Garrin Benfield
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Garrin Benfield

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Singer/Songwriter


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Killer Improviser!"

" A killer improviser who can also write a song! One of the best under-sung singer/songwriters to emerge from the Bay Area in recent years. He's also a wicked guitarist and an awful nice human being well worth your concert going dollars"

-- Dennis Cook, December 2010 -

"Performing Songwriter"

"Questions not answers. The most adept writers know that this is where the attraction and meaning between artist and audience, bewteen art and interpreter exists. It's where a listener learns to identify with a song and interpret a personal text.

On his second release, Nowhere is Brighter, Garrin Benfield shines in this field. Through an organic, serious and simmering brand of rock that dabbles in folk and blues, Benfield asks the questions he can't answer and finds an audience in the process. "This record definitely represents a period in my life," Benfield says. "Being in transition in my relationships and also asking more questions than necessarily having answers. That's a big part of the lyrical content here. I'm asking alot of questions aloud and hoping that other people are wondering the same thing."

With excellent engineer Micahel Rodriguez (Boz Scaggs, Jallen Rix) at the production helm and a crew of guest musicians (including members of Bonnie Raitt and Ani DiFranco's bands, Counting Crows' Charlie Gillingham and Boz Scaggs himself), Benfield has crafted a standout set both sonically and lyrically.

Scaggs' smoldering solo on "The Sense that I Get" was a particular delight. "I had this bluesy tune and thought it would be great If I could get him to play guitar on it. Of course, he just came in, sat down in front of the board and played that solo and that was it. Just one take. He's underrated as a guitar player, I think. He's got the blues vocabulary for sure."

The halting, brooding title track exemplifies Benfield's open-ended approach to his lyrical message and gives the listener a peek into his and Rodriguez's recording process. "That one had a strange evolution. I never considered it finished," he says. " I had this little fragment and I brought it in. With the phrase 'Nowhere is brighter than here,' I was trying to express an optimistic idea: that it couldn't be any better than where I am. But Michael said, 'God, that is so damn depressing. If that's your happiest tune...' So the reason I ended up using it for the title of the record is because there's that tension there where you interpret that phrase."

As a lyricist, Benfield is confrontational and unflinchingly honest. This from-the-gut approach is set up perfectly by the smoldering opener "Hungry Ghost". "That phrase is a Buddhist idea," he explains. "It's a realm that, karmically, one can be reborn into where you can't find any fulfillment or happiness at all. It's depicted with these horribly mutilated creatures that are walking around hungry with these bloated bellies and it's really a gory hell realm. So I thought, 'Wow that's a pretty striking image,' and saw a correlation between that and this culture we live in where we're never satisfied and always consuming and wanting the next thing. Again, I don't want to pass too much judgement -- hopefully, it's more just observation." - Staff Writer

"All Music Guide"

Garrin Benfield sings and plays with authority on Nowhere Is Brighter, his wonderful follow-up to the Living a Dream release from 2000. "Hungry Ghost" is a strong opening track, anticipating guitars building up to the repeating chorus of "not enough." Many of these are relationship songs and "Hungry Ghost" is one of 11 titles where Benfield speaks his mind from the first person. It's hard to grasp if these are fictional or true events, but the singer's emotional frustration bubbles over on "Brother" and one can see why a significant other may pull a vanishing act on him: "You're my brother/But lately you're acting more like my mother/I can't drink/I can't smoke." Janis Joplin said to Dick Cavett, "How can you put down the people that love you?," and Benfield answers that question with pretty melodies, hooks, and lots of quiet anger. Sixteen songs and almost 70 minutes of music allow the singer/songwriter a chance to stretch his crisp melodies and precise lyrics into the three- to four-minute pop format that he finds so comfortable. It is really like a double album and the co-production by labelmate Michael Rodriguez is warm and clear, pulling you in on a song like "Will" with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young-style acoustics over a solitary vocal; different from the drive of most of the productions here, it has that lovely "Wooden Ships" feel that Jefferson Starship's Paul Kantner uses every night on-stage. This is West Coast music for sure, but with more of an edge than the J.D. Souther and Jackson Browne sounds of the '80s. Dark overtones keep things from getting too sweet, though "Tonight, I Know" is the Eagles meets the Raspberries, a light pop tune with George Harrison guitar lines and vocals kind of like Pete Ham from Badfinger. "The Sense That I Get" is pop/blues with Boz Scaggs showing up on additional rhythm guitar and the second solo. It swoops in like early Steve Miller Band before Miller went commercial and adds a nice change of pace. "Crazy Love"'s suspicion slides right into the Cajun guitars of "Brother." The latter part of the album abandons the radio-perfect sound of "Hungry Ghost" and "Tonight, I Know" for more traditional folk, making Nowhere Is Brighter a musically and lyrically deep record from a performer with a lot on his mind: seeking therapy and finding a focused outlet. - Joe Viglione

"Various Press Quotes"

Garrin’s CD Nowhere Is Brighter has been gathering enthusiastic praise from local and national media!

Acoustic Guitar: 'Top CDs of 2002'"A rising singer-songwriter, Benfield shines on a set of guitar-driven originals backed by Bonnie Raitt's band".

Performing Songwriter: "Nowhere Is Brighter is a lush, warm, intelligent record that stands on its own …Benfield has crafted an album replete with complex textures of both sound and lyric…Definitely an artist to watch, Benfield has the wits of a troubadour and the charm of a rock star."

All Music Guide: “crisp melodies and precise lyrics in the three - to four-minute pop format that [Benfield] finds so comfortable…a musically and lyrically deep record from a performer with a lot on his mind…”

Music Connection Magazine: “With hard-hitting rhythms and bluesy lyricism, the suite of songs features a notable cast of players including Boz Scaggs backing the convincing Benfield.”

San Francisco Examiner: " from the melodramatic, late-night underworld of San Francisco to the Gothic, back-country roads of Rural Kentucky, we recognize the desires and resignations of the characters Benfield writes about. And despite the fact that the acoustic guitar is his primary instrument, he plays rock n’ roll on it with the tenacity and boldness typically reserved for a Fender Strat...on the verge of something big.”
Tampa Weekly Planet: “an enthralling mix of musical storytelling and superior talent!”

QSF Magazine: "Benfield's music is filled with passionate emotion, tales both painful and uplifting are conveyed with a style and spirit rarely found in contemporary young performers. He's incredibly talented..."

Eugene Oregon Weekly: “Benfield entertained crowds with his honest, soulful style, percolating rhythms and poignant outlook”

Montreal Hour: ‘3 1/2 Stars’ “Things are looking up for Benfield… no impediments genre-wise. Lets call it a polished, contemporary folk sound with broad parameters”

San Francisco Chronicle: “Borrowing musicians from Bonnie Raitt’s posse, Benfield performs soothing, bluesy pop…”

For more reviews and other information about the artist, please visit
- Various Editorial Staff

"Performing Songwriter"

"Forget that Boz Scaggs contributes some guitar to this record. Forget that members of Ani DiFranco and Bonnie Raitt's bands as well as Counting Crows (Charlie Gillingham) are here. San Francisco artist Garrin Benfield's Nowhere Is Brighter is a lush, warm, intelligent record that stands on its own without the crutches of famous names. Benfield has crafted an album replete with complex textures of both sound and lyric. The easy pace of his phrasing and his slurring melodies are reminiscent of Live's Ed Kowalczyk and sit comfortably over thick, grooving mid-tempo tracks with flair and soul, like the sexy opener "Hungry Ghost." Definitely an artist to watch, Benfield has the wits of a troubadour and the charm of a rock star." - Staff Review - Top 10 CD Selection

"Freestylin Acoustic Style"

Singer/songwriter Garrin Benfield bills his band as "acoustic rock." Benfield is a stellar artist with a distinctive guitar style, even his acoustic-based stuff is electric in nature. He uses lots of effects in a subtle and complex fashion that gives the music an eerie, spacey feel. Benfield has released three albums thus far, the most recent being August Live, a concert recording from his tour opening for Boz Scaggs in 2003. Bassist Joshua Zucker and drummer Russ Gold lay down some solid rhythms for Benfield's soaring vocals and his meandering, melodic soloing.

August Live also highlights Benfield's finely crafted songs with tracks such as "Hungry Ghost" and the eloquent "To Know," marked by delightful harmonies. There's also a nice cover of Stephen Foster's "Hard Times." The band's music has a kind of Dave Matthews meets Crosby and Nash groove with Benfield showing licks as dexterous as those of the late Michael Hedges." - Relix Magazine

"August Live"

The latest album and first live release of young singer/songwriter Garrin Benfield is simply titled August Live 03. This time Garrin is backed by a band made up of bassist Joshua Zucker and drummer Russ Gold. Benfield was raised in Westchester, NY but now makes his home in San Francisco, CA. The youngest of nine kids, his first major musical influence was hearing the Beatles' second album as well as Bob Dylan and CSNY.

Upon first listen I was impressed with the virtuosity of Benfield's guitar, as well as his honest and clear voice. He reminds me of David Gray on vocals and John Mayer on guitar. What sets him apart from most pop singer/songwriters is his lead guitar playing, on both acoustic and electric, which is very strong. I would classify his music as guitar-driven folk rock. Garrin and band have been touring extensively since 2000, when he released his debut, Living a Dream. Having seen him live recently I can attest to his charisma onstage--he's a striking looking young man, with the chops to back it up.

Most of the tunes on the album are originals, with a few covers thrown in. Some of the songs in this live release also appeared on his second CD, Nowhere is Brighter, which featured guest appearances by Boz Skaggs and members of Bonnie Raitt's band. This live set is a mixture of folk rock and pop tunes with pleasing vocals, insightful lyrics, and appealing guitar playing. Highlights include the catchy "Hungry Ghost," the story-song "Another Hour to Kill," the incredible hook of "Crazy Love," and a cover of the traditional "Hard Times." The buzz about Benfield is starting to build: some of these tunes have already found airplay on radio stations in San Francisco and elsewhere."

"A Must See From San Francisco"

"Garrin Benfield is a road warrior who has performed with Boz Scaggs, The Mother Hips and Buckwheat Zydeco. His material, described as "freestyle acoustic rock," is earthy, etheral and innovative. Sounding like Jeff Buckley meets Steven Stills meets neil Young, Benfield also channels the Beatles with a "Norwegian Wood" vibe that shimmers through most of his songs. Mellow yet intense, the music has a psychedelic quality that is compelling and exciting in an unpredictable way. Acoustic, maybe, but Benfield's approach to songwriting is much more than one expects from an acoustic artist.
Primarily a guitarist who also happens to be a singer, Benfield utilizes a duplicator that repeats his riffs so that he can build arrangements live. Borrowing somewhat from Joseph Arthur's technique, Benfield loops strands of music together and manages to get a band-like sound to create sound-scape excursions that are truly mind blowing. Benfield's playing is phenomenal and his voice is that of a wounded angel, seeping with emotion that projects the pain, alienation, anguish and hope of his songs.
A warm, confident performer, Garrin Benfield related well with his audience, who shouted encouragement between tunes. Though he has a quiet demeanor and, for the most part allowed his music to do the talking, Benfield exposed enough of himself to matter. Indeed, this was obviously an artist with something to say and the talent to make it count.
Seasoned and relaxed, Benfield comes across like a real pro. His music is what's really special about him. This is a player who is not only inventive, he's inspiring. A musician's musician, Benfield is a must-see act for anyone who mistakenly thinks solo artists are limited. Benfield will blow that preconception right out of your mind." - Music Connection


Where Joy Kills Sorrow, August Live, Nowhere is Brighter, Living A Dream



“The Wave Organ Song” is Garrin Benfield’s fifth full length CD of original songs. He gained notice in 2000 with his stark tribute to Matthew Shepard, “What You’re Hiding”, which was used in a production of the Laramie Project. In 2002, after recording his second CD, “Nowhere is Brighter” with Bonnie Raitt’s rhythm section and guest Boz Scaggs, Benfield took up a relentless touring schedule, both as a solo artist and with his band. Some of these increasingly improvisation-heavy sets were documented on the 2003 release “August Live”. 2004 saw the release of “Where Joy Kills Sorrow”, and Benfield’s first foray into live improvisational looping, which enabled him to tour solo but with added layers of beats, bass lines and the searing lead guitar Benfield’s hardcore fans have come to expect. Playing eclectic sets at hundreds of shows every year, Benfield has become an underground favorite at festivals, rock clubs, coffeehouses and house concerts.

Garrin Benfield's sound has been described as Freestyle Acoustic Rock. His music is a blend of moody, guitar driven rock and polyrhythmic groove all run through the filter of a very serious Singer/Songwriter. His talent shines through as a solo artist when he flat-picks his way through complicated and lightning-fast arrangements and also while he uses a Loop Station to create mesmerizing soundscapes upon which he lays blistering rock, blues and jazz licks, darkened by his extensive use of effect pedals. As a bandleader, Garrin can command the attention of seasoned players and improvise with the dexterity and ingenuity of players many years his senior. Improvisation is at the center of a Garrin Benfield concert experience. Whether at a solo show or at a full band event, Garrin twists and turns the tunes each night in an ever-evolving attempt to keep searching for new musical challenges.

Be sure to see the youtube clips below!!

Garrin has been touring nationally for ten years and has played many of North America's best music venues.

Some Highlights:

West Coast:

The Fillmore (SF, CA)
Great American Music Hall (SF, CA)
Mountain Winery (Saratoga, CA)
Humphrey's by the Bay (San Diego, CA)
The Freight and Salvage (Berkeley, CA)
Yoshi's (SF, CA)
The Independent (SF, CA)
Cafe DuNord (SF, CA)
Tractor Tavern (Seattle, WA)

East Coast:

Joe's Pub (NYC, NY)
Arlene's Grocery (NYC, NY)
The Living Room (NYC, NY)
The Bitter End (NYC, NY)
The Towne Crier (Pawling, NY)
Iron Horse (Northampton, MA)
The Paradise Rock Club (Boston, MA)
Bluebird Cafe (Nashville, TN)
Eddie's Attic (Atlanta, GA)
Cactus Café (Austin, TX)

Garrin has been performing regularly at festivals around the country, including:

The High Sierra Music Festival (CA)
Telluride Bluegrass Festival (CO)
American River Festival (CA)
Blue Ridge Harvest Fest (GA)
Bobolink Festival (CA)
Solstice Festival (CA)
Promise For Peace Festival (CA)
Dogwood Festival (GA)
SF/San Diego/Central Coast/Santa Rosa/Santa Cruz Pride Festivals (CA)

In addition to hundreds of solo and full band shows around the country, Garrin has shared the stage with numerous headlining acts, and was asked to open for Dan Bern, Boz Scaggs, Kaki King, Rickie Lee Jones, and Page McConnell of Phish among many others. Bonnie Raitt's backing band (who added their sounds to Garrin's second album, "Nowhere is Brighter") round out the list of great artists that Garrin has had the pleasure of collaborating with during his career.

Garrin was named “One of the Artists You Must See Live” by, the internet's premier source of information for live and improvisational music, and his CD Where Joy Kills Sorrow was awarded the "Best Release of 2004" in the Male Singer/Songwriter Category by the Indie Acoustic Project. Garrin's CD “Nowhere is Brighter” was named a 'Top 10 CD of 2002' by Acoustic Guitar and Performing Songwriter Magazines. As well, music from that disc was selected for inclusion on numerous compilation recordings including one for Not In Our Name that included Ani DiFranco, Michael Franti and others.

About Benfield's Live Show:

Benfield's shows center on his quirky pop melodies but are stretched by Garrin into improvisational explorations into new territory each night. Familiar songs are often twisted and contorted into gorgeous new creations that leave audiences breathless. At once organic and eclectic, Garrin's shows are an experience as much as they are a musical concert! Utilizing electronic effects and a loop station, audiences find themselves grooving to atmospheric rhythms and settling back into Benfield's soothing vocal style. When the whole band is cooking, Benfield seamlessly blends his compositional skills with his improvisational ones, making old songs seem new. His thought-provoking lyrics and orchestral arrangements are constantly refurbished but are never over-shadowed by the endless noodling characterized by many in the neighboring jam-Band genre.


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