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Artist Spotlight – February 2023

Ben James – February Artist Spotlight

There is a little town at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It had a population in 2020 just shy of 3,000 people. It has only a total area of 3.8 square miles. It has been said that the people in this town are kind, still treat each other with respect and gives you that true ‘small town’ charm. The small town is just 15 minutes away from Hickory, TN – home to the Hickory Motor Speedway and a class High-A minor-league baseball team that is affiliated with the Texas Rangers. It is always cool to hear of someone, with such an awesome talent, that comes from a little unknown town. You may have not heard of his hometown of Icard, NC but I am pretty sure you have heard of Ben James. If you have not, you will after reading my February’s Artist Spotlight.

Ben has been singing for as long as he can remember and then started adding a little sound with the guitar around the age of 12. Unlike many artists, Ben did not really take to the idea or desire to play an instrument. Singing has always been his love and passion. Having a few guitars laying around home, Ben ended up taking some guitar lessons from Ben Cockman of The Cockman Family. The Cockman Family is a bluegrass/southern gospel band from Sherrills Ford, NC and Ben Cockman won the 2014 National Guitar Championship in Winfield, KS along with winning multiple regional championships.

After graduating from East Burke High School, Ben attended Appalachian State University. During his college years, Ben was a member of the Chamber Singers. Those years were tons of fun and will always have a place in his memories. The Chamber Singers competed in many competitions and scored well when they did. Along with having the privilege of singing with a known group, Ben had a choral teacher that became a favorite professor and a huge inspiration to him. She was the first person that showed him a different side of music and due to that, he learned how to care about the music he was learning about or creating. She showed him how the importance of being “picky and detailed” when it comes to singing parts and blending vowels. The knowledge and experiences he learned from her will go with him everywhere he goes in his music career.

As Ben may have spent a lot of time learning and enjoying the times with music throughout his younger years and during the college years, Ben graduated with a degree in insurance at Appalachian State University. Joining the workforce like many do straight out of college, he worked in the insurance field for three years before he got that desire to pursue his music dreams. Ben couldn’t stop talking about how he worked with amazing people and that he would never forget his coworkers during his short time in insurance. With the decision to follow his dream, Ben packed up his guitar and off to Nashville, TN he went.

Growing up singing a lot of harmonies in church with family and friends, listening to bluegrass all the time, and having lessons with a bluegrass artist only fueled the fire of that musical side of Ben. Now that Ben has built a great foundation and has moved to Nashville, there is only one thing a musician should do – play at The Station Inn on the right night. Well, you guessed it, Ben was at the right place at the right time! Ben’s favorite memory is the night he got up on stage with Jimmy Fortune at The Station Inn. It was memorable in the fact of singing with Jimmy Fortune, but the memory got a little sweeter when he later found out that there were a few people in the audience that called Doyle Lawson and spoke highly about him. Ben truly believes God put him in that spot for a reason.

As a result of a few people speaking to Doyle Lawson, Ben made an unforgettable drive to Bristol, TN in 2020 in the hopes of becoming a member of Quicksilver. Doyle and the guys sat down with Ben and sang a few songs. Afterwards, Ben remembered Doyle reaching his hand out and saying, “welcome aboard if you want it”. Ben couldn’t reach his hand any faster in acceptance. That was the point his true music career began. Playing with Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver was not hard in the sense of singing or playing guitar, but his nerves were what was going crazy the first show with them. Going from fan of Doyle’s to working with him made the entire time special and a true blessing. During the short time with Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Ben learned the true meaning of work ethic and teamwork as a band. Doyle produces a sound that is recognizable by many and learning how to sing that type of harmony was one of the things Ben took from working with all of them. Quicksilver has such an elegant way of singing harmonies.

As a fan of music, all genres, Ben likes bluegrass from its traditional roots to the most progressive song out there. His favorite to sing is traditional bluegrass with high harmonies. One day he hopes to record a song with Allison Krauss, one of Ben’s favorite vocalists. Every time Ben gets up on stage, he strives to sing songs that tell stories where you are sitting at edge of your seat clinging to every word.

Ben’s most memorable moment was playing the Ryman with Dailey and Vincent because it felt like the ghosts of heroes from the past were there. His nerves were hard to keep in check but because of that, the night was super special and unforgettable.

The most inspirational people to Ben musically are his bosses. He was inspired by Doyle Lawson and currently is inspired by Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent. As for his non-musical inspirations, Ben’s wife Maggie, his parents and sister are his huge support system and always push him to go for his dreams but also keep him in check with reality.

Advice to all the new up-and-coming artists, Ben says, “Don’t give up! The music industry can be a fickle process. If you believe you have a calling, go for it! I remember being so scared and have doubts about the process. I am thankful that I stayed patient and trusted that God had a purpose for my life. Make as many connections as you can and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If it was meant to happen, it’s going to happen!”

Fast Firing Fun Facts:

What is your favorite Holiday and why? Christmas, I love spending time with my family.

What is your favorite drink? I love Dr. Pepper

Do you have a pet-peeve? When people smack their food.

What is your favorite type of vehicle? Truck

Do you have a hobby outside of music? I am an avid hunter and fisherman.

What is your favorite kind of Ice Cream? Snow Cream

What is your favorite junk food? Salt and Vinegar chips

Do you have any pet(s) and what are their names? A 14-year-old Corgi named Capo.

What is your favorite book that you have read or author that you like to read? I love Louis L’amour

What is your favorite movie line? “Like a glove!!!” from Ace Ventura

News or Upcoming news from artist:

Although there may be some unknown details like the title of the album or when the release date is set, there is one thing that is known and that is RBR Entertainment is helping Ben James produce a new and exciting album to come out soon! As Ben put it, “Something big is coming, I just can’t disclose it yet!”

Website for artist, tour dates and/or merchandise:

Check out the artist/band website for all their new songs, tour dates and merchandise. The best way to support our local broadcasters and artists are through their sales – CDs, albums, shirts and etc. Let’s show our support – go check their website, RBR