By Derek Schlennstedt
Menzies Creek musician Benny Allen has been a long-time performer, largely in the alternative rock and indie scene.
But as he says when his wife left him, his dog died, and he lost his job – he did the only thing he could think of – and started playing country music.
It was that country music which has propelled Benny towards the opportunity of playing at the epicentre of country music in Australia, Tamworth.
Benny was one of two Victorians chosen to travel to Tamworth and be part of the highly prestigious CMAA Senior Academy of Country Music.
Each year the Country Music Association of Australia hosts a group of aspiring singers, songwriters and musicians at the Senior Academy of Country Music, where they undertake a world-class intensive music and business workshop under the guidance of some of the best country artists in Australia.
Benny, 41, has been playing music since he was 10 years old and said he was ecstatic to be chosen.
“The biggest thing is to get some direction to how you can potentially go about making a living from playing music,” he said.
“There are parts to do with song writing and there’s mentoring with experienced country music people, but as well there’s the business side of it.”
This is something Benny can relate to as he said he spent many nights when he was younger playing at pubs and bars, but was never able to break even.
“Going back to when I was younger and playing in punk bands, pop bands and playing at Metro Nightclub on Bourke Street, but then you have start working for a living.”
Recently though he has turned his attention to country music, and a new original single called Yellowstone is now being played over radio stations across Australia and America.
“As a musician you play your music, to find out other people like it especially original songs, it’s kind of surreal.”
Though Benny fell into the country music scene, he personifies much of that old-school country-esque music tradition.
With a custom-built piano that he made himself, he often throws it into the back of his ute when going to gigs around the Dandenong Ranges and says he will do just that when he goes to Tamworth.
“My weapon of choice is a piano, I’ve got a custom upright stage piano that I made and we load into the back of the ute – it’s something different to the traditional guitar and singer.”
The two-week long CMAA Academy of Country Music takes place ahead of the Tamworth Country Music Festival (TCMF), where all 29 students will perform an opening group performance.
Among the highlights for students at the academy is the chance to jam with Kasey Chambers.
To hear more of Benny’s work visit http://www.bennyallen.rocks/