds, initially, to catch their attention and around 3-4 minutes to hold it, in order to ensure the information reaches the target. It's a tough sell, so you need to be on-point.
Since this realization, and implementing a strategic plan, through Straight Edge Entertainment, my international fan base has grown, exponentially. I've received airplay in over 30 countries. Booking interests have soared, nationally, and demand has been phenomenal.
Review: Regarding the 'Best County Songwriter' award, what qualities to you feel that you possess as a songwriter that distinguish your music the most?
Benjamin: As a songwriter, the main goal is, always, to connect with your listener. The best way to achieve this is to write lyrics that are relatable, about topics and ideas you may have shared experience with. These ideas come from my own life, growing up in a blue collar family, living in a small town, spending my time hunting, fishing and enjoying the outdoors. That realism is what country music is about - working men, and women, and their day-to-day lives.
To borrow from a recent meeting with personnel in the radio industry, they referred to my songwriting style, and sound, as "Man Country." It's not the same pre-packaged, early 20's pop-infused country that we hear on mainstream radio today. It's a throwback sound. It's gritty. It has substance. It's got testicular fortitude. That sound relies, heavily, on my influences. Growing up, my staples we're Keith Whitley, Kenny Rogers, Merle Haggard, and Eddie Rabbit, as well as a great deal of old blues recordings. Their music was about life, love, paying dues and kicking a little tail, when necessary. While I also listened to artists like Richard Marx, Dick Wagner and other contemporary songwriters, who helped shape my songwriting, the "old-school" vibe always gripped me.
Review: How would you best describe the architecture of your music and what are some of the goals that you strive to achieve with your music?
Benjamin: Simplicity is key. There's no auto-tune or post-modern, effect-filled electronics. When a guitar hits a note that's slightly off, or when a vocal line cracks a hair, it gives the work character. You can hear it on the older country albums, as well as the early, simplistic blues recordings. Those pieces of character add emotion and feeling to the art. Today's music, which is highly overproduced, loses that.
My music is often categorized on streaming radio services with artists like Cody Jinx, White Morgan, Brantley Gilbert and Chris Stapleton. Not that I'm near the level of vocalist that Stapleton is. I think the reason is in the approach and simplicity of the sound. It's three chords and the truth, being done by four guys around a bunch of microphones. No fluff. No insane post-production. It's just real.
That. The "realness." That's my goal.
Review: What are some of the projects that you are currently working upon; and what are some of the goals that you have for your music over the next year?
Benjamin: Currently, and fortunately, I'm busy as sin. The new single, "I Choose the Whiskey," has had an incredible start, reaching #1 on Florida Country Radio and #19 on the Iceman's syndicated Nashville top 40. We, recently, signed a multi-year deal, placing my music on digital jukeboxes across the United States.
For the remainder of the year, we're booked solid, between local and national shows. I'll be heading back to Nashville, in a few short weeks, for my fourth-consecutive year performing at the CMA Music Festival. I've performed every year, since being invited, and inducted, into the Country Music Association. We're headlining and performing at several festivals, over the summer, including one in Pennsylvania, where I'll be performing alongside Jordan Davis Runaway June, and Allie Colleen, the daughter of Garth Brooks.
There are a bunch of radio on-air appearances lined up and work is being done on some new music. We are, also, in the early planning stages for a major, national tour in 2019, which will see us on the road, for the majority of the year.
Review: Feel free to add your thoughts about any topic that I may not have touched upon.
Benjamin: Each day, through hard work, determination and a will to succeed, I get one step closer to my dream. Diagnosed with Tourettes Syndrome, at the age of 12, I have always championed the cause and it has always been my goal to be the first artist with TS to perform at the Grand Ol' Opry. That's my "bucket list," in whole. With the support of the fans, our family of venues and recognitions like that of Review Magazine and the Review Awards, that goal continues to inch closer.
I want to take the opportunity to thank each and every fan, reader and supporter, along with those in my band and inner circle, for their continued push and to let them know it is truly, and deeply, appreciated. You give me strength, and inspiration, to move forward. That's a debt I can never, fully, repay but try to, each and every time I step on stage to entertain you.
DOWNLOAD THE NEW SINGLE, HERE:
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)