BELLAIRE – Growing up in Big Rapids, Austin Benzing got involved in theater productions as a child, bought a guitar when he was 10, and started writing songs as a teenager.
With influences as diverse as country George Jones, heavy metal Metallica, bluegrass Punch Brothers, jazz Julian Lage, and jam band Umphrey’s McGee, Benzing hasn’t surprisingly dived into a variety of musical styles in recent years with western Michigan groups such as The Turnips and Avocadsquad.
As the co-leader of the Benzing-Graves collective of Grand Rapids – which plays Short’s Brewing in Bellaire at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, September 17 – he has also teamed up with acclaimed singer Hannah Rose Graves for roots and American material appearing. on the group’s debut album which is slated to be completed by the end of 2021.
But before that, Benzing takes the solo spotlight: the 27-year-old’s recording, “Steady Your Nerves”, is officially released on September 25.
âMy solo album contains eight tracks exploring the boundaries of country music, all recorded at La Luna Recording & Sound in Kalamazoo,â Benzing said, noting that the project includes contributions from Graves, Joe Hettinga and members of The Turnips and Ultraviolet Hippopotamus.
The twangy affair boasts classic country harmonies, searing instrumentals and heavier, rock bursts.
Conceding that he has caught “a touch of this country bug” for his next outing, Benzing intends to make his music and his work with Benzing-Graves Collective a full-time occupation.
âIn the long term, my goal is to keep playing and writing original songs until I can fully support myself in the performance,â he said. âI feel like the Benzing-Graves Collective has found its place in bridging the gap between the country, soul and jam communities.
“In two years, I see the band and my solo projects on tour and at festivals and venues across the country.”
This includes places like Short’s Brewing, one of the many northern Michigan venues or festivals the band has performed at this summer.
âI can’t wait to play Short’s Brewing since I saw Vulfpeck (Ann Arbor) there,â Benzing said. “I have been playing in Northern Michigan for years and am delighted to meet and see fans new and old at Short’s.”