Tulsa native Ben Rector has never shied away from going things alone. From striking off for college at the University of Arkansas or opting for a career as an independent musician, self-reliance has been a virtue and advantage.
I value the total freedom to do or say whatever you want, the singer/ songwriter said. You take the risk and you take the reward if that comes.
The high-risk/high-reward scenario of releasing an album independently paid off big for Rector with last months Something Like This. Despite no major financial backing or massive marketing team, the humble, folk-pop auteur stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Lil Wayne, Adele and Foster the People on the Top 10 iTunes chart the week of release.
It was nuts, he said. I was pretty sure it wouldnt chart very high. There were lots of huge records coming out all around that time. I didnt think Id be selling anywhere near that volume.
Rector has got an uncommonly loyal fan base to thank.
Theres nothing weird or special that I do, he said. As close as I can explain it is that I try really hard to put a lot of craft into the music I write. It seems like people appreciate that its not just about one song a record. Ive written songs that I know will never move mountains or change someones mind or heart, but I have this thing where I want to do something well and not just the easiest level I can.
Theres nothing special that I do.
His fans stayed true with Something Like This. The album, which saw Rector venture out a bit from his Beatles and Spoon-inspired ballads, was produced by Chad Copelin and Jarod Evans of Normans Blackwatch Studios and is his most daring effort to date.
I realized that if I was going to do this as a career, I couldnt only aim to make people happy I had to grow as an artist and writer, Rector said. We took a couple risks. I meant for it to be accessible, but its definitely not as accessible as some of my older records. Its bolder flavors. Im excited that people have gone with me on it. They actually seem to like that there was some growth.
Now a resident of Nashville, Tenn., Rector will tour through the year before pumping the brakes for some well-deserved rest and relaxation, and hopefully an extended visit in his home state.
Being around a strong community of like-minded people, it was a great place to be raised, he said. The values and cultural norms that Oklahoma ingrained in me are still present in my life now, and they are things that are important to me to keep up.
Photo by Eric Ryan Anderson