Benton’s latest tour brought him to the Mid-Ohio Valley and the Adelphia Music Hall. Fans of Benton’s from the show, America’s Got Talent, and those just looking for a night of great music, filed into the Adelphia on the night of February 6th. Every table from the main floor to the balcony, along with standing room only around the bar area, was filled with locals and out-of-towners waiting for Benton and his band to grace the stage. As soon as Blount took the stage, he jumped right in with two rockin’, up-beat songs, “Get Up” and “Drive.” Throughout the night, fans heard everything from rock covers to country classics and got to know Benton through his well-written original songs like his new single, “God Talks To Me.” Blount said that he loved the venue and thinks the setting would be perfect for a more intimate acoustic show sometime down the road.
“I’m a story teller, so I would love to be able to come back in that kind of a setting and be able to let people get to know me and my music better.” He stayed after the concert to sign autographs, take photos and meet with fans who bought tickets to see him.
The North Carolinian was well on his way to being a household name with an indie record label he had been with for two years, promoting his new single on a radio tour in 2010 when all of his dreams came to a screeching halt. “Seventy two hours from when the single was going to be released, I got a call from my producer, who was the vice president of the record label, telling me that the label was closing effective immediately,” Benton said. “It took 24 hours for me just sitting around thinking ‘did this really just happen?'” So Benton went back to playing shows and continuing his work as a personal trainer in Nashville. The name of the promising single was “Carolina,” which later topped the country charts for the up-and-coming country band, Parmalee.
Blount’s simple look and captivatingly gravely vocals, got the attention of the America’s Got Talent judges in an online audition he submitted, then again when he was invited to take the stage to audition for the celebrity judges of the show singing, “Drift Away.” “I stood there before I went out on stage to audition and thought, ‘okay, I’m just a singer with a guitar, the guy before me just went out there and swallowed a fireball, how am I going to compete with that?” he said.
Benton landed 4 yeses for his audition to advance to the next round. With solid performances of “Jolene,” “Say Something,” “Fight Song” and “Story Of My Life,” Blount found himself in the finale where he got the amazing opportunity to perform “Fight Song” with Rachel Platten herself.
“Rachel was great, she actually helped me kind of come out of my box a little bit more,” he said. It’s obvious that Benton is a fan of the little things. He was telling me about his favorite performance of the show, “Having my son at the performance where I sang ‘Jolene’, was my favorite. It was a smaller crowd, there was no track playing behind me, I could just go out and see my family and just be me with my guitar.”
Unfortunately, Blount didn’t receive enough votes to be crowned the winner, but that doesn’t mean he left the experience empty handed. “In one aspect, its been the most amazing thing ever because of reasons like when we played Milwaukee a couple months ago and out of the blue this 80 year old woman came into the store I was in and comes up to me and said ‘Son, I got a question for you, you look just like a boy i watched on TV…’ and started telling me about my family. So here’s somebody on the other side of the country who already knows everything about me from watching the show, that’s awesome,” Blount said. “That’s what I want, I want people to know more about me and who I am.”
On the flip side, Benton says that he and his wife often talk about whether or not the experience was worth it for their family. “I’m not on a major tour, it cost alot of money to fly my family back and forth between home and Manhattan during the duration of the show, we were already hard up for money as it was, then to throw all of that in the mix, it makes you question if it was worth it all. Then I go to Milwaukee and this 80 year old woman I was telling you about knows who I am and knows I have a son and that he has blonde curly hair. You go back and forth all the time wondering if you made the right choice and then, in instances like that, you realize that it WAS life changing and that you DID make the right choice,” he said.
Benton grew up in a musical family. One where everyone sang. “I grew up in a church that didn’t believe in music in worship, but believed in singing in church, so everybody sang.” One day during his senior year in high school, a friend of his invited him to attend a different church, one that had a worship band. He got drafted to play the bass guitar when one day the pastor passed by while Benton was singing. “The pastor told me that I was a horrible bass player but that I needed to sing, so I started singing at the church that summer, cancelled all of my scholarships to play college sports, and have been singing every day since then,” he said. Benton believes that series of events was God’s way of pointing him in the direction of what he was really meant to do.
Eventually, Benton started songwriting and realized that the topics he found himself writing about weren’t necessarily fitting for a Sunday morning setting. “It’s funny because I started playing in church because that’s where I was asked to play first and I enjoyed doing it and I do have strong beliefs, but when I started playing country music, it was because I was writing songs that I couldn’t really sing in church because the songs were about a love for a woman, and not a love for God. But at the same time, country music is the one genre of music where I can be honest about myself, about Friday night and Sunday morning, so I was able to sing more about who I really am through country music versus just singing in church,” he said.
When asked how he would describe his style of music, Benton said he really can’t categorize it, but if he had to, he would categorize it as Southern Rock. His style has also been known as “Country Crunk.” When starting a musician page on MySpace, the site asked Benton to select what genre he considered his music to be. He answered with “Country.” Then it asked him to select a “sub-genre” and right below “Country” in the alphabetized list was “Crunk.”
“Crunk! That makes no sense, I’m gonna use that,” Benton said as he laughed about it. “So, originally it was just to be funny, but then when I got to thinking about it; country, rock, blues, funk – it made sense because everything I do is a mixture of all of those.” The fact that Blount has been influenced by multiple genres is reflected in his music. Living in Valdese, N.C., Blount was right in the center of popular tour stops for all genres of music. “I grew up listening to everything. If it came through the college circuit (Chapel Hill, Duke, N.C. State, Appalachian State), I’ve been influenced by it.
If you’ve watched the show, you know, that outside of music, Benton is a stay at home dad to his adorable son, Jaxon. Here’s a little update for you: Benton and his wife are expecting a new baby girl in about four short weeks. Blount has continued to chase his music career with encouragement from his wife. He hopes to one day be able to support his family with his music career. Benton said that life hasn’t changed much in the Blount household other than right after the show when they couldn’t even eat dinner at Cracker Barrel without spending the majority of the time taking photos and signing autographs. He also just finished and released his first music video for his latest single, “God Talks To Me.”
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