Benji Harris has earned the reputation as one of Nashville’s most talented mainstay musicians. A truly versatile guitar player, session vocalist, and songwriter, Benji has become a highly sought-after band leader for many of Nashville’s best and soaring recording artists.
“I’ve played thousands of shows in my career, and yes I remember the early shows in empty clubs playing to only the bartender,” Harris recalls. “I’ve lived in vans, showered at truck stops, and crashed on strangers’ couches. I’ve done it all.”
Reared in Dallas, Harris began playing professionally at the age of twelve. His first band in high school, “Southampton All-Stars”, became a local favorite and stayed busy playing private parties and school dances throughout the early 2000’s. Harris continued to develop as a writer and performer throughout his college years, playing with popular regional bands such as “Thief” and “Rigby.” A trip to Nashville in 2008, however, gave Benji a clear vision of his path.
“I felt like I saw my future the first time I went to Nashville,” Harris explains. “There was so much great music everywhere, and so many opportunities to further my career. I was instantly hooked.”
Since moving to Nashville in 2009, Benji has become a welcomed mainstay of Music Row. His country/rock trio “Scarletta” (2009-2014) had a Top 30 radio hit in 2012 and a popular music video in high rotation on CMT. Since leaving the band in 2014, Benji has lent his talents to many hot young country stars, including Sam Hunt, Jana Kramer, Cassadee Pope, and Bo Bice. A solo record, however, was always the goal.
“I feel like this record is a whole new chapter for me,” Harris explains. “After so many years of touring with other great artists, I’ve gained invaluable experience watching the masters at work. I knew I had the goods to make a great record, and I’ve learned what goes into putting on an amazing live show. I’m so excited the time has finally come for me to step out center stage and do it.”
Harris co-wrote five of the six songs on the EP which will hit online retailers in June. He will also be hitting the road throughout 2017 to support the project.
Additionally, in 2017, he released his first solo project as a musician, though becoming a solo artist was never really the end goal.
“I’ve been attacking music at both fronts. I wanted to put out a solo record, just because I had all these songs that I wanted the world to hear. As an artist, you want people to hear the music you make,” he said. “Now I’m in this small circle of Nashville musicians who get to back up these major label artists. This has been a lot of fun because you get to rock the big stages and get the thrill of playing arenas but not the pressure of the artists.
“It’s a lot of fun, this is what I dreamed about as a kid. Music is my job and supports my family.”
His passion now, though is songwriting. Recently, the Dallas, Texas, native returned to his high school for a literary festival to teach a songwriting class.
“I developed a class to teach how songwriting works. It went over so well; the kids got so much out of it. Now I want to expand the workshop. It’s all about the creative process and how we come up with ideas,” he said. “I get to teach them about the craft and how powerful it is, and that has been super successful. I’m beginning to develop a tour of schools and teaching songwriting to middle and high schools. I want to get them excited about the possibility of having a career as a songwriter.”
Through the years, Harris said he has learned from those he’s worked with, and he wanted to be able to give back to the youth.
“I’d never done anything like this before, but I’ve learned a lot in the last ten years by writing with people who are way better than me. You pick up a lot of tricks from people like that.”
Harris himself began playing guitar at the age of 12, and in eighth grade he put a band together to try and win his school’s talent show. That band ended up sticking out the length of their high school years and Harris was hooked.
“I was lucky to find out what I wanted to do at an early age. I committed myself to it, playing in bands and learning how to write songs. It’s been a heck of a journey, that’s for sure,” he said.
After high school, Harris went to college and found himself in Nashville for a school trip and saw interns working in the studios. Seeing that as an opportunity, he decided to take an internship of his own after he finished college. Harris then moved full time to Nashville in 2009.
Following the move, he began playing in a trio known as Scarletta. As a group, there was a publishing and record deal, and they even had a minor Top 30 hit with “Right Here Right Now” but they split after five years together.
“It’s really hard to keep a band together in this town,” he said. “We just weren’t getting any farther than when we started, and we all had different ideas on where we wanted to be.”
That’s when he fell into the side man gig, and he’s been rocking the major stages for a while.
“I got my first taste of being on a tour bus and playing bigger shows. Once you’re into that world, you’re kind of in forever,” he said.
After his first gig with Jana Kramer, he played two years with Casadee Pope and then a year with Jordan Davis. Now, he’s traveling with Travis Denning, who had a Top 40 hit with the song “David Ashley Parker from Powder Springs”.
Since finding his way in that world, Harris felt it was time to settle his family down. He and his wife have two kids, and wanted to find a place they could call home.
“We moved out here last year. We’d been renting for close to 10 years, and we have two kids. We knew we would be in the public school system soon, and after talking with different people we knew we wanted to be in Williamson County,” he said. “We weren’t that aware of Thompson’s Station, but we checked out a house here and it had this gorgeous backyard. So we went for it, and we love it.
“It has a small town feel. I’ve never lived in a small town, and the sense of community is so deep here. It’s been an adjustment, but it’s great. We love this area.”
For more information on Harris’ teaching options for songwriters, guitar lessons and even career consultation, visit his website benjiharris.com.
June 27th – The Country – Nashville, TN – 6pm – CD RELEASE