Benyaro: The Soloist That Is a True Embodiment of Togetherness

Jennifer Striegel

April 21, 2022

Photography courtesy of Ben Musser.

Ben Musser.  A husband. A father. A brother. A son. A solo musician that has been on his musical journey since the beginning of his life’s journey.  It all started on the east coast, down a quiet street in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  As a son and brother, Ben grew up in a household quite the opposite of quiet.  Instead, filled with music.  “All I remember is listening to music”. His sister with her piano lessons.  His dad – a lawyer for will, deeds and estates – side hustling as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist (strumming cords versus playing solos).  His mother, formerly in a choir during her youth, filled the home’s inside airwaves with her own singing along to Carol King and The Coasters (to name just a few).  “Music was our family’s requirement.” 

Ben’s dad’s band, Pep Boys, gave him the opportunity to learn about other parts of being in a band, beyond actually playing an instrument or singing the cords, in the early days of his childhood.  He was exposed to sound checks… as those happened when young kids are still in their wake hours.  Pep Boys was a cover band for events, minus weddings. “I didn’t know then why they weren’t included, but I do now.”  There was an edginess allowance for the band playing at other events.  The primary goal was getting people to just get up and dance easily.  Yes, also true for weddings, just with different and more prescriptive parameters.  In hindsight, it’s as if Ben’s dad was the pioneer in promoting people to be their own movers and shakers. 

Ben didn’t immediately follow the guitar route in his musical journey.  At six years old he claimed that the drums would be his instrument of choice.  Then on his seventh birthday he acquired his first drum set.  He was first chair through middle school then incorporated guitar into his repertoire.  A jazz band president in high school and a second major of music in college.  That decision to add music to his academic career paved the way for Ben to see music as a potential professional future for himself.  

In June of 2021, Ben – known as Musser by his frat brothers and sports teammates – set off to backpack through Europe before settling into the real world.  September 11th happened for Musser abroad and he returned to the United States in October, a very different country then the one he had left the summer before.  He received a call from a bandmate in college, Scott Claassen, who was heading to Austin, Texas to pursue the music career they had talked so much about at school in the late nights into early mornings.  Ben felt it was a sign and immediately told his parents.  And in the opposite of what’s stereotypical of parental roles, mom was pensive… “How will you make a living?”  While dad – sensibly for the Musser family as a band guy himself… “Do it.  I wish I had.”  Arriving in Austin, Ben did include his mother’s advice too and took a short order cook job by day while nights were filled with him and Scott’s band practice.  The day job was flipping burgers, always being sure to add jalapenos to the burgers before serving them… which now seems very normal as jalapeno is otherwise known as a condiment staple, was unheard of by most in those days and especially for a bloke from Pennsylvania.  Ben’s background environment was not just the smoke from the flat top grill, grease and smell of jalapeno seeds, but also Austin’s AAA radio stations.  The AAA format, in hindsight, was foundational for Ben’s impressive diversification of genre capability in everything he creates and curates.  

Scott and Ben had two music styles they were promoting in Austin at the time.  One Latin Acoustic and one Rock.  Smartly, because the music types attracted two different audience sets, they created two different bands between themselves.  Minions and Ghost of Electricity.  While the different bands had different sound, look and feel, they practiced in the same location.  A classic Austin style garage band, sound proof and all…. “So we didn’t get kicked out of the place we also lived in.”

Two years later, the breakthrough Scott and Ben were hoping for, with either or both bands, wasn’t happening.  They needed and both wanted to be swimming with the big fish to determine once and for all if this music passion could also become their professional pastimes.  Ben started looking in New York, with apartments ready to go for him and Scott in Brooklyn.  Scott decided he was west coast bound and headed to LA on his own.  This decision Scott made for himself resulted in the true calling for Ben… but first solo pimping as a drummer.  While the exposure in NYC with other front people was valuable, it became abundantly clear to Ben that he could be his own front man.  So he busked on subway platforms, getting his own gigs in the Village. “Living and observing live crowds for free provided the ultimate challenge to get people to pay attention to me, through my voice. It was way more fun than practicing in a room to no one too… and of course provided nice fringe benefits socially.”  

“Living and observing live crowds for free provided the ultimate challenge to get people to pay attention to me, through my voice. It was way more fun than practicing in a room to no one too… and of course provided nice fringe benefits socially.” 

The way Ben speaks about the opportunities presented before him, right in front of his eyes, just waiting to be taken advantage of by anyone who sees them, is such a simple yet great reminder of how the world is here to give all of us a path to take and embrace.  Ben’s ability to make something tangible so easily is both refreshing and inspiring.

With all of the success coming from his own efforts wandering the underground world of NYC, Ben needed a name for his one man band.  He had always been a fan of band names.  He loved when bands described how their names came to being.  One late night it came to him.  “My name.  Ben.  There are so many Bens. Ben Kweller. Ben Taylor. Ben Folds. Ben Harper.  Ben Musser won’t work. Besides… Musser is my college nickname.  Hmm.  (Thought bubbles.  Words.)  Batman’s ‘Thwack.’  I do love a solid Italian type of shtick.  Benyaro.  That’s it.  It’s a vibe.  It’s my thwack vibe.”  

Benyaro started touring and it was indeed vibing.  So much so, in connecting with former college frat boys and teammates that were taking to the Benyaro transition as well, Ben met his now wife and mother of their two children, Camille Obering.  Suffice to state, there was no more need for the fringe benefit.   

 Now in 2022, residents of Wyoming (Camille’s birthplace and childhood home), Ben and Camille, a powerhouse couple and trailblazers in the artist advocacy space, both support Benyaro’s road to its holy grail.  Benyaro has its new album in the works with famed producer Scott Mathews (Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Van Morrison).  He’s simultaneously completed two contemporary artist installations as sound designer in the Guesthouse (private studio space for artists built and owned by Ben and Camille).  As well as keeping his ears and eyes out for his second film score.  Benyaro’s first, serendipitously from a 2013 chance meeting at Sundance where a producer Danny Kadar (Avett Brothers, My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses) was looking for music to accompany his feature narrative.  A dusty tale about a young man in the mountain west, specifically Colorado and Wyoming.  Not only was the scoring of the film an incredibly rewarding and career making experience, Danny went on to produce for Benyaro’s album.

Benyaro blends Electronica, Folk, Rock, Blues, and Country.  Expanding the boundaries of Acoustic music with a signature Indie attitude.  The style not only of the tunes, but Ben as a human being is contagious.  He somehow manages, as a solo artist, to invite everyone to his world.  That seamless integration of approachability with worldliness is one we should all be so fortunate to experience and balance ourselves.  In need to ‘score’ your next… Film?  Art install? Concert line up? Speakeasy headliner?  Follow Benyaro.com.  This soloist has a little bit of everything to invite to all of us.