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Benson Boone uses his sensitive, intimate music to work through his toughest emotions. He wrote the meditative pop songs on his debut EP, Walk Me Home..., as a way of documenting his hopes, fears, and insecurities as a young artist finding his footing in the music industry, and as a person growing into his own in the public eye. "Writing these songs brought me to where I am now," he says. "It's where I really want to be."
And it's an enviable position to be in. EP opener "GHOST TOWN," a piercing breakup ballad, amassed more than 200 million cumulative streams on its way to being certified Gold in the US and becoming Boone's first entry on the Billboard Hot 100. Heartbreak also shaped the soaring follow-up, "In The Stars," which proved to be an even bigger hit. Even so, the Monroe, Washington native struggled with the pressures of sudden stardom and global fame.
"I haven't been part of the industry for that long," Boone says. "It has been the most amazing ride of my life, but it's also overwhelming. Sometimes it's really hard mentally." Making a larger body of work sharpened his focus and relieved the pressure. "These songs were so therapeutic," Boone says. "The title, Walk Me Home... doesn't refer to a person or a place. The songs walked me back to a place of pure creativity and it feels amazing."
Given his rapid ascent and massive success, it's bewildering to think that the breakout star stepped in front of the mic for the very first time in 2019. In his senior year of high school, Boone's friends entered a Battle of the Bands competition and he volunteered to play piano. When their frontman stepped down at the last minute, Boone saved the day. "I didn't know I could sing," he says. "But it just kind of worked." At first, singing was just one of several passions that include scootering, cliff jumping and art (he memorably drew the cover for "In The Stars").
Music became a priority, however, when Boone started posting on social media and auditioned for American Idol. He blew the judges away and moved forward in the competition, but ultimately bowed out to hone his craft. The very next week, Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds reached out via Instagram and invited him to Las Vegas. "I spent the next four days working with him," he remembers. Reynolds was so impressed that he signed Boone to his Night Street Records.
"Dan taught me the most important thing that I know in this industry: I control what I do, I control how I do it, I control my own life," Boone reveals. "He always gives his input, but he lets me be the artist." That involves choosing collaborators like Michael Pollack (Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus) and Jason Evigan (Dua Lipa and Jonas Brothers). "It's like a sports team," Boone muses. "If you have really good players on your team, you feel more comfortable out on the field and have that much more confidence in yourself."
It's particularly important given Boone's vulnerable approach to life and songwriting. "In relationships, I put a lot of myself out there," he says. "I want to experience real love. Today, it's all for social media or dating someone because they're attractive and that's it." On EP highlight "Let Me Go," Boone opens up about his idea of a true romantic connection. "Love is imperfect," he says. "It's the hard moments, the fights, the arguments, and the lows." He outlines just that on the song's chorus, singing, "If it doesn't make a cut that just won't close, it wasn't love.'"
A track like "Better Alone," which is inspired by the thought of seeing your crush with someone else, comes at love from a very different angle. "I don't think anyone's truly better off alone," Boone says. "But right after something like that happens, you feel that way."
His insight is doubly impressive given his limited experiences in relationships. "I have never really had my heart broken," Boone admits. Instead, he takes inspiration from friends and loved ones. "NIGHTS LIKE THESE," for example, was inspired by seeing friends text or call their ex -- and secretly hoping they don't reply. For "Empty Heart Shaped Box," on the other hand, he channeled the hurt and grief he felt from his grandmother's passing.
Now with his EP out, Boone is turning his focus to his live set. "Having three songs out and trying to do shows is hard," he quips. Not that a lack of material has ever slowed him down. Earlier this year, Boone performed for 65,000 screaming fans in Norway. "Everyone was singing the words back to me," he says. "I touched people's hands and some started crying. It was the craziest moment."
While Walk Me Home... is still connecting with listeners and expanding Boone's already sizable fanbase, he has started thinking about his next move. Boone plans to release an album in 2023, but he intends to release more singles and possibly an EP before its arrival. While heartfelt ballads will always be on the menu, he intends to mix it up somewhat in the future with "uptempo songs" and "summer vibes."
Most importantly, Boone is excited to keep growing as an artist. "I am worlds better than I was at understanding music," he says. "I'm becoming a better songwriter." As his skills increase, so does his ambition. "I want to get a top 10 song and play Madison Square Garden." With his dedication and talent, it's only a matter of time before he ticks them off his wishlist -- not that these goals were ever the point. He wants to share all of himself, and he hopes that the songs that helped him grow can help others do so too.