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garrin benfield - biography

Garrin Benfield gained notice in 2000 with his stark tribute to Matthew Shepard, “What You’re Hiding”, which was used in a production of the Laramie Project. In 2002, after recording his second CD, “Nowhere is Brighter” with Bonnie Raitt’s rhythm section and guest Boz Scaggs, Benfield took up a relentless touring schedule, both as a solo artist and with his band. Some of these increasingly improvisation-heavy sets were documented on the 2003 release “August Live”. 2004 saw the release of “Where Joy Kills Sorrow”, and Benfield’s first foray into live improvisational looping, which enabled him to tour solo but with added layers of beats, bass lines and the searing lead guitar Benfield’s hardcore fans have come to expect. He released two albums of unadorned solo performances, "The Wave Organ Song" in 2011, and  the self titled acoustic live album "Garrin Benfield" in 2019. Playing eclectic sets at hundreds of shows every year, Benfield has become an underground favorite at festivals, rock clubs, coffeehouses and house concerts.

Garrin Benfield's sound has been described as Freestyle Acoustic Rock. His music is a blend of moody, guitar driven rock and polyrhythmic groove all run through the filter of a very serious Singer/Songwriter. His talent shines through as a solo artist when he flat-picks his way through complicated and lightning-fast arrangements and also while he uses a Loop Station to create mesmerizing soundscapes upon which he lays blistering rock, blues and jazz licks, darkened by his extensive use of effect pedals. As a bandleader, Garrin can command the attention of seasoned players and improvise with the dexterity and ingenuity of players many years his senior. Improvisation is at the center of a Garrin Benfield concert experience. Whether at a solo show or at a full band event, Garrin twists and turns the tunes each night in an ever-evolving attempt to keep searching for new musical challenges.

Garrin has been touring nationally for ten years and has played many of North America's best music venues.

Some Highlights:

West Coast:

The Fillmore (SF, CA)
Terrapin Crossroads (San Rafael, CA)
Great American Music Hall (SF, CA)
Mountain Winery (Saratoga, CA)
Humphrey's by the Bay (San Diego, CA)
The Freight and Salvage (Berkeley, CA)
Sweetwater Music Hall (Mill Valley, CA)
Swedish American Hall (SF, CA)
Yoshi's (SF, CA)
The Independent (SF, CA)
Cafe DuNord (SF, CA)
Boom Boom Room (SF, CA)

Tractor Tavern (Seattle, WA)

East Coast:

Carnegie Hall (NYC)
Brooklyn Bowl (NYC)
Joe's Pub (NYC)

Arlene's Grocery (NYC)
The Living Room (NYC)

The Bitter End (NYC)
Sullivan Hall (NYC)
Black Bear Bar (BK)
The Hall at MP (BK)
Rockwood Music Hall (NYC)
Bowery Electric (NYC)
The Towne Crier (Pawling, NY)
Iron Horse (Northampton, MA)
The Paradise Rock Club (Boston, MA)
Bluebird Cafe (Nashville, TN)
Eddie's Attic (Atlanta, GA)
Cactus Café (Austin, TX)

Garrin has been performing regularly at festivals around the country, including:

The High Sierra Music Festival (CA)
South x Southwest (TX)
Telluride Bluegrass Festival (CO)

Aura Music Festival (FL)
American River Festival (CA)
Blue Ridge Harvest Fest (GA)
Bobolink Festival (CA)
Jerry Day (CA)

San Francisco Free Folk Festival (CA)

Haight Street Fair (CA)
Solstice Festival (CA)
West Fest (CA)
Fairfax Festival (CA)
Promise For Peace Festival (CA)
Dogwood Festival (GA)
San Francisco/San Diego/Central Coast/Santa Rosa/Santa Cruz Pride Festivals (CA) 

In addition to hundreds of solo and full band shows around the country, Garrin has shared the stage with numerous headlining acts, and was asked to open for Dan Bern, Boz Scaggs, Kaki King, Rickie Lee Jones, and Page McConnell of Phish among many others. Bonnie Raitt's backing band (who added their sounds to Garrin's second album, "Nowhere is Brighter") round out the list of great artists that Garrin has had the pleasure of collaborating with during his career.

Garrin was named “One of the Artists You Must See Live” by, the internet's premier source of information for live and improvisational music, and his CD Where Joy Kills Sorrow was awarded the "Best Release of 2004" in the Male Singer/Songwriter Category by the Indie Acoustic Project. Garrin's CD “Nowhere is Brighter” was named a 'Top 10 CD of 2002' by Acoustic Guitar and Performing Songwriter Magazines. As well, music from that disc was selected for inclusion on numerous compilation recordings including one for Not In Our Name that included Ani DiFranco, Michael Franti and others.

About Benfield's Live Show:

Benfield's shows center on his quirky pop melodies but are stretched by Garrin into improvisational explorations into new territory each night. Familiar songs are often twisted and contorted into gorgeous new creations that leave audiences breathless. At once organic and eclectic, Garrin's shows are an experience as much as they are a musical concert! Utilizing electronic effects and a loop station, audiences find themselves grooving to atmospheric rhythms and settling back into Benfield's soothing vocal style. When the whole band is cooking, Benfield seamlessly blends his compositional skills with his improvisational ones, making old songs seem new. His thought-provoking lyrics and orchestral arrangements are constantly refurbished but are never over-shadowed by the endless noodling characterized by many in the neighboring jam-Band genre. 


Garrin has opened for: Boz Scaggs, Dan Bern, Page McConnell, Kaki King, Rickie Lee Jones, Grant Lee Phillips, Mary Gauthier, Jill Sobule, CCR, The Mother Hips, Jackie Greene, The Waybacks, Al Stewart, Buckwheat Zydeco, Melvin Seals and JGB, Greensky Bluegrass, Vince Welnick, Zach Deputy, Iris DeMent, David Jacobs-Strain, Mary Gauthier, Corinne West, Catie Curtis, Richard Shindell, Stacey Earle, Eric McFadden, David Gans, Luce, Norton Buffalo, Steve Seskin, McPeake, Rubber Souldiers, Mark Growden, Johnny A, Box Set, Holcombe Waller, Noelle Hampton, Libby Kirkpatrick, Garnet Rogers, Edie Carey, Ten Mile Tide, Assembly of Dust, Samantha Stollenwerk, Kia Grannis, Mostly Dylan, Tim Hockenberry, Scott Pemberton Trio, Poor Man's Whiskey.

At the Fillmore in SF, Garrin provided second stage entertainment for the following artists: David Gray, Dark Star Orchestra, Blues Traveler, Steve Winwood, Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams, Railroad Earth, Stereolab, Black Crowes, Zero, Umphrey's McGee, Yonder Mountain String Band and others.

As a session musician, Garrin has provided guitar, bass and vocals to recording projects from the following artists: Dan Bern, Joy Askew, General Fuzz, Michelle Schmitt, Lael Neal, Mostly Dylan, Izabella, Kermit Lynch, Kenni, Samantha Lien, Vanessa Morrison, Noah Thorpe, Jallen Rix, Greg Lamboy.

As a live musician, Garrin has worked with the following bands: Boz Scaggs, ALO, Dan Bern Band, Dave Brogan Band, Tom Freund, Lebo, Everyone Orchestra, David Gans, Joy Askew, Bill Cutler Band, Ke, Heather Combs Band, Jeff Campbell, Great North Special, Michelle Schmitt, Kate Gaffney, Terese Taylor, Gazelles, Izabella, Sean Lehe and Great Owl, Bernadette, The Ritual, JP Cutler, Asher Fulero, Matthew Tyler Smith, Friends of the Devil, Steven Taetz, Joel Streeter Band, John Manion.

Garrin's songs have been used in the following compilations:

"Not in Our Name" (2002) -- a compilation CD to benefit anti-war charities.

"Love Rocks" (2004) -- a compilation CD produced by the Human Rights Campaign to benefit marriage equality.

"Songwriters Unplugged" (2011) -- a compilation CD of acts that played Yoshi's in San Francisco.

"KFOG Local Scene CD" (2011) -- Annual CD of top local artists from SF Radio Station.

"Live from Berkeley Volume 2" (2012) -- CD of select artists that performed on David Gans' show "Dead to the World" on KPFA.

Garrin's music has been featured in the following films:

"Phoenix" (2007) -- a film by Michael Aker with wide international distribution.

"Critter's Tale" (2010) -- a film by Joshua Smith.

"Brookton Hollow" (2011) -- a film by Joshua Smith that was accepted into festivals.

"" (2012) -- a film by Michelle Hirsch that was accepted into festivals, received awards.

"The Gift of Compassion" (2012) -- a film by Bill Weber about the Maitri Hospice in San Francisco.


*2012: Garrin plays 130 US gigs on the East and West coast of the U.S., plays several showcases at SouthxSouthwest in Austin, Headlines the legendary Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, and travels to Jamaica and Haiti for two weeks with JHAM (Jamaican Haitian American Musicians) to record songs for upcoming charity CD.

*2011: Garrin releases his fifth new CD of original songs, "The Wave Organ Song", and plays two packed CD Release shows in SF and NYC, as well as a 70-date national tour. 

*2010: Garrin completes three regional tours of the U.S. Gig highlights include the American River Festival, and an evening at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley. Garrin is asked to perform at a ceremony on the floor of the California Sate Assembly honoring the accomplishments of GLBT Californians. Garrin completes recording of his next CD (to be released in May 2011).

*2008/9: Garrin continues his relentless touring schedule, playing diverse gigs around the country that include solo and full band shows. Garrin returns to the High Sierra Music Festival, Solstice Fest and Bobolink Festival, all premier Summer festivals in California. Garrin's song "Home" is featured on Amy Goodman's program "Democracy Now".

*2006/7: Garrin plays over 100 gigs all over the United States, working material from his first four CDs as well as constantly debuting new songs and works-in-progress. Garrin also co-writes a collection of new tunes for the first time with noted Nashville songwriters.

*2005: founder and CEO Andy Gadiel named Garrin's 7/14/05 show with Dan Bern at 12 Galaxies as his favorite show of the year!

*The Advocate Magazine selects Garrin as the "Number One Indie Artist of 2005!" saying, "Benfield's all-around talent includes a gift for beautiful songwriting on top of his prowess as a singer and musician."

*Fall 2004: Garrin Benfield releases new CD, "Where Joy Kills Sorrow" and continues to tour nationally. A two month tour takes him up and down both coasts hitting full-band dates, solo shows and several nights with Dan Bern, Bitch of Bitch and Animal and Vince Welnick (Grateful Dead, Tubes).

*Summer 2004: Garrin Benfield performs at several major national music festivals; including High Sierra Music Festival, Blue Ridge Harvest Fest and The Dogwood Festival.

* In early 2004 Zacksongs releases a collection of live material consisting of Benfield's concert staples titled "August Live". The disc was recorded while Benfield was on tour opening for Boz Scaggs in the summer of 03. 

* 2003: Benfield contributes songs to compilation CDs for the Not in Our Name Project (along with Ani DiFranco, Michael Franti and Charlie Hunter) and Performing Songwriter Magazine. 

* 2002: Benfield's critically acclaimed CD "Nowhere is Brighter" is released. Alongside Benfield is Bonnie Raitt's band and special guest Boz Scaggs. The disc is named a "Top 10 CD of 2002" by Performing Songwriter and Acoustic Guitar Magazines. Benfield tours US as a solo performer and with his regular, touring band, appearing at some of the most highly regarded venues in the country. He is regularly asked to perform with major label and other known artists. 

*2001: Benfield continued regular national touring, hosted a monthly songwriter series in San Francisco, and was a finalist in the Telluride Troubadour Competition. 

*2000: Benfield releases his debut album "Living A Dream" to high praise. Among the 13 tracks on the album was the startling tribute to murder victim Matthew Shepard that is nominated for an award oppo site Melissa Etheridge and the Indigo Girls. 

* Benfield grew up the youngest of nine children in Westchester County, New York and moved to Northampton MA to attend Hampshire College. It was at Hampshire that Garrin started and played bass in his band Maya that later moved with him to San Francisco.

Since 2000, Garrin has worked closely with Grammy-nominated producer/musician Michael Rodriguez. Michael worked with Garrin on four of his five CDs: Living a Dream (2000), Nowhere is Brighter (2002), Where Joy Kills Sorrow (2004), and The Wave Organ Song (2011). Michael can be contacted through his website: