We met Ben on possibly one of the hottest days in Charleston. Now, it could've been the sun or it could’ve the flames coming from the songs they played us, either way, it was fire, ha! (let us be cornballs today, ok). Ben Whitney is only 19 years old and he may be one of the smoothest voices you’ll hear over guitar riffs this side of South Carolina. He took a chance on his music career, dropping out of college, after making some comedic song videos and realizing he actually had a knack for music. Though he never took singing lessons, playing instruments is kind of in his blood. The self taught singer has linked up with South Carolina’s powerhouse producer Donovan Kinloch of Twin D Studio’s and the two have made magic ever since. There’s actually a funny story about how a pair of Yeezy’s jump started Ben’s singing career but we’ll let him tell you the rest. Tribe, welcome Ben Whitney.
Who is Ben and when did you fall in love with your art?
I see myself as...before I did. Us if I just saw myself as a funny, athletic dude, but now people see me as a good singer, a good performer, so I guess it's a good mix of both now. But I really love music & when I write. I was probably like 5 or 6 and I found out my dad was in a band when he grew up so I was like man, I gotta learn to play drums, so I taught myself. I performed at my 4th grade talent show, but about 5 or 6 months ago I was like, I can actually do this music thing.
How did you get started and how did you and D link up?
Music? That's really all I do right now. Ever since I got back from school my dad realized how music is so time consuming and he was like I'll give you gas money here and there, you just go record music and you don't have to have a job, I'll just help you out. But by the time this day comes and you aren't making money off music, then you'll have to get a job. So I was like cool. Now Twin helps me and we’re making money now. We’re doing shows and now we’re selling merch and the [new] music is coming soon.
[As far as how we met.]
I made the song before MLK day, and [my friends] were like yo you actually sound pretty good and I was like really? So I started taking singing more seriously when I got back from Orlando. I called like, 6 producers and [D] was the only one that answered. That was MLK day. I was like yo, I'm just trying to get input of what you think of my music and he was like, alright, cool. Then he called me like 3 hours later like, did you email me? And he refreshed and was like never mind, I got it, then called back and I told him to come to the studio, so he did. He told me the price was like, $75 an hour, but I have to be in a minimum of 2 hours so I sold a pair of Yeezys and got like, $125 so I said it should work. I just wanted to talk to him and show him what I wrote but he said lets record. 8 hours later, we had our first song and it sounded pretty dope so he asked again, “what else you got?” And I was like dude I don't have money like that (laughs) and he goes nah dude, don't worry about it right now we’ll be getting it back soon. Since then we’ve just been recording, making hits, we’ve been doing this about 5 or 6 months now.
How many instruments do you play?
I played trumpet in like, 8th grade, picked up the guitar about 1 or two years ago, I taught myself on YouTube, and I've been playing drums forever. I just started singing, I never had lessons.
What outside hobbies or interests influence your creative process?
I'd have to say wrestling and soccer? Just because wrestling is more than just beating somebody up, it's a lot of dedication and if you want something you're gonna get it, so I try to put that towards my music and everything I do. Like, I went out and called a bunch of people, I wanted to start something since I dropped out (of school) and I had nothing to do, so I said I'll find a way to make some music.
Originally what were you going to college for?
I went for sports management and...I'm not that good at school (laughs). The only reason I got in was because of wrestling, on a scholarship, so I left. I went in during a midterm, then I went down to Orlando to meet up with a buddy who was a stand up comedian and I played guitar. I was like dude, let's do some comedy songs, and that's really where it kicked off. We recorded in his friend's room, who was a producer, and yea, it was pretty funny.
What do you pull from your childhood that inspires your music?
Probably my parents splitting when I was young. Everyone expects you to be upset or mad at the world if that happens so I just tried to reverse it and put out good, positive vibes and try to make the best of everything. I just like to switch things up. Instead of writing about relationships all the time I'll write about a good day or finding yourself.
Lyric wise, what is the main focus of your latest project?
Definitely good vibes for now. Not mainstream but mainstream enough for people to give it a listen. Once I've made all my good vibe songs then I'll get into detail about the different things that have happened in my life. Stuff like that will be on the album but the ep is coming soon with just upbeat, poppy songs with good vibes.
If you could compose a band of artists, who would you pick? Both living and beyond?
Am I in the band?
ok no so, John Mayer on lead guitar/vocals, Phil Collins on the drum set. I'd put my uncle Steve on the bass, he's crazy good, and then I'd put Stevie Wonder on the keys.
Who’s your favorite artist instrument wise?
Like my influences? John Mayer on guitar, all day. Also Van Halen’s crazy good, and the bass player from Red Hot Chili Peppers, I don't know his name. John Mayer’s drummers are always good, Quentin Ravenel, he's nasty and he's from here, and I really like Stevie Wonder and Billy Joel.