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Within minutes of sitting down with Grand Rapids folk-pop three piece band Bennett, it becomes clear that the relationship shared by these young musicians spans far beyond that of a simple musical collaboration. Their banter back and forth is filled with good-natured taunts, inside jokes and references to past experiences, and is evidence of a camaraderie formed from shared pasts and goals.
“I think we literally are a family,” says Nick Rolls, 20, who performs violin, mandolin and vocalist duties in the band. “I think that’s one of the edges we have as a band. Not only do we love making music with each other, but we love hanging out together. We know bands that are together out of necessity, but we just like being together.”
Josiah Gentry, the 19-year-old guitarist and vocalist, agrees.
“I think what’s really cool about Bennett and what really distinguishes us from other groups is that it’s not some weird forced thing. The music that we make is… a very practical sound, but people love it because it’s very honest,” Gentry says. “We’re three best friends doing what we love.”
Bennett has had a whirlwind story of music, fans and growth. Bennett’s origins stretch back to when its members were in high school, and were each performing in separate musical acts. However, after the end of high school, each of their acts shut down as college began.
In the winter of 2012, Rolls and Gentry were disenchanted with academic life. Conversation about missing performing led to them approaching Nick Warren, the 18-year-old pianist, accordionist and vocalist of the band, and asking him to join.
That first spring as a band was spent playing local shows, including an appearance on WoodTV. As they played more shows and acquired a fan base, the band realized it was time to record an album.
“Once it kind of got to the point where we were like, ‘we really need to go into a studio and record an album, but we don’t have the money,’ we competed in GR’s Got Talent and took first place, and that funded the recording,” Gentry says. “We would not have been able to afford it without that.”
The release of their first EP, “A Brand New Start,” allowed the band to spread their music more easily.
“If we had not won that, and hadn’t been able to record our first album, things would not have fallen in line since then like they have,” Warren adds.
Touring the Midwest several times, as well as touring down south and to the east coast, Bennett spread their sound around the country. The band has stories of meeting fans like people in New York City who knew the lyrics to all of their songs during their first show there. Rolls tells of a friend visiting Korea and being asked by other Americans who knew she was from Grand Rapids if she had ever heard of Bennett.
“That’s just crazy,” Rolls says, grinning from ear to ear while shaking his head in disbelief. “These random Americans meet up in Korea and, I mean, they’ve heard of Bennett!”
The three members are optimistic about way the rest of the year and beyond look for Bennett, and, at the core of all of their jokes and excitement, one can sense an overwhelming sense of thankfulness for the way the story of Bennett has played out so far.
“It’s been a really, really incredible experience just doing what we’re doing,” Gentry says. “I was thinking on our NYC tour, and it hit me that if someone would have told me a year ago that I was gonna be in NYC with Nick Warren and Nick Rolls playing music for a bunch of people and meeting people and selling CDs and doing what bands do, I would have laughed in their face. I mean we’ve been incredibly blessed from day one. Everything has fallen into place perfectly.”
This summer Bennett has been busy, playing many festivals in Michigan and spending time in the studio working on their next EP. The band is also gearing up for another East Coast tour this August.