Feature Friday - Beneil Miller
The wise philosopher Plato once said: "music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything." In this feature, we were able to delve into the imagination and art of the man, Beneil Miller, whose notes resonate with us long after hearing them. Beneil is an instructor at Spark! School of Performing Arts and a prolific musician. His beats are distinctly island vibes infused with smooth, mellow tones. Read on as we take you on a musical journey into the back story of Beneil's creativity.
Art Nest: What lead you to the decision to pursue a creative career in the musical arts?
Beneil: When I was about 13 or so I was about to move on to high school. At the time my mother asked me what I wanted to do as a career I told her I wanted to be a musician and I haven’t looked back since.
Art Nest: What are your musical talents? (i.e. what musical instruments do you play, do you also sing, write your own music etc)
Beneil: I would call myself a renaissance man of music. Once it entails music, I’ll be a part of it. I’m a pianist firstly but I play bass, drums, guitar, melodica and few other instruments. I’m also a songwriter, educator, producer, recording engineer, arranger and band leader. I wear quite a few hats but once music is involved I’ll get it done.
Art Nest: Are your creative passions limited to music or are you also talented in the visual arts field?
Beneil: I have not explored my talents with the visual arts before but it’s something I’ve always been fascinated by.
Art Nest: Which is your favorite instrument to play and why?
Beneil: It’s hard to say but my two favorite are the piano and bass guitar. Piano is just my first love and it’s an instrument that can fill a room and has a range of notes that you can make you a one-man band. Bass has always been my favorite instrument to play as well because it sets the foundation for the music and adds subtle elements to songs that people don’t recognize at times. Plus I just love the rumble of the low notes.
Art Nest: Did you have formal tertiary training for all the instruments that you play? If yes, from where and for how long?
Beneil: I only had tertiary training for piano. I studied at Berklee College of Music for four years.
Art Nest: How long have you been working at Spark! School of Performing Arts? And what instruments do you teach there?
Beneil: I’ve been working at Spark! For a little over 2 years. I teach Piano, Guitar, Bass Guitar and Drums.
Art Nest: What are your top three most rewarding teaching experiences while at Spark?
Beneil: So far it has been watching my students grow to a stage where they are confident and comfortable to play for recitals.
Art Nest: Do you play or perform your music outside of Spark? If yes, where and tell us a bit more on how that came about and if it’s something that still happens.
Beneil: Yes, I play at the Westin Hotel on Monday nights doing some solo piano music. I’m also the lead singer/keytarist for a band called Fyah Squad and we perform at different shows all over the island.
Art Nest: We understand that you’ve released a single called “Smile” this year. Explain your creative process behind that release.
Beneil: Smile was created one day when I took a drive out to one of my favorite beaches in East End with my guitar. The song is about knowing that even though times might get tough, joy is always right around the corner. I also tried to create some tension by writing a somewhat happy melody over some not so happy chords but then changed them towards the end to sound more joyful.
Art Nest: Was this your first public project available for purchase? If yes, what gave you the push to finally do so. If no, what are your other projects and what gave you the push to do that first one?
Beneil: The first song I ever release was a song called Cayman Islands from my debut album Keyz To My Heart. Cayman Islands was as song I wrote when I was 17 and completed in when I was in college thinking about home. The album Keyz To My Heart came about when I was challenged by the late Charles “Greggie G” Gregory to write an album in 6 weeks. He challenged me to this after he heard one of my demos that I did for fun (at the time I was not considering singing as an option). He was the first person to convince me to take singing seriously. In the summer of 2013 I wrote and recorded my first album and released it in October 2014.
Art Nest: Who/what would you say you draw inspiration from as an artiste?
Beneil: I draw inspiration from life. Whether its my life or just things affecting the world on a whole. Also, music, for me, is everything - from the beat of the windscreen wipers to the rhythm of footsteps running in the distance. Anything can inspire me in the right moment.
Art Nest: Can you attribute your creative drive to one person in your life? If yes, who?
Beneil: One of my biggest creative drives is the late Charles “Greggie G” Gregory who was always pushing me to be creative and be excellent in whatever I was doing in music. Without his many words of wisdom I would have a totally different outlook on music.
Art Nest: How would you describe your style as a musician? What genre of music do you play?
Beneil: I would call what I do reggae fusion. I love reggae, jazz, gospel, rock and many other genres. So my music will always be a melting pot of genres. I mainly play Jazz and Reggae music.
Art Nest: Who have you collaborated with and who is your dream musician to collaborate with?
Beneil: So far I’ve only done two collaborations musically. The first was with my friend Zamar who is featured on my album. The next is with King Navassa who collaborated with me on a song called "Let Love Resonate", which will be coming out in the near future.
Art Nest: Do you prefer collaborations or producing music on your own? Explain why.
Beneil: Most of the time I prefer to create on my own but collaborations are always fun. Most of the time I know exactly what I want the end product to sound like so I can get it done on my own. However sometimes the music is bigger than what I can do and I’ll need someone else’s creative input to make the project a reality.
Art Nest: What is your Vision for your music?
Beneil: I would like to create music that can stand the test of time, live on forever and leave a positive impact in people’s lives.
Art Nest: What advice can you give young musicians, especially our local talents?
Beneil: Be you and don't change it for anything. Work hard to perfect your craft and always try to be the best you because you are the only you.
Art Nest: Where can we find your music for purchase?
Beneil: My music can be found on iTunes, Bandcamp, CD Baby, Apple Music, Spotify and most other platforms. Or if you’d like a CD when you see me in person ask for one they are always available.
You may also find Beneil on Instagram with the handle @lavakeyz