Born in 1995, Benjamin Hunter, a Scottish musician, is a third-generation member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is one of seven siblings and has lived his entire life in Airdrie, Scotland, a town of 37,130 people (as of 2012) in North Lanarkshire, Scotland. Airdrie lies on a plateau roughly 400 feet above sea level and is approximately 12 miles east of Glasgow city center. Benjamin was one of two or three members of the Church at his high school.
Benjamin comes from a musically inclined family. The inspiration for his music mainly comes from his maternal grandparents, aunts, and uncles who are all professional musicians. He started piano lessons at the age of seven, practicing at first on an old keyboard that he had received as a birthday gift from his Aunt Laura, and finally getting a real piano some years later. He said, “Piano is my ‘old faithful’ when my voice fails to work, when my guitar strings break, and my iPod runs out of battery… I fly away into my own little world and express myself through playing the piano!!”
He began singing privately at a young age. He rarely sang the melody of a song as he always wanted to harmonize. He says that one day out of the ordinary, he started harmonizing naturally without ever being taught. When he started high school, he began singing more publicly. When he was 12-13 years old, he was a part of a small rock band. Feeling that he was unable to express his true self and true feelings for music, he left the band and started writing his own music at the age of 14, being inspired by American artist, Joshua Radin, to write his first song.
Also at the age of 14, he taught himself how to play the guitar. He found that writing music using the guitar was far easier than trying to write music using the piano as every time he tried to write a song with lyrics with the piano, it turned into a crazy classical piano piece. He wrote music frequently but admits that it was a slow and arduous process as he had little to write about. Then, one day the light bulb turned on and he realized that he had been approaching songwriting from a wrong perspective. He was trying to write from nothing.
He said, “Music doesn’t come from nowhere; it comes from feeling, the sounds you hear outside in the city or the countryside, it comes from the words of other, the inspiration of everything your eyes can see… I realized that music shouldn’t come from me but it should come through me.” By the time he was 15, he was writing music almost every day. He continued, “When I think about it now, I wrote about some uninteresting things but that’s what is magic about songwriting: you write in the moment and make boring things in your life become a beautiful piece of inspirational art. In fact, a lot of songs I have written I probably won’t look at again because I wrote them just to help me, or heal me, or make me laugh at that time – in that very moment.” He also started doing charity gigs with his aunt and uncle when he was 15 and that is when he discovered that he loved performing and wanted to do it for the rest of his life.
Having found a love for music and performance, he began studying musical theater. During high school, he devoted much of his time to musical theater, but when he noticed that participating in that program sometimes clashed with his beliefs, he quit.
In December 2012, encouraged by his bishop, he reluctantly attended an audition for a forthcoming Church production which he knew little about and had low expectations. The production was the 2013 British Pageant held on the grounds of the Preston England Temple. It was an experience that changed Benjamin’s life forever. While participating in that pageant, he realized that there were places where he could have a career in musical theater and keep his LDS standards. A four-hour long audition secured him a key role of narrator in this momentous production and provided him with one of the most spiritual experiences of his young life. Whenever he talks about his Pageant experience, it is still with enormous enthusiasm and gratitude. He recalls that as he talked with audiences before and after each performance, he began to feel a desire to serve a mission and felt that he was learning skills that would help him to teach the gospel.
Benjamin’s performance in the pageant caught the eye of director and writer, David Warner, who invited him to go to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he participated in a three-month-long production called Savior of the World, staged at the Conference Center. While he was there, he performed in the Boy Scouts of America production A Century of Honor (also at the Conference Center), worked at the Church Office Building, did a show at the Tuacahn Amphitheater in St. George, Utah, and sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during its Christmas concert.
Wanting to find a way to share his testimony and feelings but not knowing how he came across a passage of scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants which gave him the answer that he was looking for. The scripture is found in Doctrine and Covenants 25:12 and reads, “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” Being inspired by the scripture, he decided to record a small selection of songs on a short album called Secret Prayer which was released in March 2014 as a digital download. The album features LDS hymns and songs of faith. For Benjamin, the most important aspect of this work is not the music or the production, but the feeling of testimony he wanted to express through the music.
Benjamin served a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2014. He said:
My dream is to travel the world, meet different people, learn about other people and their cultures but most of all: inspire and heal them through my music and share my passion for performing and my passion for music with them. This is my dream and it is something I am determined to achieve and something I truly believe I can achieve through hard work, by focusing on all the right things, and continuing to stay true to who I am and to what I believe and never forget that I am doing this because at 15 years old I stood on stage overwhelmed and extremely happy because music had touched my heart. This is all for music – nothing else.
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