Originally published by 225 Magazine on October 31, 2012.
By Amanda Wicks
Ben Herrington does not embody the average musician around Baton Rouge. First, there’s his instrumental range: Herrington plays piano, trombone, accordion, mandolin, bass, guitar, flute, bass clarinet and even melodica with several local acts, including Ryan Harris & Co. “If there’s an overarching theme with my musical life,” he says, “it’s that if I ever have the opportunity to try a new musical experience, I do.”
Besides an incredible skill and proficiency, his passion for music can readily be seen in the sheer time and energy he’s put into studying the art over the years.
Beginning at age 4, Herrington banged around on pots and pans. But he exuded an interest in rhythm, rather than simply making noise. Over the next two years, while his cousins approached the piano to pound on the instrument for the fun of it, he actually attempted to play music. He laughingly recalls how he initially rejected his parents’ offer for piano lessons, telling them, “I already know how to play.”
He began studying different instruments when he entered the fifth grade, first choosing to pick up the trombone because one couldn’t very well march and play piano. He got a degree in music education and performance from LSU. While there, he played in the LSU Marching Band, the jazz band, the wind ensemble, the trombone ensemble and the orchestra.
Once he graduated, Herrington found he was ready for a different experience. Transitioning from what he describes as an “academic musician” to one playing gigs in “the outside world” was a difficult move for him, but he proved up to the challenge.
Herrington doesn’t yet have his own band. Instead, he plays with a variety of musicians and on several projects. At the moment, he’s primarily associated with Peter Simon and Ryan Harris & Co.
He first met Simon when the singer-songwriter brought him into the studio to help layer his album This Side Alone with trombone, accordion and other instruments. The two formed a quick friendship, and Simon soon integrated Herrington into his live shows. “We found a great musical synergy with our rehearsals, which seemed to only grow stronger with live performances. Ben brings a completely different energy to a show,” Simon says. “His devotion to his craft shines with every performance.”
If there’s one thing that’s clear from Herrington’s performances, it’s his sheer joy at playing music. In between contributing a burst of trombone or a colorful harmony from the accordion during a show, he does not stop smiling.
Herrington stays incredibly busy now, but his days don’t follow a set routine. When he’s not practicing for upcoming shows, he also works with the Possibility Project, an organization that mentors and teaches teenagers to write and perform an original musical.
At the small studio he’s set up in his house, he often mixes tracks for different friends’ projects, and even recently recorded a Christmas album with friends there. “The studio gives off a very homey sound,” he says.
Herrington’s currently focused on writing and recording his first solo project, which he says is inspired by Baton Rouge. As a fourth-generation resident, he believes he offers a fresh and unique musical perspective. “New Orleans and Lafayette each have a strong musical identity. I’m interested in exploring Baton Rouge’s culture, history and land through music,” he says.
Herrington will bring his incredible range by playing every instrument on the album, with, perhaps, a little help on drums from a friend. He has released a music video on YouTube of the first original song from the project, “T.S. Eliot,” shot mostly around Spanish Town.