The musical scene on campus is hoppin’, to say the least. Not only do we have KDIC and several on-campus bands, but Grinnell is lucky to have talented individuals who seek out performance venues and opportunities out of pure enjoyment. One such individual is Will Bennett ’13.
“Sometimes it just hits me, like I’m in the shower or something … I don’t really know how to describe it… other times I have to sit down, I tell myself ‘okay, I’m gonna write a song.’ And sometimes that turns out alright and sometimes it’s just bad news,” Bennett said.
Bennett started writing songs first and then picked up the guitar to accompany them. He now sits down with both a pick and a pencil, creating the lyrical and musical aspects of the song simultaneously.
Bennett’s songs have always been fictional. He started out with only comedic songs and although he has ventured into more serious territory, overall his music remains within a humorous framework. Bennett describes the rationale behind his comedic genre and is unafraid to admit the occasional setbacks inherent to a frequent performer.
“More than anything, [writing songs] is just fun. The first songs I started performing around campus were stupid funny songs: about meth and things of that nature,” Bennett said. “I think in part that was because I’d never really performed before and so I thought that even if I sucked, as long as I was funny it would be alright. I think to a certain degree that was true because I mess up all the time, and it all works out… The funny songs gave me the confidence to pursue other things, so now I’ve got some more serious songs.”
Bennett’s song-writing abilities are closely tied to his English major, seeing as they often follow a storyline.
“I have somewhat of a background as a fiction writer, so I have no problem making stuff up,” Bennett said. “I think [being an English major] helps the songs because most of the songs I write, even the really stupid ones, sort of tell a story.”
Bennett is considered a regular at Bob’s Open Mic. Many have heard his popular song “I’m In Love With A Prospie.” He explains the idea for this particular song came to him as a riff off the song “I’m in Love with a Stripper,” though he said, “I have no idea who sings that.”
Bennett’s musical taste has a wide range, though he gives most of his credit to alternative country singer Rhett Miller and also mentions The Replacements as another musical influence.
Bennet’s songs, though fictional, are often loosely based on events in his life. His song “Paloma” has a particularly interesting anecdote. Working with a local photographer over the summer, Bennet humorously recounted his reaction when he saw the name “Paloma” for a client requesting a senior picture.
“I never heard that name before, and I was like, ‘ya know what?’ I’m going to write a song about a girl named Paloma… I’ve never actually talked to her before, just edited her photos…saying that now, it sounds a little bit creepy,” Bennett said.
Although Bennett is most known for his individual performances, he has also explored Grinnell’s band niche. His first band was with alumnus Ethan Kenvarg ’12 and Arthur Richardson ’14. This past school year, he’s become a member of two new bands, one with John Seng ’14, Richardson, and Steven Petritis ’15. This semester he is in a Motown band with Yang West ’15 and others. Grinnell has given Bennett the opportunity to explore his musical side and for that he is very grateful.
“One thing I really like about the Grinnell community is that there are a lot of talented musicians who are interested in helping each other out, which is why you see a lot of people in different bands, a lot of people looking into collaborating and trying new things. So I’m thankful to be a part of that,” Bennett said.
Bennett does not try to construct deep and sentimental value to musical performance arts. He writes and plays songs because it’s fun, and he hopes to continue his music, even after college.
“I hope to make a career out of it, I guess. I know there are some people I talked to who think me being an English major is impractical,” Bennett said. “Not only am I an English major, but I want to be a musician, which is just about as impractical a post-graduation plan could be, but yeah. Take that, you cranky old man.”
Despite the prejudice of one old man and possibly many others, Bennett sees himself performing long after his graduation and thanks Grinnell for encouraging his musical passions and giving him this niche. If you’re interested in listening to fictional, humorous, and story-based music, go to Bob’s Open Mic and you’re almost guaranteed to see Will Bennett and his guitar