As a producer, the artist known as BenCJones (pronounced to rhyme with the name of famed R&B producer Quincy Jones) has been around music most of his life, but it wasn’t until just a few years ago that the 35-year-old decided to begin writing and recording his own music. After years of producing other people’s material and co-writing the album from American Idol contestant Sarah Sellers, Jones released a well-received debut LP in 2019 called Just One Gun (a single from which made of that year). As difficult as it is to compete for folks’ already meager attention spans with an international health crisis and an unprecedented universal cry for social justice, many albums seemed to just sort of disappear into the ether upon release last year, including Jones’ sophomore effort, the full-length First They Get Your Money, but over the last several months, things have really started to pick up for the multi-instrumentalist. He was just selected to be highlighted by the Fort Worth Public Library’s local music showcase, Amplify 817. He received one of the city’s Sounds of Resilience songwriting grants last year. He was recently picked by Downtown Fort Worth Inc. for a series of city-sponsored “busking” performances around town, and now, to top it all off, he has brand new music dropping Friday.
“Better late than never,” he said with a laugh about his local ascension over the last year. “All these things [that have been happening] have definitely helped with validation, I suppose, and lets me know that I’m on the right path.”
He’s hoping that Disaster, his new EP of five songs written during the lockdown, is the next step up the ladder. Jones said he pushed himself into new territories, adopting different songwriting templates (he’s attempted a ballad and written love songs) as well as a detailed focus on his vocals.
“When [producer/recording engineer] Ty Macklin was mixing Just One Gun, he was like, ‘Man, your vocal mic is fucked up!’ ” Jones recalled with a laugh. “So I really wanted to work on it. I really focused on making my vocals — which I feel has been a weak spot for me — sound good, to give them a radio-ready quality.”
To achieve this, he enlisted local engineer/producer Peter Wierenga (Tornup, Sur Duda, Siberian Traps), whom he met at a New Year’s Eve party, “as a sort of vocal producer.”
Working with Wierenga, Jones said, “was great. He was really helpful in pushing me, like, ‘Yeah, this one is good’ or ‘Maybe try it this way’ or ‘You know, I think you can do this one better.’ I’m really proud of how they turned out.”
As well as venturing into new directions on Disaster, Jones incorporates some new sounds as well. Taking advantage of online session musician sites, he was able to select players to fill in the sonics he was hearing, ones that[,] despite playing many instruments himself, he could not manage on his own.
“I was talking with [fellow singer/songwriter] Ryker [Hall] about flutes,” Jones said. “I was like, ‘Man, I’m gonna get me some flutes on this project, and now I’ve got ’em on two tracks.”
Such lush and novel sounds do indeed help Disaster stretch into yet new musical directions, which is a signature element of Jones’ unique and varied sound.
“Yeah, man,” he said. “Doing the same sound isn’t something I can really get into.”
The EP’s title track blends a Baroque harpsichord into B.B. King-style minor blues. The mostly instrumental “Baby, Don’t You Fight It” is ushered along by hot sax and electric piano solos. “You,” the track that earned Jones the Sounds of Resilience grant, has an almost breezy island vibe. “Chase the Love” is a heartfelt piano ballad, a track that Jones said, lyrically, has a secret meaning: It’s about chasing the love of playing music rather than a partner.
Jones will celebrate Disaster’s release by performing on Saturday for Hear Fort Worth’s popup showcase at the Main Street Visitor Center. It’s another chance to hone his live chops, an area of being a singer-songwriter that he feels he’s still developing.
“Performing live, sounding good, being tight — it’s definitely something I’d like to do more of, to get better at,” he said.
Once it’s out, he’s hoping Disaster will allow him to continue to build upon the recognition he’s been receiving lately and help him find his place amid a scene he cares so much for.
“I’ve always wanted to be seen as a Fort Worth musician and for the city to embrace me,” he said, “and I finally feel that it is happening.”
6pm Sat at Main Street Visitor Center, 508 Main St, FW. Free. 817-698-3300.