Those that watch American Idol, TikTok videos, keep up with the music charts, or all the above, will have become familiar with 20-year-old Benson Boone and his powerful voice over the past year. Benson talked with MOOD about his recent projects, his start in the industry, and what's next for the young star.
Listen to Benson Boone's new single," Before You " out now.
Photography and styling :Edwin J Ortega
Grooming: Barbara Lamelza
Words: Fabio Magnocavallo
Those that watch American Idol, TikTok videos, keep up with the music charts, or all the above, will have become familiar with 20-year-old Benson Boone and his powerful voice over the past year. With that being said, just like his fans, Boone himself only became aware of his talent until fairly recently too. Unlike most stars on the rise, the Washington-born singer-songwriter didn’t have dreams of performing on big stages and writing hit records. In fact, his initial career plans didn’t involve music at all.
“I really wanted to pursue a career in architecture and interior design. I've always been into art, like drawing and painting. That's always been a big passion of mine,” Boone tells MOOD. “Besides career goals, I've always been a very, very outdoors person. So, a lot of sports, football, basketball, cross country, cliff jumping, row swinging, mountain biking, rollerblading, and scootering, just all outdoor stuff. Growing up in Washington state, there was plenty of nature to offer. I feel like I've always been seeking an adrenaline rush.”
However, all it took was one performance to determine his fate as a musician.
Long story short: Boone was asked by his best friend Eric to play piano for his band so they could compete in their high school’s battle of the bands during his junior year. After their singer dropped out unexpectedly, Boone was asked to front the band and sing lead in order to avoid stepping out of the competition. Even though he had no singing experience prior, Boone embraced the opportunity and learned a handful of songs one day before. And just like magic, out of nowhere, Boone wowed everyone, including himself, with his voice that night. Not only were his parents stunned and crying in the front row, but the band also won by a landslide. Benson Boone, the singer, was born.
Officially the coolest kid in school, the then-17-year-old supported his newfound talent by uploading videos on TikTok before being scouted to try out for American Idol in early 2021. “I got a DM from them asking if I wanted to audition and I just said yes without even thinking twice. I was like, yeah, of course, I'll do it,” he explains. “It was a Zoom audition. I guess it seemed like less of a big deal than it actually was to me.”
Just like his battle of the bands performance, his first televised audition in front of Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie was an instant hit. He sang “Punchline” by Aidan Martin on the piano and had the panel immediately impressed with his natural, gifted flair. While swooning over Boone, Perry even said she could envision Boone winning the competition from that one performance. After moving to the next round with three confident yesses, Boone made the big decision of passing on the opportunity to go to Hollywood, ending his journey at the audition process.
“It was a very hard decision because American idol was great and every experience I had with it was wonderful but it was a lot for me very quickly,” Boone shares. “I didn't take music very seriously before American Idol because I was still new to it. And then when American idol started, I was kind of thrown into things pretty quick and it was a little overwhelming.” Despite the show’s huge platform and history of creating megastars – Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Adam Lambert – Boone questioned if it was the right path for him to follow. Taking the time to reflect on that moment, he still believes he “made the right choice.”
Boone’s short-lived Idol appearance was watched by millions and didn’t just excite the panel of judges in the room. Now no longer a part of the competition, various people in the industry wanted in and started contacting Boone.. One of those people was Dan Reynolds, the lead vocalist of the band Imagine Dragons, whose label, Night Street Records in partnership with Warner Records, he is now signed to. “I was getting a lot of messages from writers and producers. Again, I didn't really know anything about music. I had never tried writing my own music. I'd never been in a session before, so I didn't really understand a lot of it,” he says. “But when Dan reached out, he was like, ‘Hey man, I know you're new to music, but I love your sound and I love your look. I would love for you to come out to Vegas and write or try writing some songs with me and I can teach you the basics of the music industry.’ It just seemed like a very supportive and kind message that he sent, making it seem like he was wanting to be a friend, which was so cool to me.” Boone agreed to the proposal and flew to Sin City. During his trip, he learned how to write songs and was introduced to his now-manager, Jeff Burns. “I'm so glad that he reached out because it's definitely changed my life,” Boone says. After a semester, he left college to focus on his music career.
From Vegas, Boone flew to LA to attend his first official writing session in a studio. Funnily enough, the first song he penned was “GHOST TOWN,” which ended up becoming his debut single in October 2021. “I have never really been in a traumatic relationship experience where I've gotten my heart broken yet. I say yet because I just turned 20, so I'm pretty young. I actually wrote it about my best friend's toxic relationship and how that played out,” he says. Having now gained a lot of experience with songwriting, Boone admits that writing from the perspective of someone else doesn’t necessarily make the process any easier. “It's actually a little harder. Obviously, when it's personal to you, you know the ins and outs and smaller details about it, but it's different when you write it about someone else because you can see it, I guess from like a more mature perspective,” Boone explains. “A lot of people will ask for advice, but they won't take the advice that they're given. Or they will complain to someone like a therapist or a friend or someone and they'll be given options of what to do about their problems and they never follow them.”
“GHOST TOWN” wasn’t the only contender for his debut single. After teasing a number of songs online, he took it upon himself to go with the one his followers were feeling the most. “I wanted to let my small audience decide and I started teasing ‘GHOST TOWN’ and a lot of people liked it,” he says. Boone trusted his fans' reaction and made it his mission to make the song as big as possible. That mission was definitely achieved. “GHOST TOWN” entered the US Billboard Hot 100, reached the No. 1 spot in Norway, and has racked up over 200 million streams on Spotify alone in just one year. As of this writing, the single has been certified gold in the US while going platinum in Canada and Norway. His follow-up single, “In The Stars,” proved that Boone was no one-hit wonder, becoming his second global success. “It is so crazy because this is just not what I was expecting to do with my life just a few years ago and still, it's all kind of turned around really quick,” he shares.
Streaming platforms and TikTok now play a huge part in the music industry and how your material gets discovered. Some artists purposely make music with the aim that it’ll do the rounds on TikTok while others just luck out with their virality. No matter what the latest trends are, Boone, who has over 3.2 million followers on the app, insists he “will always just write music to my own style,” adding, “I don't write my songs for TikTok.” He continues: “I want to make the best songs that I can make, that's my passion. But also at the same time, I obviously, like any other artist, want many people to hear the music that I make.” While Boone doesn’t feel the pressure with TikTok, he confesses he sometimes obsesses over his streaming numbers, admitting he can watch the statistics a little too closely. “It gets into my head and stresses me out,” he says. “I sometimes have to take a step back because when you look at the numbers too closely you get pretty hard on yourself, making things a lot more difficult to continue.”
Nevertheless, Boone has been moving forward in a big way. His brand new single “Before You” follows shortly after his debut EP, Walk Me Home, which dropped on July 29. The project produced yet another hit single titled “Better Alone,” a personal song about the conversations he would have with his mom. “When I was younger, about three or four years ago, I would always tell my mom that I never thought I was going to fall in love. I never thought I was going to meet anyone that would be interested in me,” he explains. “It’s about that mindset where I was fine with it and maybe I'm better alone just by myself for the rest of my life.” Looking back, Boone realizes that mindset is a little “extreme” but recognizes that “being alone for a little bit” can be healthy. “We all need support but sometimes you can be your own best friend. Having yourself is very important,” he adds.
Walk Me Home is exactly what any fan of Boone would want from his debut project. As expected, three-quarters of the tracklisting consists of ballads that pull at the heartstrings. The only exceptions are “ROOM FOR 2,” a previously released song, and “NIGHTS LIKE THESE,” which lean towards a more up-tempo sound. “I thought it was very important just to have something that was upbeat. I feel like I'm a pretty naturally happy and high-energy person and I don't want people to think that I'm just like constantly writing these formally sad songs and that I'm just depressed because that's definitely not the case,” he says. “I wanted people to hear a little bit different side of me in my upbeat songs. I think they're very special. They're very special pieces of art from me.”
Those that are digging the more up-tempo moments on Walk Me Home will be pleased to hear that those songs are just a little taste of how Boone’s sound is going to evolve in the near future. “I've started to write a lot more uptempo music because growing up, I listened to a lot of ballads from Adele, Sam Smith, and Dean Lewis and soulful voices like Aretha Franklin and sad songs. So, naturally, that’s what I started writing,” he explains, adding, “Now that I’m finding my sound, I think it’s a little more upbeat. I think that'll be a lot more common in the future for me.”
Once fans do get stuck into Boone’s first project, he hopes listeners will find a way of relating to it in their own way. “Obviously, the music is very personal to me, but that doesn't mean the song is only personal to me,” he says. ”My favorite songs are ones that I can connect to on a personal level. I just want people to be able to relate to my lyrics and enjoy music while they're listening to it. That's kind of just all I can hope for.”
Aside from new music, Boone hopes the remaining months of the year will consist of more live shows now that he has more material released. Having already performed sold-out headline shows in London, LA, and New York, a world tour of his own is something he is keen to do. “It’s been hard because I obviously only had three songs out but with the EP, hopefully, I can start doing more touring and bigger shows all around the world in places I've never been,” Boone explains.
Upcoming Benson Boone West Coast Tour Dates:
Dec 1, 2022 – Salt Lake City, UT
Dec 2, 2022 – Provo, UT
Dec 3, 2022 – Provo, UT
Dec 5, 2022 – Seattle, WA
Dec 8, 2022 – Phoenix, AZ
Dec 9, 2022 – Santa Ana, CA