For every musical artist who steps onto the Grammy stage, there were untold hours of writing, producing, tweaking the details to get it right, and a plethora of people who were working to make it great. They worked a long time before getting that first recording contract. They worked to exhaustion before ever earning that right to step onto that stage.
With the buzz about Ben Becker’s music, we get the rare chance to see the genesis of a hopeful, future success.
Ben Becker is only 18 years old, but like most musical careers, his started during childhood. Growing up in the family of Brian and Toni Becker gave him a good start. Toni is a Dove Award-nominated artist who traveled the globe in the 80s doing concerts in Europe and Asia with a cover band and Brian was dubbed by his Nashville record company, Benson Music Group, as best new [Christian] artist of 1990.
“I was introduced to music by my parents,” smiles Ben, speaking of his parents as friends and mentors.
“My mom put me in piano, guitar, and vocal classes while I was growing up. I lasted just three weeks in them,” he laughed. “But then a couple of years later, I picked up the guitar again with the help of my mother.”
He found he enjoyed singing. And he found he very much enjoyed the creative side of music. He wrote his first song at age 10.
It was titled, “The Songwriter.” He admits that at the time he was inspired by pop artists like The Jonas Brothers, Maroon 5, and Jesse McCartney.
“I think I can fairly say that first song was really awful,” Becker further admitted with a smile.
Band from left to right: Jack (brother), Isaac Laseter, Coulton Becker (cousin) and Ben
Great or not, Becker was feeling a pull of music. But also growing up, he was strongly pulled in the direction of baseball, another passion of the Becker family. He was at a crossroads. Should he choose his college based on his passion to play baseball or for music?
He visited the campus of Belmont University and fell in love with it. “I applied to Belmont University in Nashville and figured that would be a test to see which direction I should go,” explained Becker.
When he was accepted to Belmont, he knew this was to be the path of his life…the path towards a musical career.
“From that very first visit, I was hearing great music and meeting great people. It was obvious that this is what I was meant to do,” said Becker, with the certainty of a young man who has found his calling.
Right away, he met Nina Musolino, whom he now calls his “momager.” She may be the same age as Ben, but he notes she has wisdom beyond her years. She is pursuing a career in music management. It seemed to be a match made in Musical Heaven.
As a matter of fact, Nina, also, is moving at warp speed in her own career, already founding her own record label, E-Klectic Records.
“I played some of my music for her, and she decided she wanted to help me with my career,” noted Becker. “I am so grateful for that, because she is tremendously talented.”
As Brian recalls it, the whole collaboration seems to be destiny. “Toni and I actually met Nina’s parents, Michael and Lisa, at Welcome Week at Belmont. I had on a Cardinals jersey and that started a conversation between Michael and I, because Michael played in the minor leagues with Jimmy Edmonds [a prominent Cardinals player]. That led to us introducing our children to each other,” explained Brian.
So, what began as a chance meeting turned into a musical partnership between their kids.
All of this brings us to the point of right now.
Ben is soon to release his first album, “Fall,” on iTunes. Produced by Ben and his dad, the 11-song album is set to be released on June 16th with pre-orders on iTunes available now.
Everyone seems to recognize that Ben’s sound is different than anything most people have heard. Ben’s music has many distinct R&B flavors but where he goes from there with his music and vocals creates a very unique sound. He’s pushed an old-school vibe into pop songs. His music also has an emotional and physical feel to it.
Even the fact that he’s releasing a concept album makes you realize Ben’s artistry is deeper than a typical 18-year-old. This album follows the ups and downs of a relationship, telling the story of falling in and out of love with many challenges and failures and the willingness to start all over again.
The steps of recording a song (or 11 songs) are pretty simple:
- Write the song
- Record the music
- Record the vocals
- Mix all the tracks to stereo
The Beckers selected Steve Dady’s Sunset Boulevard Studio in Nashville to record the music tracks because they had worked there on previous projects including Ben’s very first recording released on iTunes at age 13, “Can’t Handle It.”
After completing the first three steps for all 11 songs, Brian set out to find an engineer to mix the tracks. He said, “Honestly, we tried two different mix engineers but they didn’t catch the vision of the music.” He continued, “I knew these tracks were good because we used some of the best musicians and recording engineers in the business. The mixes we got back were good…but I knew they could be better.”
Mixing is a very subjective artform. The mix engineer takes the 40 or more tracks of sounds and applies compression, equalization, effects like delay and reverb, plus panning and the overall volume to each individual track to make it sound natural with all the other tracks. Ben explained, “Like for the drums, when we recorded the drums we used 10 different microphones on different drums. So each of those mics has to be mixed with the others.”
Brian said, “All the pieces were there, I needed someone who could put them together in the best possible way.”
Enter David Thoener.
“I started researching great engineers on the Internet and came upon Thoener’s bio. He’s been recording, producing and mixing for over 30 years and has credits on over 400 albums. You look back in the 70s and he’s working with John Lennon and David Bowie, the J. Geils Band and Aerosmith.” Brian chuckled, “I remember looking at all those albums, which also included Meatloaf, Cyndi Lauper, Blue Oyster Cult, AC/DC, and Jason Mraz, and thinking I wonder if he’d ever consider mixing this project?”
Though he didn’t think it was even possible that someone of Thoener’s caliber would have time, Brian sent one track to the email address he found online and said, “This Belmont freshman is self-producing his own 11-song concept-album, here’s one of the songs. We have a limited budget, is there any way you’d be interested?” Brian included the rough mix of Ben’s song, D.U.I., which has one of the strongest melodies and hooks on the album.
“I sent the email at like 3 A.M. and I had a reply when I got up the next morning. He said he really liked D.U.I. and would be willing to work with us on the budget because he had just finished up one project sooner than he expected.”
So, the “mix” of the album called “Fall” fell into place.
Thoener has his working studio in his home where he spent 15 to 20 hours per song. But when it comes to the final stages of listening, he prefers meeting his clients at Blue Grotto Sound in Brentwood, TN.
“This is one of the best sounding studios I’ve ever been in,” Thoener said. “I like to finalize all my mixes here when possible.”
Like many music studios of today, Blue Grotto consumes the basement of a posh Nashville home. The studio, designed and built by Carl Tatz, is warm and inviting. “The sound there is amazing,” said Ben.
Ben continued, “I loved working with David. He’s so good and I learned so much during this process. I hope we can work together again.”
As his dad and co-producer on this album, Brian savored every moment.
“I’ve loved working with Ben on this. I’ve loved seeing the way he thinks musically and watching him interact with the seasoned musicians he’s been able to work with to bring this album to life.”
So, here we are, gaining a rare glimpse into the very beginning of a very extraordinary musical career intersecting with a musical giant who has helped shaped the sound of artists for decades.
The release of “Fall by Ben Becker” is scheduled for June 16. Starting today you can pre-buy the digital album for $8.99 and get 5 of the 11 tracks immediately.
Every great story has a great beginning.
The genesis is the most magical part of a story.
And, we get to witness it….