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KSC alum keeps Keene’s music scene up to beat

| May 9, 2013 | 0 Comments

Jake Williams

Equinox Staff

 

With his first Long Play due out this fall, Zach Benton acknowledges it’s time to actively market his music. An unknown commodity in a music scene is just that— unknown. If he wants them to “fall in”, it’s all on him.

“No one’s going to hear it if you’re not talking about and getting it played,” he said.

Zach Benton, 24, has been playing and recording music since 2002. The Alexandria, New Hampshire native released his first Extended Play “Mister Roberts’ Epiphany” in 2012 and will release his first full-length album “Fall In” this September. “Right now mainly I’m a studio guy,” he said, “But I’m trying to get out more with a full band setup.” The Keene State College Class of 2010 graduate is not only involved in recording and writing his own music, but has also hosted “Acoustic Thursday’s” at Fritz the Place to Eat in Keene since November 2012. Also interesting to note is that Benson’s degree is in American Studies, not music.

Portrait by Emily Fedorko / Photo Editor Emeritus Zach Benton hosts Acoustic Thursdays at Fritz the Place to Eat in downtown Keene.

Portrait by Emily Fedorko / Photo Editor Emeritus
Zach Benton hosts Acoustic Thursdays at Fritz the Place to Eat in downtown Keene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was the juxtaposition of what he was being taught in music theory classes and what he saw being played during faculty concerts that turned him off from the music program. “I actually started doing a music minor [at KSC] and I felt like it was going to be too constricting,” Benton said.

The college does lay some claim, albeit minor, for where Benton is musically. Two friends he met while at KSC have guest appearances on his album slated for release in September: Sam Vendt, who has known Benton since they were both freshman, is featured playing drums on the album, and Alyson Ryder, who sang with Benton in the KSC Chamber Singers, lends her voice to a track on this album

“Zach is extremely dedicated to his craft,” Vendt said, “Some musicians you see kind of haphazardly try but Zach will always try to do exactly what Zach wants to do. I think he’s a superb musician.”  He added, “[Zach’s] got a very unique sound, a very unique voice.”

Benton said he first started playing drums when he was ten, but didn’t pick up the guitar until he was thirteen. Over a decade later, Benton now plays every instrument when he records including bass, guitar, keyboards and drums as well as doing his own vocals. Other things have progressed since these formative years of his musical experience. When he was starting out, he was mostly interested in music from ’50s rock to The Beatles and Bob Dylan. “I was a folky guy for a good part of it,” he said. A few years ago, his music tastes shifted, and with it, so did the music he played.

He started listening to old Stax and Motown label records. This soulful, rhythm and blues style began to permeate his original music. He described actually internalizing the influence, rather than just listening to the music of the Stevie Wonder. “I always liked him but I hadn’t really pulled it in as an influence. I just was like ‘Hey, I like it, it sounds great.’ Now I’m thinking this is a niche that I would fit into.” This shift in music style was accentuated by another event in his life. Benton said a sinus operation shifted his baritone voice up a few octaves to R&B style he now has. One song that fits this profile on his upcoming album is “By the Fire”, a jazz duet he performed with Ryder. “It’s one of his originals. It’s more of a smoky tune,” she said.

Aside from Smoky, Benton said he strives to make his music upbeat, recalling a quote from Bob Marley as he says, “I believe that you can put positive force out there even if it’s a small thing.”

Benton said he recorded the 10-track “Fall In” at Loud Sun Studio in Jaffrey, New Hampshire for around $900. He has learned a lot about marketing from his past EP. Promoting this album—along with taking advantage of social media and other networking opportunities—means playing as many shows as he can. “That’s the cheapest marketing you can do and cheap in terms of money not in terms of quality.”  Benton said he will be playing at the Purple Pit Jazz and Blues Club in Concord, New Hampshire on May 11.

Currently however, many of his public performances are accidents. He often fills in the abandoned time slot at Fritz on Thursdays. “There’s usually one no-show a week,” he said, laughing. Benton said he’s open to anyone playing at the acoustic shows. A couple of Thursdays ago, April 25, a trio that featured two teenagers performed.

Like most musicians, he said he would love to make a living off playing. But, he knows to stay grounded. It’s his own music or the music of others, Benton follows this one mantra. “I just want people to hear the music. That’s mainly what I do it for.”

 

Jake Williams can be contacted at

jwilliams@keene-equinox.com

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