Out of the rolling peaks and deep valleys of southern Arkansas’ Ouachita Mountains come the echoes of Paul David Benton’s smooth and relaxing baritone voice. Benton describes his music as a ride on one of those curvy mountain roads that includes twists of rock and turns of country, blending together a sound that gets the listener’s engine revving. “I personally don’t believe artists have to be bound by super glue to just one particular genre of music,” Benton states. “But Lady Clairol doesn’t cover all roots,” he laughs, which is why listeners will hear more of Benton’s country roots in his latest single release, “She’s Something Else.” Benton affectionately describes the sound of this single as “redneck rock.” “Kind of like how a mullet haircut is business in the front and party in the back, this song is country in the front and rock-n-roll in the back!” Benton says with a wink.
For Benton, his original songs like “She’s Something Else” are what grab people’s attention, so much so they receive recognition like one that was selected a few years ago to be featured alongside a Faith Hill song for a promotion of that year’s Orange Bowl. After winning a regional songwriting competition sponsored by KFC, Benton got the Nashville songwriting bug and has been making friends with some of the industry’s heaviest hitters. He knows that, as an artist, it takes a healthy mix of following your dream and being realistic about what it takes to be a successful singer/songwriter, especially in Nashville. “I am very humbled and blown away when someone who’s had notable success in this industry takes a genuine interest in my songs,” says Benton.
Benton’s strong work ethic is evident to those working with him which is why they have chosen to invest in his talent. This recognition and interest from others didn’t start however with his arrival in Nashville. He recalls the time he and several young friends back home casually formed a band in which Benton played several different instruments, including electric guitar, bass guitar, and keyboards. The band had no expectations other than just making great music and having a good time playing together. They called themselves Bonne Chance, which they thought meant “good times” in French, but actually means “good luck.” And as good luck would have it, on their first gig in a bar in downtown Monroe, LA, the bar completely sold out of beer and the owner was so excited that he immediately wanted to book them on a weekly basis. In addition, one of that night’s patrons of the bar loved the band so much he wanted to put them on the road and take them on tour. However, since the goal for Bonne Chance was to just get together and play for fun, several of the members had no desire to pursue music as a full-time endeavor. Despite their good luck on that fateful night, that was the one and only gig Bonne Chance ever played. The other band members’ lack of desire to pursue music contradicted the passion and drive Benton has possessed since a young child.
It’s not surprising that the child of a woman who has graced the stage of the legendary Bluebird Café in her group The Belles would have music running through his veins. Benton remembers at age three making up lyrics that made no sense and asking his parents for a “beat the band” (that’s toddler speak for a toy drum). A few years later, he started sneaking his mother’s old Silvertone guitar out of her closet and playing it while she was away. Benton laughs as he recalls his first guitar of his own at age 10. “It was an electric guitar and it was so cheap that the strings were so far off the fretboard I think it would have been easier to walk a tightrope than make a chord on those strings!” By his teens, Benton had developed a liking and a talent for the bass guitar, while also excelling in band with trumpet. “My junior high school band director Mr. Lawrence Butler named me his Outstanding Bandsman and even had a plaque made for me with that title,” Benton beams with pride. “Mr. Butler, along with my church music director David M. Tate who taught me how to play bass, are the ones I would say influenced me from the beginning.”
But childhood wasn’t always sweet music and happy melodies. “I was the fat kid. I just gained a lot of weight and it was very embarrassing.” With the same drive and determination he puts into his music, Benton decided one summer in his early teens that he was done being the fat kid and was going to do something about it. He prayed about it and that summer he lost 25% of his body weight. “And not only did I get in shape, I changed everything about my life,” Benton exclaims. “I started making straight A’s in school, I became the leading tackler and the captain of defense on the football team, I was ranked first trumpet for band regionals, AND I even won the heart of the prettiest girl in school. It was like the happy ending of a John Hughes film!”
But that was just the beginning of Benton’s story. After attending pharmacy school where he graduated cum laude, Benton never lost that passion and focus for songwriting. “Writing songs like this latest single ‘She’s Something Else’ is what I live for,” Benton says with a deep heart. “I’ve even had the privilege of using my talent to write songs for critically-ill children of the Songs of Love Foundation.” This experience has actually challenged Benton as a songwriter since it requires him to write a song based on a list of a child’s favorite things and include each item on the list in the song. “Trying to weave in ‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’ with some unusual ‘likes’ such as a vacuum cleaner will leave any songwriter scratching his head!” he grins.
Benton always welcomes the challenge to hone his craft and create songs that get his listeners’ engines revving. “She’s Something Else” is just one of those songs that will make music lovers want to roll down the windows and turn the radio up!