Bennett Walker Wales is an artist who’s been around the block, playing shows up and down the coast as an adolescent and starting a successful band in adulthood – and now, he’s turning a new corner.
Born and raised on the Virginia Beach coastline, Wales started playing music along the east coast at fifteen; using songwriting and top-notch guitar skills, he fueled his musical journey which “officially” kicked off with his band Bennett Wales & the Relief. A classic blend of rock & roll and funk, the group is known for their danceable and fun music. Songs like “Dodgy” exemplify the group’s sound perfectly – but also shows how much of a departure Wales’ new chapter is from what he’s been doing so well for so long.
As something Wales takes seriously, his songwriting is injected with emotion and vulnerability. With every piece he writes, he crafts stories that represent his life, dreams, and fears, all through a lens of authenticity. Taking on a variety of feelings and sounds, Wales’ new music is something to get excited about.
Officially hitting streaming services today, August 24th, Wales’ newest single, “Green” contrasts everything Wales has released – even the single’s predecessor, “Favorite Song.” Tackling the apprehension of taking a new path in life, “Green” faces his real-life issues head-on, proving that truth and heart are truly the bones of his music.
With more of an upbeat, John Mayer-meets-Bruno Mars type of vibe, “Green” has an infectious groove, and despite being written in 2020, the song is probably the least 2020 sounding piece of music I’ve heard. Simply put, it’s a feel-good, make you smile kind of piece – whether that’s because of the relatable lyrics or the funky guitar and Wales’ smooth voice, I couldn’t say – but does that really matter?
Wales’ new music puts his talent as a writer to the test, incorporating sounds from all over the map, emphasizing his dimension, versatility, and adaptability as an artist.
Recently, we got to catch up with Wales to chat about “Green”, in addition to what inspires his songwriting, his forthcoming album, and his journey as an artist.
So, you’ve been an active musician for a long time, but who or what inspired you to pick up an instrument and start writing songs?
I picked up the guitar at a young age, but really didn’t begin to practice guitar religiously until age 14- and it was out of pure necessity. I guess the same could really be said about songwriting as well. I was sent to a military boarding school in rural Virginia from 8th grade to Senior year of high school, and so music became the center of my life and my entire universe. It was a way for me to stay sane and keep me driven and motivated for what would be the next five years of my life. In high school I had a teacher that would leave the planetarium open for me after school and I would go in there every day after classes and practice until dinner time. I was writing constantly.
Playing all up and down the East Coast, you had to have been exposed to a lot of artists and musical hotspots – which were particularly influential?
As far as places that have been influential, it’s hard to deny musical breeding grounds like Nashville and New York City. I can remember being in both places for the first time and being completely overwhelmed by the amount of hustle and bustle in the streets. Nashville in particular was a hoot- music in every bar and almost an infinite amount of bachelorette parties. I’ve been back and forth a few times for recording, now that I have my bearings down there I have a blast every time I am in town. Artists I’ve met along the way are endless, but probably my most influential mentor and friend I’ve been friends with for 15 years- his name is Tim Barry. Tim was the front-man of punk-rock legends AVAIL from Richmond, VA. I opened up for Tim when I was 15 while home from military school one weekend. We immediately became pals and have played together countless times and he has been a huge musical mentor. I’m grateful to have met him and call him a friend!
Your new song, “Green” seems to be a departure from your former rock n’ roll sound with your band. What was the catalyst for this shift in the overall vibe?
I think as I’ve gotten older, the more well-rounded I’ve wanted to become as a musician. I have an insatiable appetite for music consumption, and so I’m constantly searching for new influences and sounds. For the last 4 years that addiction has been fed by working part time at the record store down the street from my house- Vinyl Daze Records here in Virginia Beach. I think “Green” is really a stand-alone track on my record, as it’s the only tune that really has more of a ‘pop’ influence. Rock n’ roll is still very much a part of my sound and I don’t see that changing any time soon!
Can you dive into the inspiration/influence behind “Green”?
Being “Green” has multiple meanings- you can be green in a new job trying to learn the ropes, you can be green in the gills if you’re feeling unwell. Green also represents a freshness and vibrance when the seasons change from winter to spring. In my song, I think green is kind of a combination of all those things when you look at a romantic interest. You wonder “Am I doing/ saying the right things?” But it’s also the excitement and freshness of meeting someone new.
Was there anything different about the recording/writing process for the song (aside from the fact that it was recorded in 2020)?
This album was written in 2020, but the recording process started in January of 2021. The writing and pre-production was done on my own in my 800 square foot apartment on the beach. The recording process was very different, as I wrote and recorded all of the instruments on the record except for the drums. I enlisted my dear friend and Relief bandmate Drew Orton for his talents on the ol’ drum skins. It’s a much different process when you can flesh out everything you want EXACTLY the way you want it, and you can move at your own pace with a solo record. I guess that makes it sound more like a vanity project, but it’s been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life and the biggest labor of love. Working with Matt Erlichman at Flagship Studios was easily one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had recording in recent memory. He was a great producer and engineer on the record.
Where does “Green” stack up with other songs on your debut album, Introducing: Bennett Walker Wales in terms of sound/subject matter?
I think there is a little something for everyone on this album. As I mentioned before, “Green” is definitely a stand-alone track in that it has a more ‘pop’ sound. There’s no shortage of rock n’ roll, Americana, folk and indie influences on this album as well. I think this album deals mostly with personal subject matter. It’s a big examination of myself and where I am in my life. It was an opportunity for me to really open up and take a big look inward. Sometimes laughing at myself, sometimes wallowing in self-pity and sometimes recognizing things within me that I hadn’t seen before.
Obviously, the release of your album will be a busy time, but what else is on the docket for the rest of 2021?
The rest of the year will be spent pushing the record and making plans to tour it in the new year. In addition, I have already started writing the next album.
To wrap things up, what are one or two highlight-reel moments for you as an artist so far?
I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of unique experiences in my journey thus far. Making this album is definitely at the top of that list, and sharing the stage with some of my favorite artists like Tim Barry, Against Me!, Tyler Childers, The Gaslight Anthem, Marcus King, Vulfpeck and The Wallflowers to name just a few. I’m so grateful for a life that allows me to pursue music fully and can’t wait to continue truckin’ along!
Thank you for the interview!