For somebody who only began singing during their senior year of high school, 20-year-old singer-songwriter Benson Boone has already garnered impressive acclaim. With over 3.2 million followers on TikTok and appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Kelly Clarkson Show, and The Late Late Show with James Cordon, Boone is demonstrating that if you want something enough, you can make it happen.
Growing up in Monroe, Washington, he spent a lot of time outdoors participating in various sports. Despite having four sisters all taking piano lessons, Boone didn’t find his passion for music until much later–at around 18 years old to be precise–after a friend convinced him to give singing a go in their senior year Battle Of The Bands. Benson fell in love with it and found his voice. “Growing up, I didn’t have much of a desire to sing or try singing. I guess I didn’t care much” he said “When One Direction and Justin Bieber blew up I thought they were the coolest people ever. My best friend and I would dress up as Justin Bieber, it felt like a phase a lot of kids went through. When there’s a celebrity with that much popularity they are automatically put on a pedestal.” It’s amazing to think how new to this he is as there is such confidence in his voice luring you into thinking he’s been doing this his whole life and hard to believe he’s so new to creating music.
Something a lot of artists have in common is a drive to pursue their musical ambitions from an early age but the most Benson did was teach himself to play the piano by ear. His sisters would practice at home after their lessons which allowed him to try it out, beginning when he was around 12 years old. He wishes he had played more consistently but up until two or three years ago, he didn’t take the instrument seriously. The talented artist has also played a few instruments on his first single ‘GHOST TOWN’. I asked if the guitar and drums were something he picked up recently “I’m not very good at either [laughs] but yeah, I picked them up around the time of ‘GHOST TOWN’ and played them on the track.”
So what catapulted him to where he is now? Benson puts a lot of it down to TikTok and American Idol. He received high praise during his first audition for the show from the three judges, especially Katy Perry. She told him she could see him winning if he wanted to. His time in the competition put a lot of things into perspective “It was pretty surreal, almost overwhelming, but in a good way” he said upon my asking what it was like receiving such a great reception. “The only time I had ever experienced singing in front of anyone before American Idol was at my school for Battle of the Bands in senior year. This was completely different as I felt so much pressure with three of the biggest celebrities in front of me. It was scary, but also nice because I was able to feel less pressure to succeed as I had only been singing for a year at that point. A lot of people in the competition were there because it was their life goal, their dream, whereas for me it was a passion that had just developed so made for a very cool experience.”
Benson ultimately decided to withdraw from the competition before the Hollywood stage. “I think if I continued on the show it would have made me rush trying to find what my sound was and choosing the right songs as it’s always a case of using someone else’s songs” He’s right–on a singing competition such as American Idol, they’re looking for the whole package and he wasn’t yet sure who he was as an artist. He showed maturity beyond his young years by making the decision to leave, a decision which can’t have been easy to make. “I had never tried to write my own music so I guess I stepped away because I wanted to find out if music was for me. What is my sound, what kind of songs I write and how do I go about it?.”
After American Idol, Benson moved from his home in Monroe, Washington to Las Vegas. “I miss Washington all the time. Vegas is such an interesting place, I don’t quite know how to describe it. Outside of the strip is a whole other world–it’s quiet and feels somewhat normal”. To pack up and move to such an iconic place must have been strange. I asked if there was anything (aside from his four sisters and family of course) he missed from back home “In Washington, I grew up with green mountains, rivers and lakes. I love hiking, backpacking, cliff jumping, mountain biking and everything outdoors but feel like I can’t do all of that anymore as Vegas is so hot, it’s just a desert. It is sad sometimes but I can always go back home to visit.”
Soon after that, Benson released his debut single ‘GHOST TOWN’ on October 15th 2021, describing his music as “If Adele, Lewis Capaldi and Justin Timberlake had a baby”. He has a rich power and innocence in his vocals and it’s hard to believe ‘GHOST TOWN’ is one of the first songs he ever wrote–a poignant track about a past relationship and the effect it has on someone. The song came about in the back of an Uber after leaving his first recording session in Los Angeles. Searching for inspiration by skimming through texts from a friend unlucky in love, the melody and lyrics just popped into his head so he sang the chorus into his phone there and then for fear of losing his train of thought.
Having amassed over 3.2 Million followers on TikTok, I was curious to know Benson’s view on the video-sharing app and how he thinks making and uploading videos–something he began doing before auditioning for American Idol–has helped his music career so far “I definitely think TikTok propelled my career. The music industry is changing with TikTok seemingly driving everything so it is the best way to get my music to a lot of ears. In future, I want to be a big artist so I feel having a foundation like that is a good place to start.” Many of his videos amass millions of views meaning he can easily reach lots of people who might be interested in what he has to say. “Everyone jokes about it and says TikTokers [a term used to describe creators on the app] are all fake or weird but ironically, just about everyone is on it”. He is right, most of my inner circle use it or find themselves watching videos first uploaded on TikTok via other social media platforms. Just to highlight that fact, a few days before our chat, one of Benson’s videos came up on my For You Page (a place where the app gives you an endless stream of videos you may like). In the video, he was playing the piano and singing his previous single, ‘In The Stars’ with one of his sisters. The track itself had gone viral with a vast number of people using the audio to accompany their videos (something which is commonplace on the platform). I asked Benson how he felt about such a personal track being used by so many people and becoming well-known so quickly. “It’s a really good feeling. I wrote the song about my great-grandmother passing away. A lot of people struggle with loss, it’s something we all go through and I wrote that song so people could connect to it and feel like they can remember the good about someone they’ve lost.” Taking such a heartbreaking situation and being able to turn it into something beautiful that resonates with so many is not an easy task but he displays such natural songwriting talent by doing just that. “Seeing thousands and thousands of people starting to make videos featuring the song and giving such positive feedback is literally all I could ask for. It’s such a good feeling to know people are connecting to it and listening when they are in need. It’s a good feeling to know you’re helping people.”
Speaking further about TikTok, the breakout pop star mentioned the fear he sometimes encounters when sharing videos. “Putting songs aside, if a video of you saying something gets taken the wrong way with people thinking it’s about a certain thing when it actually isn’t, it becomes very easy to mess up when you have more people watching you.” It’s always important to be careful of what you say and do online as once something has been uploaded, it’s there forever. “I’m not a celebrity, I’m not this huge artist but am trying to be, so I don’t want to mess up and do something wrong. A bit of a people-pleaser which I guess is just what I grew up being, not the best thing to be perhaps, but we are all human so I just apologise and move past it.”
Moving on to Benson’s newly released debut EP ‘Walk Me Home…”, I was intrigued to know how it came about. “It was a collection of songs I wanted to put together. I’m very new to writing so these are all still somewhat experimental songs on my journey to discovering my sound and what my music will be like in the future”. The EP features eight beautifully written tracks, a wonderful mixture of meaningful piano ballads and catchy choruses playing into some electronic elements. He takes inspiration in his writing from artists such as Sam Smith, Adele, and Justin Timberlake. “Growing up and getting into my teenage years, I listened to a lot from those artists. I’ve listened to them since before I was even doing this so they have definitely had a huge influence on the music I make now.” Speaking about the meaning behind the title ‘Walk Me Home…’ he said “In my opinion, when I think of these songs, ’Walk Me Home…’ just makes sense. Whether it’s a sad or happy song, it’s as if the music is bringing me home, bringing me to this sound I have found–a journey to finding out who I am as an artist.”
Benson draws all the artwork for his music, making each release even more personal. “There are hundreds of thousands of artists trying to release music so a lot of competition. Little things like that make it more personal to me. It’s not something you’ll see or hear every day, it’s Benson Boone, my drawing, my song, my sound, and it just makes it much more personalised.” He hopes to produce the artwork for his music whenever possible.
Despite being only 20 years old, Benson has already achieved so much, quickly being spotted to make an appearance on some of the current, prime-time, most iconic American shows. With only one question left on my list before the end of our interview, I had to ask about his plans for the future and what he hopes to achieve in the next few years. “I really want to play Madison Square Garden, that’s a big goal of mine. I also really want to meet Adele which is something I have been dreaming of for a couple of years now but I think the biggest goal is to get to a point where I don’t have to use TikTok as much to make a song blow up. Just to be able to release a track where everyone is like ‘Whoah, Benson Boone dropped a song!’. That’s the goal, far off in the future, maybe, but forever trying my best to get there.”