Benton Blount knows to trust his instincts. Repeatedly through his career, he’s moved forward by walking through an open door, even if making that step defied logic at the time. “I’ve had to stop wondering why all my dreams seem to keep coming true and moving me forward,” Blount says. “I’ve learned to trust that singing and writing songs is what I’m supposed to do, because every time I focus on my music, new opportunities suddenly present themselves.”
Blount cites fate, and his faith, in guiding him along his path. But those who’ve heard his vividly passionate songwriting and his strong, soulful voice know why doors keep opening for him. It comes down to one word: Talent.
“The first time I tried to sing, I found I had this unusual voice that people liked,” says the native of Valdese, a small town in the North Carolina mountains near the artistic hamlet of Asheville. “Then when I started songwriting, I realized I enjoyed figuring out how to express emotion through words and melodies. I’ve worked hard, you have to if you want to achieve anything good, but when I sing or write, it seems like this is what I was put here to do.”
Blount didn’t grow up dreaming of music as his career. A star football player, he at first focused more on sports and body strength than on developing any artistic talents. But he picked up a bass guitar in order to play in a church band, because it looked like they were having fun. When the youth director, without warning, put a microphone in front of him and told him to sing, Blount discovered he had a deep, expressive voice no one had realized was inside him.
With Blount as the lead vocalist, the band proved incredibly popular, and eventually it evolved into a thriving act with a popularity beyond Sunday services. One opportunity led to another, and before long the band had matured into a full-fledged recording group, 7-Miles, with Blount as lead singer and songwriter. The group earned a big following among Christian music fans and toured regionally.
But Blount eventually felt another tug on his talents. His intense focus on physical fitness led to his becoming a personal trainer. Feeling his band had gone as far as it could in Carolina, Blount decided to give Nashville a try.
“This always surprises people, but I didn’t move to Nashville wanting to be a country music songwriter or singer,” he said. “But when I got here, I realized my songwriting, and the way I like to tell positive stories about real people, fit naturally with what country music is doing today. I met other songwriters in town, and it inspired me to work more on my craft. And the songs matched up with where country music seems to be headed.”
Blount realized country music was where his songs fit best—and suddenly his move to Nashville seemed like another positive twist of fate. With this new direction in mind, Blount began writing with fervent energy, inspired by the possibilities of sharing his music with a new genre of fans.
Once again, every time he played his new songs, fresh opportunities presented themselves. In Nashville, Blount met accomplished guitarist Larry Chaney through a chance encounter. Blount sent Chaney some songs, and the veteran instrumentalist recognized immediately that Blount had a rare and distinctive voice, both as a writer and singer.
Chaney, longtime lead guitarist for million-selling artist Edwin McCain, forwarded the songs to McCain’s producer, Noel Golden. A veteran producer and engineer who has worked with Guns N’ Roses and Matchbox 20, among scores of other successful rock acts, Golden also heard how unique and special Blount’s talents were. He quickly signed him to his Golden Music record label.
As might be expected, Blount’s recordings, as produced by Golden, feature a rocking, soul-deep collection of contemporary country songs. Fittingly, Golden lined up an intriguing mix of country and rock musicians to back Blount.
As McCain’s producer, Golden knew that guitarist Chaney and drummer Dave Harrison could bring energy to contemporary country rock. The producer and the singer also added several country music veterans, including fiddle master Rob Hajacos, well-regarded steel guitarist Russ Pahl and versatile Nashville keyboardist John Deaderick.
The result is a one-of-a-kind sound that brings soulful passion to the cutting-edge of contemporary country music. Blount realizes he doesn’t sound like a stereotypical country singer, and with the carved muscles from his fitness work, he doesn’t look like a typical country artist either.
But country music in the 21st Century is moving in new directions, and accepting a wider range of sounds and influences. And everyone who hears Blount’s work puts him at the forefront of that new, progressive sound.
“I know people look at me, with my tattoos and apperance, and they don’t think I look like a country singer,” he says. “When I sing, I have a gruffness to my voice that’s different than most country singers too. But when I start to talk, you can hear that I’m as country as cornbread. And the songs, with their real-life stories and positive outlook on life, have more in common with country music than anything else. Country music is where I belong.”
Indeed, when this hulking man with the imposing look starts to sing, people often are surprised at his tender love songs and his upbeat view of what people can achieve in their lives. “I like surprising people,” he says. “My life, and my career, have been full of surprises too. But it’s always a good surprise. I like showing people that this is what I should be doing, and this is where I belong.”
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