Benton Leachman

Saturday, December 13, 2014

By Kate Kinder
Editor in Chief

Mr. Benton Leachman of  El Paso, Texas currently of Lubbock, Texas. His hobbies include Music, guitars (playing them, fixing them, researching them, pretty much everything to do with them), songwriting, hunting, fly fishing, camping, fireworks, scotch.
Photo Cred Landan Luna

When and why did you start playing?
“I’ve been playing at least some type of musical instrument for over ten years now. I started playing piano when I was about 10 years old, then I briefly played saxophone in middle school band when I was 12, then finally started playing guitar when I was 13. I started playing piano because I think my parents had read some article saying that learning to read music expanded children’s learning capabilities. Then I started playing saxophone in middle school because my grandfather loved big band jazz music and I wanted to impress him. Then I started playing guitar because my brother was taking lessons at the time and my parents thought I should give it a try, and I thought ‘what a great idea! Chicks dig guys who can play guitar!’”

What instruments do you play?
“I currently play guitar, harmonica, and sometimes piano. Unfortunately I haven’t played a saxophone in 7 years or so.”

What was the first song you learned?
“On piano it was probably something really basic...something like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “Hot Crossed Buns” haha, but on guitar the first song I learned was “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.”

Is your family musical?
“Not really. It seems like everyone in my family has dabbled in learning musical instrument at some point in time, but none of them have ever really taken music or an instrument seriously.”

Photo cred Charlie Stout

Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?
“I really admire Kris Kristopherson. He’s not my favorite songwriter or anything, but that guy has had such a full life. He’s a former Army Ranger, a Rhode’s Scholar, a pilot, actor, songwriter...really just overall a total badass. He wrote “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and pitched it to Johnny Cash by landing a military helicopter at Cash’s house...HOW FREAKIN’ AWESOME IS THAT?!!
On a more familiar level, I really look up to William Clark Green. He’s a great songwriter, but also overall just a really great person and a good friend. The way his music is blowing up now, he’s really busy, but he still manages to find time to return all my calls and respond to my emails. He’s also very good about not forgetting where he came from, so he’s constantly going out of his way to do good things for Lubbock/Blue Light songwriters, and we love him for it.”

Which famous musicians have you learned from?
“I’ve probably learned the most from Ryan Adams and Jason Isbell. The first time I listened to Ryan Adams album “Cold Roses”, it completely changed the way I looked at music. I couldn’t believe how he could effortlessly break all the formulas that you would normally use to make a typical “hit song” to create something so unique and exciting.
Jason Isbell’s music has taught me the most about how to approach lyric construction. There’s nothing in Isbell’s lyrics that is generic. His huge vocabulary helps, but its the way he describes things without ever giving away the exact thing he’s talking about that makes his lyrics so cool. You actually have to pay attention and use your imagination to understand his songs, and maybe its just that  I’m becoming a music snob now, but I think that’s what make art so cool... Art is supposed to make you think!
I could list probably 100 other artists who have impacted my music in some way, but those two have left the biggest mark.”

What are your fondest musical memories?
“My fondest musical memories...I have so many, but I’ll narrow it down to two.
Opening up for Robert Earl Keen a few years ago at Sigma Nu’s Rattlesnake Roundup would be one. I was a huge fan and it was my first time playing in front of an audience bigger than 100 people, so I was shaking like a leaf on a tree. But we got up there and rocked it, despite the fact that we were so green. Turns out that REK was watching our set the whole time, and afterward he came up and shook my hand, told “good job” and told me something to the effect that I had potential and to keep up the good work. It was a very motivating experience.
The second would probably be about three years ago at Blue Light. I had just started frequenting Monday songwriter nights at Blue Light and I was still very new to the game, but I was churning out new songs every week, one after the other, all of them trying to sound like Randy Rogers. So I went up to BL to strut out the new song of the week, but no one showed up except for myself and Red Shahan (host of songwriter night at the time). Red came over to me and said something like “Hey Benton, we’re gonna just close down early, its already 11 and it looks like no one else is gonna show up...I’ll get you on the list early next week.” I said ok, but asked him if he would listen to my new song and give me some critiques. Red graciously said yes. We went to the pool room, and I played Red my new song. As soon as I finished playing, Red look at me very sternly and said “You listen to a lot of Randy Rogers, don’t you?” At the time, I thought that was the biggest compliment in the world, so I excitedly said “Yessir”. And the next thing he said, I’ll never forget. He said, “There’s already a Randy Rogers in the world, cut that shit out, be Benton Leachman.” He then went on to tell me how I should find my own voice and my own style and I took every word to heart. I went home feeling a little defeated, but I had a new fire burning, and a new desire to reinvent myself. I can’t thank Red enough for being honest with me about that, it’s one of the biggest reasons my music has gotten to where it is today.”
Photo Cred Jon Taylor

Were you influenced by old records and tapes?
“Growing up I listened to a ton of classic rock (AC/DC, Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin, Boston, Bob Seger, etc…) along with a lot of 80’s type country music (Keith Whitley, Randy Travis, George Strait, etc…). Listening to that music growing up definitely influenced how I learned to play the guitar and how I think about song structure.”

Who are your favorite musicians?
“I change this on a monthly basis, but I’d have to say right now my current favorites are Jason Isbell, Ryan Adams, and the Arctic Monkeys.”

What is a typical week like for you?
“A typical week for me is law school classes and/or work from 9 to 5, then on monday’s I host the singer/songwriter night at the Blue Light.”

What is your favorite thing about being on the road?
“I’m currently in law school, so I don’t spend a great deal of time on the road...but whenever I am on the road, my favorite thing is probably being able to sing as loud and obnoxiously as I want to my dashboard.”

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you on the road?
“Hmmm, one time I got sick while I was on a road trip with Charlie Stout coming back from a gig in Midland, so we pulled over so I could yack. When we did, I stepped out of the car, tripped over a rock and fell face first into a mesquite bush. I was too sick to get up, so I just let it out with mesquite thorns sticking into my face haha. It kinda hurt at the time, but it was too funny to be upset about it.”

Best place to eat while on the road?
“I don’t know if I have a favorite place to go while on the road, but when I get back within Lubbock city limits there’s a pretty good chance you can find me at Choo Chai.”

What is the best town to play in?
“I love Lubbock and I think it’s a great place to learn how to be a songwriter because the songwriting community is so close and supportive... but the city’s population itself doesn’t support live music as well as Austin does. When you play in Austin, people are listening to your songs, not just watching the ball game on the television...but Austin doesn’t pay musicians very well and the market is it’s not as good as Lubbock in that way...But that being said, my favorite place to play is and always will be the Blue Light Live. It’s my home away from home.”

Don't forget to follow his social media!
Instagram: @Benton Leachman

Thank you so much Benton!

xxx West Texas Sweetheart

No comments:

Post a Comment