WHAT // Benton Blount
WHEN // Saturday, Aug. 13th, 9 p.m.
WHERE // The Pumphouse, 2640 Poinsett Highway, Greenville
INFO // (864) 735-0567; http://thepumphousegrill.com/
Benton Blount had been playing music professionally for more than a decade by the time he decided to audition for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” last year. The Greenville musician specialized in writing his own gritty but melodic country songs and delivering them with heart and passion. So Blount, who was 36 at the time, had plenty of experience to draw from after playing on stages from Greenville to Nashville, Tenn., and beyond. And he also knew that winning the televised talent contest wasn’t the best-case scenario.
“I went into it after playing music for 16 years and having a record deal in Nashville and touring the country,” Blount says. “A lot of newer artists haven’t had a chance to do those things. And I knew going in that this wasn’t necessarily going to be a thing where I do the show and never have to work a day again in my life. I would honestly say sometimes it’s better not to win. Because when you win, you’re under contract to the show for years. You owe these people money and these people money. It was a perfect opportunity to get in front of a lot of people and show them what I do, and hopefully that just makes them want to learn more about my music.”
And what happened for Blount was, in his mind, the best thing that could’ve occurred. He made it to the final group of 10 contestants and got to perform on the show the same night that winner Paul Zerdin was crowned. “What I was lucky enough to do was make it to the very last show in the Top 10,” Blount says. “I played in front of the same amount of people that the winner of the show got to play in front of, but I didn’t have to sign an agreement with a company to give money away to them.”
Not that Blount, who will play at The Pumphouse in Greenville on Saturday, walked away empty-handed. “I learned a lot,” he says. “I learned about everything from performing in a place other than a music venue all the way to how to play the game of a reality show. There’s a whole lot more of what goes into it than what people see on TV. There’s a 14-hours-a-day, 5-days-a-week schedule that people never get a chance to see. So I had to learn real quick that it wasn’t just ‘Get up there and perform a song.’ There were a lot of obstacles I had that I wasn’t prepared for, and dealing with them made me a better performer.”
After coming home from three months in downtown New York City last summer, Blount says he had some adjusting to do, and some newfound fame to deal with.
“I had to get my routines and sleep patterns back down,” he says. “The biggest adjustment is that a lot of people recognized me from the show and I could barely go to Wal-Mart to get groceries for the family without spending 45 minutes talking to people, which is awesome, but then I have to explain to my wife why it took me two hours to go get milk.”
Ultimately, though, Blount says it was all worth it because almost year down the road, he’s playing in more, and bigger, places than ever. “There’s definitely a big difference, especially if I go to a place I’ve never been before,” he says. “There are people who have bought my music and know some of the songs. It’s not like when I would go to a town and people would stare at you for 30 minutes. They’re actually coming to see me perform.”
Benton@Mauldinfest – Benton Blount, who appeared at Mauldinfest in 2008, was playing music for 16 years before appearing on “America’s Got Talent.”