You love Ben Rector’s music… you just might not have realized it yet. Called “exactly what the world needs” by The Collegian and praised for a sound that “perfectly encapsulates all the warm feelings” by People Magazine, this songwriting polymath has steadily built a following under the mainstream radar for close to a decade. In that time he has amassed over a billion streams across all platforms; played live on a number of national television shows, including Jimmy Kimmel, Conan, The Today Show, and more; had his music featured in over a hundred TV shows, ads, and films including Pretty Little Liars and Castle (his single “Brand New” is one of the most licensed songs for television and film in the last five years and was recently heard across national TV in the Croods 2 trailer); hit the number one spot on Billboard’s US Folk chart and the number nine spot on their top 200; sold out three consecutive nights at the legendary Ryman Auditorium as well as countless other large theatres and arenas around the country... and that’s just the start - not bad for an artist who's chosen to remain an independent artist. There’s an understated magnetism to Rector and his “meticulously crafted, shamelessly romantic folky pop” (Chicago Tribune). He’s Nashville’s worst-kept, best-kept secret, and if you’ve never heard his name before, now you’ll never forget it.
Coming from a non-musical family living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, far from the epicenter of the American music scene, Rector's career seems as unlikely as it is remarkable. “I did a cameo in a music video recently where I was wearing a suit, playing a real estate agent,” Ben recalls, “If I’m honest, sometimes I feel like that was the life I thought I would end up with.” However, when he hit high school and picked up a guitar, fate clearly had other plans. Ben’s steady diet of Billy Joel, Steve Winwood, and Huey Lewis started to pay dividends, and he began writing songs.
“A lot of things I never thought would happen, career-wise, have happened,” he explains, “But what I really care about is being able to look back when I’m sixty and think ‘I did good work.”
That work was put to the test at the start of 2020, when COVID shut down the music industry. In the midst of a sold-out tour, Ben was suddenly off the road for the first lengthy period since college. Despite the obvious misfortune in having to cancel a tour, the time back home in Nashville afforded him the opportunity to push creative boundaries - all while he and his wife welcomed twin boys to their family, joining their three-year-old daughter. Writing and recording his best material to-date, he set out to do what Ben does best - encapsulate how much the pandemic has shifted our lives and perspectives. The upbeat and affectionate firstborn, ‘It Would Be You,” released in May and set the tone for Ben’s brutally authentic-yet-alarmingly optimistic 2020 repertoire. An acoustic re-imagining of it followed in October, reimagining the piece into a melancholy duet between him and chart-topping folk artist Ingrid Michaelson.
“Like a generous neighbor who leaves a warm pecan pie at our doorstep…” (CMT), Ben dropped his holiday album A Ben Rector Christmas - a Crosby-esque collection featuring golden-toned covers of festive classics - in October. He also gave “an overshadowed holiday it’s musical due” (The Boot) with project inclusion “The Thanksgiving Song,” a tune that, despite being a bit of a happy accident, has seen an unprecedented response and prompted many in the music world to dub Ben the “Mariah Carey of Thanksgiving” (it aptly took the title of Alexa’s ‘Song of the Day” on Thanksgiving Day).
A lot of pop acts supernova on to the scene in a blaze of glory and then fade to embers just as fast. Ben Rector is a different breed. He’s that artist every one of whose songs is someone’s favorite or was the first dance at their best friend’s wedding. With a ride-or-die fan base, an ever-expanding presence, and even having a song featured in a Weight Watchers ad starring Oprah Winfrey, the label-less wonder continues to win over anyone who comes within earshot of his work. People are listening to his records now – and their kids and grandkids will listen to him in decades to come. That is the magic of Ben Rector.