BANJO BEN CLARK: Taylor Swift Makes 'Life On The Road As Easy As Possible' For The Band
by Janelle Landauer
Ben Clark – aka “Banjo Ben” began playing the piano when he was only four. It was actually years later while he was a sophomore at Texas A&M University when he started playing the instrument that would give him his nickname, “Banjo Ben” though. Through the years, he has picked up a variety of other instruments as well and he currently plays the guitar, mandolin, dobro and fiddle. And if playing wasn't enough, he is also teaching lessons through YouTube and is looking to get even more students on there. You can check out his lessons at: www.youtube.com/banjoben1
After making the big move to Nashville, he started taking part in the music scene almost immediately. “A friend from Texas recommended me for a Keith Urban audition days after I moved to town,” says Clark. “I didn’t get the gig, but I learned some really important lessons about the music biz and met some key people in the industry.”
“I started out playing for an artist named Matt Jenkins,” explains Clark. “Then, I went on an acoustic tour with an artist named Lila McCann. From there, I started playing piano and banjo for American Idol favorite, Josh Gracin. That led to a position playing piano for Craig Morgan, and finally to my current position with Taylor Swift.”
Taylor Swift’s crew actually got in touch with Clark for this touring position. “Taylor needed someone to “do what I do”, and I had toured with the drummer in Josh Gracin’s band,” notes Clark. “He gave me a call one day to ask if I knew anyone else that played what I played, and I decided to take the position myself.” Right now, Banjo Ben plays the banjo, mandolin, dobro and piano/organ on the road with Swift. “Sometimes it changes based on what set we’re playing at the time, though” adds Clark.
When asked if this gig is any different than his previous ones, Clark jokes – “You mean besides having a teenage chick as my boss?...” But, in all reality, this gig is a lot different for him. “I would have to say that I’m being taken care of more on this gig than any other gig I’ve had. Taylor is so in touch with what her group needs while away from their homes and families, and she does her very best to get us home as much as possible.”
Clark goes on to mention again how much Taylor makes road-life as easy as possible, when talking about his favorite memory on the road with her. “Last summer, Taylor took us all on vacation to the Grand Canyon,” reveals Clark. “We got a privately guided Whitewater rafting trip down the Colorado River that runs through the canyon, and then topped it off with a helicopter tour back out of the canyon. It was one of my best memories ever!"
In addition to touring, Clark recently had the chance to record some banjo on Swift’s new album too, which will be released this fall. “I can’t say too much about it, but I can promise that her fans are not going to be disappointed!” says an excited Clark.
And, speaking of Taylor Swift fans – when Clark is out on the road during Swift’s hectic touring schedule, he really likes meeting all of the fans. “It makes it worth it to see folks smile back at you from the stage and know that maybe you helped make the concert memorable for them,” adds Clark. “The fans are where it’s at. Sometimes artists and musicians posses an attitude where they think they’re doing the fans a favor by playing for them. I’m so fortunate to work for an artist and in a band that agrees with me in knowing that without the fans, we would be out of work… plain and simple."