After spending nearly a decade in Nashville perfecting his songwriting, playing as one-third of the trio, Scarletta, and performing with the likes of Cassadee Pope and Jana Kramer, it was finally the right time for Benji Harris to release a solo album. His self-titled EP was released at the end of June, and its debut single, ‘That’s How You Get A Girl,’ has been well-received. For Harris, his debut record solidifies his reputation in Music City as a respected vocalist, musician and songwriter. “This record was really the ace up my sleeve that I wanted to slap on the table,” Benji told us as he recently took some time to talk about putting together the EP, his debut single, and more.
It has been a long time coming as a solo record was always one of Benji’s ultimate goals. “I feel like this record has been something that I’ve always had in me and I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. For Benji, it was never a lack of inspiration or motivation, but finances that were getting in his way. “Making a record isn’t cheap, so I had to save up some money and then do a session, and then save up some more money and do another session,” he explained. “There’s a lot of ways to cut corners and shave a few hundred dollars off here and there, but I knew you only get one chance to do a record right.” Since you have one shot at making a first impression, Benji wanted to recruit best possible players and producer for the project. “I chipped away at it for just over two years to finally get it done. It was something I just knew I had to do for myself because what’s the point of writing a bunch of good songs and being able to sing them as an artist without putting a record out.”
On this record, Harris co-wrote five of the six songs including his single, ‘That’s How You Get A Girl.’ He describes that particular write as a special experience as the song almost wrote itself. “I wrote it with Barry Cantrell and Greg Lawson. I was waiting for them to show up to the co-write because they were running a few minutes late, and sometimes for me the best ideas come in the 5-10 minutes before the write,” Benji recalled. “So I just had that opening guitar riff that just fell out of me. I knew I wanted to write something country and the first line is, ‘It ain’t about rocking them Wrangler jeans,” and I was like, that’s kind of cool, I don’t know where that’s going, but I like that… Once they showed up I had the first couple lines written and then they jumped on board with the idea. The song fell out of us in about a half an hour. Sometimes the magic is just happening. Those are the most fun writes for me and that’s how it was for our single.”
Choosing ‘That’s How You Get A Girl’ as Benji’s debut single was almost as easy as writing it, he shared. “I wanted something to feel good, I wanted it to have a good message, and I wanted it to be an accurate representation of who I am. I feel like I was raised right – mama taught me right – and it’s all about treating women with respect, not treating them as objects. That’s kind of what this song is all about. I wanted someone to listen to the song and say, ‘I get his personality.’ This song just seemed to represent me and it felt good coming out of the speakers, so it was kind of an obvious choice.” As far as his sound goes for the rest of the record, he’s gotten a few Keith Urban comparisons. “Maybe it’s the hair,” he laughed. “His stuff just always feels good. It makes you want to roll the windows down and makes you smile. I just wanted to write stuff that could transport people and put them in a good mood. So I would say [the record is] feel-good, uptempo, pop-country.”
Ultimately, he hopes that fans can be proud to own this record. “Every bit of that record, front to back, every song, every mix decision, every instrumental decision, I was in the booth with the producer making these decisions. And every edit, every vocal line we’ve put our hearts into. So I want a fan to get out of it, wow this is really a piece of this guy’s heart and soul,” he said. Likewise, Benji puts everything he has into his live performances. “The live shows are fun, they feel good. I try to surround myself with some of the best players that I know, so the musicianship in my shows is really top-notch,” he said. “As a singer, I pride myself in being a studio-quality vocalist live. A lot of people tell me, ‘You sound just like the record.’ and that’s what I try to do. So people can expect a really accurate presentation of what the sound is they’ve come to know and love. They can see that live with just a little bit of extra pizzazz.” Harris is spending his summer on the road with Cassadee Pope and has a winter tour in the works for himself.
For Benji, the transition into the spotlight came pretty naturally. Working with other artists has given him a lot of preparation for this moment. “It’s been huge for me. Just to be playing big shows in front of thousands of people and doing it on a high level, you just kind of get familiar with doing it. It’s not like you’re just on some corner stage in a bar, you’re in an arena, or you’re in a stadium or a giant festival with an ocean of people and you kind of get used to that view. You develop a comfort with that, so when it’s my turn to do it, it’s not like I have never done that before. It’s like okay, cool, I just walk 10 feet over this way,” he described. He’ll be bringing Pope’s band out to play for him as well. “We’re good buds and we all jam well together so it makes sense if the bands working, don’t change it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Right now, Benji is hoping to get some spins on Sirius XM radio to gain more momentum. He’s already accomplished a great deal and has so much to be proud of. We can’t wait to see the success this next chapter brings!
You can get your copy of the EP on iTunes here.
Main Photo Credit: Rebecca Ward