In the latest installment of our occasional conversations with Fort Worth newsmakers, local musician Bencjones spoke with arts and culture editor Marcheta Fornoff about his new album and how Fort Worth has helped boost his music career.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. For the unabridged version, please listen to the audio file attached to this article.
Bencjones: Hi, this is Bencjones, and I’m a local, Fort Worth musician. I am a genre-bender: rock, pop, R&B and country. I came on the scene back in 2019 with my first LP, “Just One Gun.” You can actually listen at Amplify 817. org, which is a free, streaming platform provided by the library.
I’m really happy that I’m a member of (Amplify 817) because it’s offered me a lot of opportunities from NBC to the legendary Will Rogers, where people like Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones have played. And (now) I get to play there. So yeah, that’s me.
Marcheta Fornoff: We’ll get back to your Fort Worth experiences in a second. But first, I just wanted to hear about your decision to go by Bencjones.
Jones: Yeah, why did I pick Bencjones? It’s an interesting name and the way that I spell it is even more interesting for people. It throws them off.
So, probably about 10 years ago, I was in the studio with my brother and our friend Pikahsso, who’s a rapper out of Dallas, and we were recording a song. I brought them in to help hype up the song that I was working on, and Pikahsso was really impressed with my ability to take control in the studio. He was like, ‘Man, you’re like Quincy Jones.’ And, because he’s a rapper, it immediately popped in his head “Bencjones.” We were like, ‘Oh, that’s a cool name.’ And it’s stuck ever since.
Fornoff: So this C doesn’t stand for anything?
Jones: The C does not stand for anything. Maybe, it’s like cash, cash money? No.
Fornoff: OK, so tell me a little bit about how living in Fort Worth has affected your music career. You mentioned Amplify being a big booster. You have shows (at) Will Rogers, Panther Island Pavilion, Main at South Side, all these local venues. So what has living in Fort Worth done for your music career?
If you go…
Time: Doors open at 6:00 p.m. Showcase starts at 7:00 p.m.
Date: August 17
Will Rogers Memorial Center
3401 West Lancaster Ave.
Fort Worth, TX 76107
Tickets: Free. Reserve yours here.
Jones: Oh, wow. I mean, I don’t think I would be having the success that I have right now. I don’t want to take away from my talent, but it helps when you have people that support you and are backing you.
There’s other cities out there where you’re on your own, and they don’t try to promote local artists. But this city does. They made a decision years ago that they’re going to become an Austin or a New Orleans, and so they’ve been working with local artists like me.
It’s not just Amplify 817. (There’s) Hear Fort Worth that’s run by Tom Martens. He’s been doing an outstanding job promoting Fort Worth artists. You’ll have promoters that will come in and they’ll say, ‘Hey, Tom, do you have any artists that we can talk to, reach out to?’ And he’s got this list. He’s like, ‘Here you go, check it out.’
The amount of work I’ve been given has been amazing, and I really owe it to the city. You know, I do some other gigs here and there, but these city gigs are absolutely amazing, and they pay really well, too. And that’s another thing: When you’re an independent artist and you have people come out to your show, you don’t always make a decent amount of money. But these city gigs feel like, OK, this is a good paycheck. This is like worth my time, my energy, and you feel appreciated. I love it. I absolutely love it.
Fornoff: I imagine, your home crowd makes a difference, too, right?
Jones: Yes, that’s still being developed. The media’s amazing. The city’s amazing. The fans, it takes a little while longer for them to kind of get on board, too, but when they do, it can be really awesome.
And so that’s kind of the stage I’m at right now. I mean, I’m just a bedroom artist. I’m used to recording music at my house. So to move outside of that and start playing gigs now, that’s a different beast that I’m trying to figure out. And then to have the city support me, like, ‘Yeah, you’re working it, man. Just keep going.’ It’s just really, really cool.
Fornoff: You’ve talked about your first album, but you have a brand new album “High Beams, Backroads Roads and High Fi.” Tell me about when you wrote it, what the inspiration was, why the project needed to happen now.
Jones: So because I’m a genre-bender, it’s easy for me to write a rock song one day and a pop song the next day and then kind of an alt-country song the next day. So all I really did was I just did my normal process and … put the songs out.
These are the songs that I wrote last year and recorded. I’ve worked with people online before, but I was like, ‘Let me get some local guys here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.’
I brought in Glenn Wallace. He does most of the guitar on the album. He actually knows a lot of people, knows a lot of stuff. So it’s been really great working with him. There’s another singer, Eve Rosja. She’s on a couple of songs and she just kills it.
Now, the great thing is that, on the 817 Day showcase, both (collaborators) are going to be there. He normally isn’t going to be there. She normally isn’t. We’re also bringing a keyboard player in to help fill out the sound. So I’m really excited that it’s going to be a Bencjones that people have never seen before, and it is going to sonically blow people away.
Fornoff: It’s cool that you have these other artists collaborate, but you also play multiple instruments yourself, right?
Jones: Well, yes. The joke is, I am good at all the instruments, but I’m not great at any of them. I can get the melodies out there. I can lay down the framework. And then, you know, I like to bring in people that are way better than me, like Glenn and be like, this is what I was thinking about. And he just goes with it.
But yeah, most of my albums I do most of the guitar myself. I do all the bass for like 98% of my songs that I’ve recorded, some simple drums. Keyboards, that’s easy.
I’m OK at those instruments. Technically, yes, I’m playing the bass and playing the guitar, drums and the keyboards. So that does make me a multi-instrumentalist, but it sounds way more fancy than it really is.
Fornoff: I know in your, in the production and like the engineering and the mixing in the studio time, it looks like there’s a lot of overlap from album to album with those folks. And so I want to hear more about how those relationships got started and why you keep going back to them.
Jones: You know, I’m fixing to drop a name. Abraham Alexander, he is a local musician and his buddy is Leon Bridges, and last year he got to tour with Leon. I’ve actually covered one of his songs before, and he was encouraging. So I reached out to him and I was like, ‘So now that you’re this touring musician, what sort of advice do you have?’ And he said, ‘Get yourself a good team.’
I really feel that I have a good team when it comes to my production. If you’re somebody that’s consistent, somebody that is professional, who will push back — not just be like a ‘yes’ person, but be like, ‘Hey, I really think we should do it this way’ — then I’m more likely to come back and continue to work with you.
So Ty Macklin, he mixes most of my music. He’s out at Alpha Omega Recording Studios in Fort Worth. He is a family friend. My older brother, a rapper known as Tahiti, worked with Ty. So when it came time to start mixing my music professionally, he’s somebody that I’ve always said, ‘Yeah, you’re No. 1.’
And then I work with Crystal Clear Sound out of Dallas. They master all of my music. Kent Stump, (an engineer at Crystal Clear) that’s another relationship that I’ve made through my brother.
And then most recently, (I worked with) Peter Wierenga. I met him at a New Year’s party, and when I worked with them, he was pushing back and just giving good advice and guidance and everybody was just really impressed with his suggestions and stuff. So he’s now part of the group. He’s my vocal guy.
This really is an industry about relationships and keeping those relationships going. You don’t want to go around burning bridges and being a diva, you know, especially if you’re an independent artist.
Fornoff: I want to go back to the music of your new single, “Black Beach Boy.” Did you start with the concept or the vibe or a lyric? How did you build that song out?
Jones: So there’s an artist named Mac DeMarco, and he was on The Late Show. He plays a number, and it is amazing. It’s upbeat. You know, it’s about breaking up or whatever. But the lyrics don’t matter. To me, it was the vibe. I just bought this brand new keyboard and I was like, I want to do a song that’s like that kind of upbeat and fun. But instead of being a song about breaking up and being apart, what about a love song? So I came up with this really fun keyboard part and just built it from there and ended up telling this story about this couple that goes to California and they have a baby. And basically that’s what the song’s about, but in a nice, fun, upbeat way, you know. That’s the vibe I was going for.
Fornoff: Thank you so much for your time.
Jones: Thank you so much for having me out and talking to me.
Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.