Bob Bennett
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Bob Bennett

Costa Mesa, California, United States

Costa Mesa, California, United States
Solo Folk Acoustic

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"ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER"

ORANGE POP
Robert Kinsler

Although a number of artists have increasingly weighed in with comments about the 2-year-old war on terror and recent events in Iraq, Bob Bennett has a much more direct connection to events than many of the better-known actors and musicians whose comments are prime fodder for talk shows and Internet news sites.

Bennett has been performing and recording his intensely personal songs for more than two decades. The La Palma resident, who released his latest effort, "The View From Here," on Canadian label Signpost Music, has a son who has been serving with the Marine Corps in Iraq since April.

"Paul celebrated his 22nd birthday (May 3) in Iraq," Bennett said in an interview this week.

Bennett's 2002 release features songs detailing his faith ("Defiant Lamb," "Still Rolls the Stone"), family ties ("A Life That Is Not My Own") and how the dreams of childhood and realities of adulthood collide ("The Kings of Summer Street").

However, emotions surrounding his son's deployment with the Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion are chronicled in "My Heart Across the Ocean," a song he wrote just days after Paul was sent to participate as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"We're on the parental side of the equation; it's a very unexpected feeling. There is intense pride (for their service), but constant anxiety for their safety," said Bennett, who has always been able to document his experiences in his folk material. His debut was released in 1979 on the Maranatha! label, and his second release, "Matters of the Heart," was released by CBS' Priority Records and rated the top album of 1982 by CCM Magazine.

"I love songwriting. The older I get, I keep reshuffling the same musical deck," Bennett mused.

In truth, life seems to keep infusing Bennett with plenty of experiences to fuel the growth needed to keep his songs relevant.

While a number of Bennett's CDs are for sale on his Web site, he is giving away copies of "My Heart Across the Ocean" and even encouraging the duplication of the disc among families who have loved ones serving overseas.

"I knew I wanted to make it available to families. I recorded it quickly so I could get it online. I am sending it out free to anyone who has a military connection, or anyone can download it for free off my Web site," Bennett said.

"I'm telling people to shamelessly duplicate," said Bennett, adding that he has mailed out about 250 copies of the song on CD to families who don't have the ability to download the song and burn it to CD on their own.

Bennett knows that electronic reproduction and free distribution of his song may ultimately help music fans discover his intimate and beautiful folk style on a range of wonderful discs. But Bennett is more hopeful that the song will bring comfort to families like his own.

"I'd like to think some of the things I say are meaningful," Bennett said.

Bennett is a Christian and frequently performs at churches, but shies away from being labeled strictly a Christian music artist.

"I always tell people if you're coming from a religious perspective, you have the freedom and obligation to write about everything; from the tapestry of doing the laundry to 'How Great Thou Art.'"

In "My Heart Across the Ocean," Bennett is not necessarily arguing for or against war, but sings truthfully about the feelings he has as a parent and how the outside world proves to be a largely uncaring backdrop. The song's lines include: "Planes and tanks and satellite phones / Flashing across on our TVs / But we still have commercials in between / The Wall Street scores and the casualties."

In 1991, Bennett's "Songs From Bright Avenue" dealt largely with his painful divorce and its effect on not only him, but his three children (in addition to son Paul, he has another son, 19-year-old Colin, and a daughter, 16-year-old Katie). For now, he is hopeful for the safe return of his son this year and completing another album, likely for release in 2004.

"Obviously, I'm 48; unless something dramatic happens, I won't be anyone's flavor of the month. A guy like me can function outside the machinery of the music business."

For more information or to hear "My Heart Across the Ocean," visit www.bob-bennett.com.

- (September 2003)


"MEDIA INTERVIEWS?"

I always appreciate the opportunity to talk with the media (radio, newspapers, magazines, TV). For two years (1987-89), I co-hosted a three-hour morning drive talk show here in the Greater Los Angeles area. I'd like to think I can give a decent interview and string together a few meaningful sentences that will spark some interest in my appearance and draw listeners to the venue. I also love to do live music on-the-air and, when workable, to take phone calls from listeners. Of course I love sleep, but please know that I'll get up at any ungodly hour necessary to help promote our working together. I want us both to win big and I am more than willing to do my part. - Absolutely!


"CONCERT REVIEW"

Bob Bennett
First Baptist Church
Babylon, NY
November 16th 2002
by Chris MacIntosh aka Grandfather Rock

It had been twenty three years since I had seen Bob Bennett in concert so I was looking forward to this show with a great deal of anticipation. It was the type of concert that I only found out about two days ahead of time so I didn't get a lot of time to get ready for it. I dread going to concerts in churches because they are usually hosted by youth group leaders who haven't got a clue as to what decent music is and wouldn't know a good song if it came up and bit them in the butt. This evening was different though because the concert host was a long time fan of Bob and his music. Mr. Bennett is something of an anomaly in that although he is a brilliant singer songwriter and a master guitarist, he has never made it big in the CCM industry. In one sense that is a shame because not a lot of people have been exposed to his music. On the other hand though it has left him free to write songs of honesty and integrity, which his new label, Signpost Music, out of Canada is letting him do without hindrance.

Bob took to the stage and proceeded to regale an appreciative audience with sixteen songs of faith, loss, sorrow, triumph and joy. From the first note to the last this master story teller had the audience eating out of the palms of his hands. We laughed, we cried and sat in awe at the tales of wonder and amazement that were set before us that evening. One thing that I was reminded of was just what an exceptionally fine guitarist that this guy is. If he ever decided to give up the vocal portion of his performance, I would still go just to hear him play his guitar, it was a joy just watching the fun that he was having playing his instrument. After the concert was over Bob hung out for over an hour talking to fans and signing CD's for his fans. If you ever get a chance to see him play around your area do not pass it up. Check out his website at www.bob-bennett.com. - http://www.phantomtollbooth.com


"USATODAY.COM"

Last September, USA Today covered the Mountain Stage NewSong Festival in Charles Town, WV. I was a finalist in the song competition and was featured in an online media presentation (see URL above). Click on SOME OF THE MUSICIANS to find me and then check out the rest of the "story" ... a fine survey of the event and the many different musicians drawn from across the country. - www.usatoday.com/life/graphics/new_song/flash.htm


"ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION"

Excerpt from an article by John Blake about "image" displacing emphasis on artistry in the Gospel Music business:


The result [of this phenomenon] is that the Christian record industry overlooks artists with undeniable gifts. A frequently cited example is singer Bob Bennett. He is a musical giant among Christian musicians, a superb guitarist and songwriter. One of his albums was recently voted among the best Christian albums of all time by CCM (Christian Contemporary Music) Magazine.

Bennett doesn't have a record deal, however. He once recorded with five smaller Christian labels but now promotes his music with his Web site and concerts. A self-described "big and burly man," he wonders if his career would be different if he had that "look."

"It goes through my mind," he says from his home in Los Angeles. "I've always had this fantasy of sending my music to a record company and including someone else's picture and seeing if I would ever get a response," he says.
- (May 18, 2001)


"QUICK FACTS ABOUT BOB"

Learned guitar at age ten, began writing songs shortly thereafter.

Eight solo albums released from 1979 on CBS, EMI, others. Latest is The View from Here, released June 2002 on Signpost Music in Canada.

Written with Don Henry, Tom Prasada-Rao.
Songs covered by Glen Campbell, Kelly Willard.
Performed with Ashley Cleveland, Amy Grant, Barry
McGuire, Billy Sprague, Bruce Carroll, Carolyn Arends,
Michael Card, Sara Groves, and Steve Bell.
Recorded with David Wilcox, Pierce Pettis, Billy Crockett,
Fernando Ortega, Michael Kelly Blanchard

Lifelong career as a performing/recording musician (with two years as a radio talk-show host in the Southern California market where he lives).

"My Heart Across the Ocean", a song Bob wrote for his son who served in Iraq from April to October 2003, is available online for free to anyone and free on CD to military personnel, their families and friends. Over 2,500 discs mailed out or given away at concerts.

Song also featured in Winter 2005 print and CD editions of Sing Out!

Chosen to Showcase at Winterfolk III (February '05 ... Toronto)

"The Kings of Summer Street" (written with Don Henry): 6th Annual Great American Song Contest Outstanding Achievement in Songwriting Award (2005)
- For Busy Press People


"NEWS-ENTERPRISE"

THE INSURANCE AGENT & THE FOLK MUSICIAN
By Holly Cecil

Before the Beatles made it big, Bob Bennett was listening to his brother's Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary albums at home in California. "That's where I got my love of folk and acoustic," Bennett said. It's a love that stayed with him his whole life. At 10, he wrote his first song, "Echoes of Freedom." He doesn't play it anymore. "It wasn't performance worthy past 11 or 12 or something like that," he joked. Through his adult years, Bennett continued to strum folk cover tunes on his guitar, write his own music and gained confidence as a singer/songwriter.

About 1977, he had a conversion experience that changed his life and slightly adjusted his music. "I got serious about being a Christian and about going to church, so I started to write a lot about the different things I was experiencing," he said. "I tell people I'm sort of a folk singer with a pretty specific Christian world view." Still in the folk music genre, Bennett's music took on the spiritual underpinnings of a man who began to see spiritual significance even in the smallest and unholiest of circumstances - everyday life.

"That's where the drama is," he said.

That's one reason local State Farm Insurance agent TJ Rhoades loves Bennett's music, and decided this year, he wants to share it with the rest of the Elizabethtown community. It has cost Rhoades roughly $5,000 to bring Bennett to the local stage, but it's been worth it, Rhoades said. "He's kind of been a musical hero of mine," he said. "The cost of this has been worth it to get to know him." Rhoades followed Bennett's music through the years, but eventually lost track of him. Recently, he Googled him on the Internet, found Bennett's Web site and asked him to come to Elizabethtown.

Also a sponsor of the annual Master Guitar Series, Rhoades enjoys music and said as far as acoustic music and songwriting are concerned, it's hard to compare to Bennett. "People need to hear his music," Rhoades said. "It's acoustic, more folk," he said. "Great voice, great guitar player."

Rhoades also thought Bennett might be welcomed by the local audience for a different reason - a song he wrote called "My Heart Across the Ocean." Bennett wrote the song when his oldest son, Paul, a Marine Reservist, was deployed to Iraq from April to October 2003. He makes it available to military members and their families at no cost either by free download from his Web site, www.bob-bennett.com, or by contacting Bennett through his Web site for copy by mail. It almost was a sense of civic duty that compelled Bennett to write and distribute the song, he said. "I have a distinct memory of looking back in old Life magazines from during World War II. There was such a spirit of let's everybody do our part," Bennett said. "If I was a baker, maybe I would have baked more bread to give away."

Now 50, Bennett has worked with record labels in the past and seen success on the CCM and folk music circuits. His first release came in 1979 with his folk-style album "First Things First," followed by "Matters of the Heart," voted 1982's album of the year by Contemporary Christian Music Magazine, which also ranked it among the top 20 contemporary Christian albums of all time. He later opened for Amy Grant on her "Unguarded" tour. His follow-up releases included two No. 1 songs. The years that have followed find him in the mainstream folk circuit in California. His last album, "The View from Here" was released in 2002.

He now takes what he calls a "grass roots" approach to music. "The Internet age is probably the most interesting and productive time to be a do-it-yourself artist. You can completely circumvent the existing music structure," he said. E-mail allowed Rhoades to contact Bennett and the two have become friends. While in Elizabethtown, Bennett will give two performances at Plum Alley Theater in the Historic State Theater Complex, topping off both nights with an after-show meet and greet at Backstage Café, beginning at 10 p.m.

Bennett always makes an effort to be available after a show, but rarely is it a planned and structured gathering as in this case. "It's a great way to meet and greet people," he said. "We're thinking we might even pass around the guitar and hang out and visit. It's just an extension of what I do onstage. For Saturday night's performance Bennett will be joined onstage by world-renowned guitarist Pat Kirtley. To defray some of the cost of bringing Bennett's music to Elizabethtown, there is an admission charge for the two shows at Plum Alley Theater. Friday's performance is geared more toward churches in the area; the cost is $5 plus a voluntary offering. Admission to Saturday's performance, which is marketed to the public, is $15.

But, Rhoades doesn't expect to make a profit, or even to recoup all of what he spent. "If someone wants to come and can't afford it, I'll let 'em in for free," Rhoades said. "It's something I set aside as my gift to the community," he said. "I like supporting the arts in the community. It's not something I can do every year, but it's something I want to do."

Sunday morning, Bennett will play before two services at First Christian Church on Mulberry Street. Visiting local churches is something Bennett always tries to do when he travels.

Though his music has been classified as Christian contemporary or folk, he admits the Christian message is secondary to entertaining and reaching out to people who share in his everyday life experiences. "I always have a hope that my music will point people toward Jesus, but I don't feel like I've lost a sale if I don't," he said. "People's interpretation of what I do is out of my hands. "I just try to communicate as well as I can, as honestly as I can," he said.

- (July 14, 2005 - Elizabethtown, KY)


Discography

SOLO ALBUMS:
First Things First (Maranatha 1979)
Matters of the Heart (CBS Priority 1982)
Non-Fiction (EMI CMG 1985)
Lord of the Past: A Compilation (Urgent, 1989)
Songs from Bright Avenue (Urgent 1991)
Small Graces (Word 1997)
The View from Here (Signpost 2002)
COLLECTIONS:
Christmas in Our Time (Urgent 1989)
Fast Folk Los Angeles (Fast Folk 1993)
SINGLES:
My Heart Across the Ocean (2003)
BOOK CONTRIBUTION:
Between the Strings (Mel Bay 2004)
Includes Bob's Essay "Thankin' the
Lord for My Fingers"
MAGAZINES:
Sing Out! (Winter '04-'5)
Featured "My Heart Across the Ocean"
Blue Rock Review Arts Journal
Featured Bob's article
"Anorexic Waiter/Grateful Listener"

IF YOU'VE ACTUALLY READ ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THIS POINT, THANKS! :-)

Photos

Bio

This isn't a Biography; it's actually sort of an Autobiography.

Regardless of who writes a press kit bio, it's supposed to be a magical document that dazzles the reader in a few short paragraphs. Whether you're a club owner, journalist, festival producer, or Cub Scout Den Mother, this little piece of paper is supposed to be a big part of my probably-just-one shot with you. So here goes ...

Essentially except for a couple years co-hosting a radio talk show here in Los Angeles, I've been at music full-time for about forty years. Yet I'll probably be a total newcomer as far as you're concerned. Why? Because for all that time I've been playing mostly in churches, admittedly an almost entirely parallel universe to the folk music world I'd like to be introduced to.

Although I've had (and still have) a good measure of success in gospel music, I've always felt as though my songs deserved a wider hearing. Writing both "horizontal" and "vertical" songs is simply not the accepted norm in the "Christian music" genre where orthodoxy and "all Jesus all the time" is literally the coin of the realm. Please don't misunderstand ... I love doing church work, I still do it whenever I can and it's my honor to try to take a little of acoustic, good-song-centric music to audiences that rarely hear that sort of thing.

Yet given some of the nonsense perpetrated by some religiously minded folks, how could I not be anything but sympathetic if your first question might be, "Is this guy gonna pull one of those patented bait-and-switch, trapped-at-an-Amway-presentation-for-Christ deals?" The answer is: No, I'm a songwriter, not a propagandist. I simply sing about what matters to me across the board, hoping and trusting that audiences will find a place for themselves in my songs.

So what can you expect from me? What do I actually do? What are my songs about? I write about little league, the blessings and challenges of family and friends, failing and succeeding at love. Selfishness and building community, the shifting sands of faith and doubt, hope and hopelessness living next door to each other in the same neighborhood. Romance in youth and romance for grown-ups, conflict and peacefulness, walking in circles and never looking back along a straight path. Self-knowledge and self-delusion, having fun and, where appropriate, even making fun. All of these seemingly contradictory things are present with us and inside of us ... whether we're on the highest mountaintop or in dreariest laundromat.

If I hope to give any gift to listeners, it would simply be this: to assume that folks don't need me to tell them anything. I'm happy when anyone takes a little time to interact with my songs. The audience always does me the larger favor of listening. My songs don't find their true purpose until they escape the atmosphere of my own understanding and cross over to what others hear and understand for themselves.

I really, really love my job. I try to do some good along the way. And, of course, I like to pay the bills whenever possible. I'm appreciative every time a presenter gives me a place on their stage. I want the audience, those behind-the-scenes and those who are hiring me to be happy and ready for me to come back!

SHAMELESS NAME-DROPPING DEPARTMENT:
In addition to the folks quoted elsewhere, some people I've worked with, appeared with or had songs covered by are Amy Grant, Barry McGuire, Billy Sprague, Carolyn Arends, David Wilcox, Don Henry, Fernando Ortega, Glen Campbell, Michael Card, Sara Groves and Steve Bell.

Band Members