Benson Boone

24 January 2022

Photography Amanda Peixoto-Elkins
Fashion Alyssa On
Interview Jessica Fynn
Grooming Nathaniel Dezan
Photo Assistant Ethan Elkins
Production Trevor Person

On a rooftop in downtown Los Angeles, so high up that the opalite clouds are within touching distance, singer-songwriter Benson Boone is flying through the air. Amanda Peixoto-Elkins has poised her camera to capture the moment when his centre of gravity is slightly off-balance, when his back is one frame away from a perfect arch, the red of danger still hanging heavily in the air. I do not know who tempted who into taking this shot, but it speaks to the daredevil in Benson: everywhere he goes is his playground.

When we meet, Benson tells me a story of a boy who didn’t know he could sing until the moment when hundreds of expectant eyes were looking into his. Since releasing his debut single Ghost Town, a piano ballad that haunts in its beauty, he has shared the details of his journey like a well-thumbed paperback. Even still, I get the sense that he enjoys catching people off guard with the unexpected. Leaning into the camera, Benson replays the last few years as if rewinding back an old VHS tape, streams of black unspooling restlessly in front of him.

For Benson, TikTok covers and an American Idol audition tape were a brief interlude which culminated in him signing to a record label and working with Imagine Dragons frontman, Dan Reynolds. Embarking on a career in music meant exploring the unknown: moving to a new city with no money and sleeping on a beanbag in his manager’s living room, writing songs for the first time in a studio, learning to share a part of himself and his emotions with the world. It was a time where he was thrown into the unknown to sink or swim.

Stylist Alyssa On sees Benson through the haze of old Hollywood glamour: a young man enchanted by flashing lights and billboard signs, pearl-white piano keys and the thought of touching hearts with his voice. Speaking of his journey, his hopes for the future and the blessing and curse that is sharing your vulnerability with the world, Benson trips over his words. He struggles with the sort of questions that demand clarity on his future. He doesn’t yet know what that holds for him. All he knows is that music is what he wants to do for the rest of his life. Join us as we delve into Benson behind the scenes.

Benson Boone’s next single ‘Room for 2’ coming soon.

Musician and TikTok star - who is Benson Boone behind the scenes?
Behind the scenes, I’m a kid from Washington just trying to be happy. I’ve never wanted to do something that wouldn’t be fulfilling, so behind the music and the singing, I love being happy. I love feeling happy. I love making other people feel that way as well. Really, that’s all I want to do - make people feel happy. Behind the screen, I’m just a regular kid who likes sports, the outdoors and enjoys life.

You grew up in Monroe, Washington. What was your environment like growing up?
Growing up in Monroe, I didn’t watch much TV or play video games. I was always out with my friends hiking, backpacking, cliff-jumping, mountain-biking and rock-climbing. All those kinds of things. We lived close to a ski resort, so we’d ski and snowboard, or be out canoeing, kayaking or making a rope swing off a bridge. It was all outdoors.

You’re the only boy of five siblings. What did you learn from your sisters?
I think it was a blessing growing up with four sisters because they teach you the more emotional side of life. I don’t think I’ll ever really understand women and I’ll never fully try to, but my sisters helped me know how to treat a woman.

What do you think you taught them?
They already knew how to have fun, but I think I taught them that it’s okay to do what you want. With social media, girls have it way harder than guys. They have all these body standards or things they feel like they need to have. I guess I taught my sisters that really, none of it matters at all. Just do what you want to do and be who you want to be. They’re all very independent women. They have grown to be who they want to be and not who somebody else wants them to be.

When was the moment you realised you had a talent for music?
My buddy asked me to play the piano for his band. That’s all I thought I was doing until the singer backed out and then I was singing. It was like a movie! We had all these bands performing from our school - people that we knew and a teacher’s band. Everyone was in this outdoor auditorium at the back of our school. After all the bands performed, of course, we were the last band. We get up there and it’s just me, my friend Eric, and this other kid called Caleb on the drums - actually, he didn’t even have drums! He was sitting on a box and banging on the box. We were not prepared at all. The first song wasn’t even a whole band song, it was just me on the piano singing. It was the scariest moment of my whole life. It was my third day singing - ever. At school, I knew everyone and everyone knew me because I love to talk! So, everyone knew that I played sports and didn’t sing. Everyone was like, “What is Benson doing?” and “He’s about to go up there and embarrass himself”. It just came out of nowhere. It was crazy. When I started singing, I was shaking. As I got one verse in, it just felt so good. Then we did the rest of our performance - we did three more songs - and it was the coolest thing ever.

Was that your biggest fear at the time?
I had never even considered it as a fear. I never thought I’d have to sing in front of anyone. I guess, at that moment, it was probably my biggest fear but now I’ve overcome singing in front of people. I love it. At that moment though, it was the scariest thing ever.

Did you learn to play the piano growing up?
I’ve never officially learned. My two older sisters - I’m right in the middle so I have two older and two younger - did piano lessons growing up, and they were both pretty good. How it started: after they came home and practised their songs, I’d go on the piano and play what they played by ear. I don’t know how to read music and I don’t really know the notes, I can just play what I hear. That’s why my friend Eric wanted me to play the piano in the band because he didn’t know anyone else who could play the piano.

In my mind, anyone who pursues music as a career is taking a risk. Do you enjoy taking risks?
I love doing unexpected things. That’s how I grew up. For me and my group of boys that I would hang out with, that’s our whole thing. If we’re driving down the road and we see a bridge that we could jump off into the water, we’ll stop and just go hit it. That’s what I grew up doing. I’m a very in-the-moment guy. If something seems cool, I’ll just go do it. With performing, that’s the only time I’ve ever performed. That was the biggest thrill.

How do you feel about the prospect of playing in front of a live crowd as a musician who has now released their own music?
That’s what I want to do most. I’m excited to perform, especially because I haven’t been around a huge group of people in so long. Hopefully, the next time I do, it’ll be me singing to all of them. I’m very, very excited for when I can perform.

You recently released your beautiful new single ‘Ghost Town’ on October 1st. How would you describe the message behind the track and the feelings that brought about its creation?
When I wrote Ghost Town it was during my first official writing session. I was extremely nervous and there was a lot happening in my life. I had just moved away from all my friends and family. I moved to Vegas on a whim with no money and was sleeping on my manager’s beanbag. I didn’t really know what was going to happen. Ghost Town is less of a representation of a relationship and more a metaphor of developing my emotions while I was moving away from everything I knew and pursuing something I never thought I’d be able to do. It’s a very mature and unexpectedly vulnerable song for me.

What do you think makes a good love song?
Passion. I haven’t had much relationship experience, so when I write my songs, I pull from different emotions that I feel at different times. I think a great song can be written about anything. Macklemore has an amazing song about a pair of Nike shoes!

How did it feel to put something that you made out into the world?
It was a different level of intimidating. I had been making videos on TikTok and obviously that is putting a part of yourself out there. When you release music, you’re not just showing people what’s on the screen, you’re showing people a part of you. It’s scary but it’s also exhilarating at the same time. I think that it’s just realizing that this is what my life is going to be: showing people a little piece of my emotions. It feels really good that people can almost relate to what I relate to and understand what I understand. It’s a great feeling.

Did you have any expectations going into that process?
That’s the thing that’s so crazy. When I was working on Ghost Town and working on releasing it, and still even now, I had such a minimal understanding of the music industry. Because I’m so new to it, I didn’t even know what to expect. I just wanted people to connect to my music and to hear it, and obviously that happened more than I thought it would. I was basically just going into it with the mindset that I’m sharing a part of me and I don’t necessarily understand everything about it, but I was going to give it everything I’ve got and work hard to do that. Now, it’s the best feeling because so many things that I never expected to happen are happening.

Can you give me an example?
I released Ghost Town three weeks ago and it hit 20 million streams two days ago. That’s so crazy to me! Going number one in Norway, hitting the global top 200 chart, and being able to do internet interviews. All of this is nothing like I ever thought I’d be doing two years ago. Even one year ago, I wasn’t considering pursuing music. This is all insane to me.

You’re signed to Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds’ record label with a partnership with Warner Records. What is it like working with such an established musician?
Working with Dan is so cool. The first day was very scary for me because I’d never even written my own song before and it was my first day writing and meeting Dan. At first, it was intimidating because he’s accomplished everything. He’s 6’5” - this massive dude - and he is jacked! You meet him and you’re like ‘holy crap!’, that is the singer of Imagine Dragons right there! I’m at his house! He cares so much about other people and how other people are doing. It’s refreshing to be around him. He’s the most real person, even though he’s got every capability to take on this rockstar vibe. When writing with him, he taught me how to let go of singing and writing in front of people and just give out my emotions. I was able to catch on quickly. From the get-go, we were able to write three really cool songs during those first three days. All of it was such a good kick-off for my writing career.

How has your relationship with Dan evolved in this time?
It’s gone from being someone who gives me advice in music to him becoming a dear friend. It’s nice. I can call him if I need anything, even if it’s not music-related, and we’ll have dinner and just talk and he’ll just be a friend. It’s nice to be able to have that relationship with someone who has been through everything I’m going through.

I was watching your American Idol audition tape back, and it struck just how humble and self-assured you came across. Are these traits you’ve always had or are these elements of your personality that you’re still testing out and growing into?
I grew up playing sports so I’ve always had the mindset that I know there’s always someone better. There is always going to be someone faster and stronger, someone better at singing, better at this or that. I know I’m not the best singer in the world, but I want it just as bad as someone who has been singing their whole life. Keeping that mindset, I never want people to think that I’m doing this because I think I’m super-cool or I’m the best at this or that. I just want to be someone who shares music that’s different from everyone else’s and be my authentic self.

Where and when do you feel the most alive?
Doing something I’ve never done before. Performing in front of my school at that Battle of the Bands concert was one of the best feelings of my whole entire life, but that’s the only performing experience I’ve ever had. I don’t know what it’s like to perform in front of an actual audience rather than just my school, so I’m sure that’s going to be the craziest thing. As of now, it’s probably the time when we built this rope swing in a place in Washington called Lake Chelan. Me and the boys were out there all day cliff-jumping off this bridge and rope swinging. My friend dared me to do a quadruple back-flip off the rope swing. That was probably the craziest-best feeling. The adrenaline! I’m totally addicted to it. Anything that’s really crazy and that I’ve never done before - and that will probably hurt if it goes wrong - that’s the best feeling.

Have you ever skydived?
No! Every time I’ve ever wanted to skydive, something always comes up. It’s so frustrating! My friend is getting his skydiving certificate. I want to go so bad.

The last time I checked, you have 1.6 million followers on TikTok. That number of people is quite difficult to visualise. How do you stay grounded?
I guess I just stay focused on what I’m doing and what I’m working towards instead of comparing myself to other people. It’s hard to do because deep down you’re always comparing yourself to others, but I know who I want to be and I know myself better than anyone, so I guess I just keep that in mind. In the music industry, the second you step back and think: ‘oh yeah, my song is doing good enough, I don’t have to do anything for it for the next week’, that’s when it starts falling down the charts. It’s about staying on top of things and constantly working hard. That’s the most important thing.

That sounds like a lot of pressure.
I work better under pressure. It’s how I’ve always been.

What does being an ‘artist’ mean to you?
People are always changing, including myself. When I was doing American Idol, I thought I had to be this person who was just going to do or be this or that. My understanding of being an artist was skewed. Now I understand that as an artist you're never going to have just one or two things that you’re going to do. People are going to know you for lots of different reasons. If people like Ghost Town the most after I release more music, then some people will know me for Ghost Town. If some people prefer the next song I release, then they’ll know me for that song.

Being an artist, to me, is being capable of sharing a part of your emotions and being able to push that into the world. It’s scary to take such a vulnerable part of yourself and share it with millions of people. It’s really scary and it’s something that I never thought I would do, but now, being able to do it, it’s less something I want to do, but more something that I get to do. It’s an opportunity to be able to show people who I am. Now that I’ve done it once with Ghost Town, having people hear that song, I never want to do anything else for the rest of my life. Writing songs changes your perspective or makes you feel something that you haven’t felt before. When other people feel that way as well, it’s the best feeling. Being an artist is understanding that and understanding yourself.

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Above Left: Benson wears Necklaces by Jenn Wong, Rings by VITALY and Shirt from stylist's archive.
Above Right: Benson wears Trousers by Helen Anthony, Necklaces by Jenn Wong, Rings by VITALY and Shirt and Shoes from stylist's archive.

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Above left: Outfit as before.
Above right: Benson wears Suit by Dries Van Noten, Shirt by F8KE CHEMICAL CLUB, Necklaces by Jenn Wong, DALMATA and The Hood Supply, Rings by VITALY and Shoes by Dr. Martens.

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Above left: Benson wears Shirt by Raf Simons, Jacket by Tom Ford, Trousers by F8KE CHEMICAL CLUB, Necklaces by Jenn Wong, DALMATA and The Hood Supply and Shoes by ORO.
Above right: Outfit as before.

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Above left: Benson wears Shirt by Todd Snyder, Trousers by VYNER Articles, Necklaces by OHT and Jenn Wong, Rings by Etah Love and Rat Betty.
Above Right: Outfit as before.

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Above left: Benson wears Shirt by Todd Snyder Trousers by VYNER Articles, Necklaces by OHT and Jenn Wong, Rings by Etah Love and Rat Betty and Shoes by Viron.
Above right: Outfit as before.

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Above left: Benson wears Jacket by Vince, Necklaces by OHT, Rings by Etah Love, Rat Betty and Chasing.
Above right: Outfit as before.

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Above left: Outfit as before.
Above right: Benson wears Jacket by Vince, Trousers by Alabama Blonde, Necklaces by OHT, Rings by Etah Love, Rat Betty and Chasing and Shoes from Stylist's archive.

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