Benzing-Graves Collective’s co-leader drops his solo debut next week. He was featured for Local Spins on WYCE, which also debuted tracks by Bradley Sinclair, Syd Burnham, Lady Ace Boogie, Phabies & more.
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Growing up in Big Rapids, Austin Benzing got involved in theater productions as a boy, picked up a guitar at age 10 and started writing songs as a young teen.
His father even took him to the Sawmill Saloon’s open-mic nights to hone his musical skills.
With influences as varied as country’s George Jones, heavy metal’s Metallica, bluegrass’ Punch Brothers, jazz’s Julian Lage and the jam band Umphrey’s McGee, Benzing has not surprisingly delved into diverse musical stylings in recent years with West Michigan bands such as The Turnips and Avocadsquad.
As co-leader of Grand Rapids’ Benzing-Graves Collective, he’s also teamed up with acclaimed singer Hannah Rose Graves for rootsy, Americana-fueled material that will appear on the band’s debut album set for completion by the end of 2021.
But before that, Benzing takes the spotlight in solo fashion: The 27-year-old’s recording, “Steady Your Nerves,” officially gets released on Sept. 25.
For this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE, Benzing showcases two tracks from the new album — “I Can’t Wait” and “Mercy Kill.” Scroll down to listen to the songs and the full radio show podcast.
“My solo album has eight tracks exploring the boundaries of country music, all recorded at La Luna Recording & Sound in Kalamazoo,” said Benzing, noting the project features contributions from Graves, Joe Hettinga and members of The Turnips and Ultraviolet Hippopotamus, among others.
“I grew up working on farms since I was 12 years old,” he offered, recalling the hours spent listening to an album with songs by country legends such as Jimmie Rodgers and Buck Owens. “That was just the music that was around.”
Conceding that he caught “a touch of that country bug,” Benzing’s twangy upcoming release boasts some classic country harmonies, searing instrumentals and some heavier, rock-edged salvos.
The Benzing-Graves Collective also has regularly been performing his solo tunes live. The band plays Third Nature Brewing in Rockford on Friday (Sept. 25) — the same day Benzing’s album gets released — and Grand Rapids’ Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill on Oct. 8.
“It’s been fun to see those songs take different shapes in Benzing-Graves Collective,” he conceded. “Everybody brings their own flavor and stylistic interpretation to these songs.”
As for the future, Benzing said he’s intent on making his music and his work with Benzing-Graves Collective a full-time occupation.
“Long-term, I aim to continue performing and writing original songs until I can sustain myself fully with performing,” he said.
“I feel like the Benzing-Graves Collective found their spot bridging the gaps between the country, soul and jam communities. In two years, I see the band and my solo projects touring and performing festivals and venues all across the country.”
In addition to showcasing Benzing’s new material, the Sept. 17 edition of Local Spins on WYCE spotlighted new music by Bradley Sinclair, Syd Burnham, Desmond Jones (this week’s musician’s pick by Benzing), Phabies, Ohly, Lady Ace Boogie and The Deep Stare, as well as tracks from Stone Soup & The Broken Teeth, The Brandino Extravaganza and The Wild Honey Collective. Listen to the radio show here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (9/17/21)
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