Flagstaff musician brings acoustic flavor back to Pride stage
By Laura Latzko - June 18, 2015
Since he was a teenager, music has given Flagstaff-based singer and songwriter Brian Benham an outlet for emotional release and artistic expression.
Upon hearing the sweet sincerity of his voice perfectly paired with his acoustic guitar, you’d never know he’s just coming off a five-year hiatus. But, like most great musicians, this openly gay artist has brought life lessons and new material back to the stage with him.
This year, Benham will perform at the Pride in the Pines festival June 27 for the second time – he last performed at the Pride festival in 2009.
“I was happy and proud that I was able to share my music with a big slice of my life that may not have heard it before, and I was flattered,” Benham said. “I’m equally flattered this time around. It’s a big deal to me.”
Photo courtesy of facebook.com/brianbenhamsongwriter.
The musician’s personal journey has been a tough one: Overcoming issues associated with bipolar disorder took priority over pursuing a career in music. To ignite his return to his true calling, Benham released Blackbirds, a three-track EP that features “Blackbirds,” “In the Flames” and “Without You,” in May.
With Blackbirds, Benham said he brings a more mature, yet familiar sound.
“I think ‘evolved’ in the right word,” he said. “I think it is all in the same vein, but I think that my voice has matured over the years. I think my songwriting has definitely matured over the years.”
Benham admitted his new songs are darker than his past work. He also noted changes in his musical influences.
“My writing process is not exactly derived from my real-life experience. It is more of a release,” he said. “It’s like an artist who paints for the sake of painting. I write for the sake of writing. It’s kind of my escape. It’s just something I love to do. It’s one of my favorite parts of life.”
However, Benham admits that a recent breakup did inspire some of his new music. Blackbirds, he said, explores the relatable topics of love and relationships.
“Life has a totally different meaning after going through the experiences I went through,” Benham said. “It’s definitely been something to overcome, and it’s provided me with gratitude for the moment and for what I have. It’s given me a totally different perspective on life. I’m definitely grateful that music is back in my life.”
Although Benham has been out of the closet since the age of 19, he said one of his goals is to grow his LGBT fan base.
“I want to be someone who encourages other gay artists out there to go forward with their craft and be bold and do their thing,” Benham said.
The pride stage will afford him a chance to perform for his community, something he hasn’t had the chance to do very frequently in his music career thus far.
“My performance will be me up there with my guitar,” Benham said, adding that attendees can expect an intimate listening experience. “I’m slightly nervous but really excited.”
To give attendees a feel for his musical versatility, as well as a peek into his journey, Benham said he plans to play a combination of cover songs and originals, including music from Blackbird.
Although Benham doesn’t perform or tour as much as he once did, he has his outlet for emotional release and artistic expression back, and that’s what matters.
For more information on Brian Benham or his music, visit facebook.com/brianbenham