Miss Benny

Meet Miss Benny  – the hugely talented singer and actor has previously made her leading debut in the feel-good Netflix comedy series Glamorous and recently released her EP titled Swelter. In Glamorous, Miss Benny takes on the role of aspiring influencer Marco Mejia, embarking on a dazzling journey of self-discovery after landing the dream job with makeup mogul Madolyn Addison – played by none other than the iconic Kim Cattrall. 

Swelter however represents Miss Benny’s inaugural EP following a series of independently released singles since 2019. The EP features six tracks mainly entirely written, recorded, and produced by Miss Benny. 

We had a chat with Miss Benny about all things music, combining her singing career with acting, Lana Del Rey, and exciting future projects.

Disclaimer: This interview took place during the SAG-AFTRA Strike which is why we weren’t able to discuss Miss Benny’s involvement in Netflix’s Glamorous. 

You’ve recently released your EP  Swelter, so lots of exciting things for you are happening. How do you balance your acting career with your music career? 

I feel really lucky that I’ve been able to balance all of my different creative passions throughout the years. When I first started in the entertainment industry, I was doing sketch comedy. And so it’s been a really funny journey finding my interests over the years. But I’m really lucky that my followers and my fans have been down to go anywhere with me. And so whether that’s acting, whether it’s comedy, whether that’s music, they’ve just followed and for me, it felt like a really seamless and easy transition between them because I just follow what’s interesting to me at the moment. With acting, a lot of the time you’re waiting for the next opportunity and finding the next opportunity. But with music, I can self-produce and put out things at whatever pace that I want. And so, I got into music production entirely because I could be my own boss of my own creative fulfillment. I feel really lucky that I’ve been able to do both. Both are very big parts of who I am, and I’m really grateful to have those. 

Producing your music as well, does it get overwhelming sometimes to know when a song is finished or working collaboratively? 

Yeah, working alone is really intense sometimes because I tend to find that if I work on something that’s collaborative with a lot of people, the pressure of how it ends up performing spreads out a little bit. It feels more like a team effort and we’re all taking this on together. But with my music, because I produce, write, record, release all of it on my own, it’s sort of this thing where it’s like, if it does amazing, I feel amazing. If it does horribly, I feel entirely horrible. Because I truly am taking on 100% of the experience. The great part about it is that I am able to create things completely privately with complete vulnerability, and not have to worry about any sort of outside judgment until I’m ready to show it. But I will say it is very daunting. Right now I’m working on a much longer project and I think there are like 10 songs right now that I have to finish. So looking at the to-do list to finish all of those songs is making my head spin. But I really do enjoy it. 

I feel like being your own boss and overseeing everything can be a blessing and a curse at times because it’s so easy for a creative person to get in your head, isn’t it?

Absolutely. Every day I feel like I’m just like, what if I scrapped everything and just started over completely? Because you just start questioning everything and there’s no person in the room to be like, no, no, no, you’re fine. So you kind of have to do all of that yourself.

Nowadays when I write a song, I try to just produce the most simple version of it so that I can write the song to completion and can get the whole idea out and stay in that feeling while it’s fresh and then after I’ve done that, I build out the rest of the production and sometimes while I’m writing I have ideas for what I want to do with the production and what that usually turns into is a really funny what I call a scratch demo, which is just the rough version. It’s really funny because sometimes I’ll just use my voice to map out certain parts.

When I first started, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best songwriter in the world. And nowadays I’m like, you just have to follow the feeling that you’re having and then you can polish it as you go. I think that just comes with experience.

Yeah, absolutely. I find it very impressive that you literally taught yourself about music production and everything around it. How long did it take you to get to the professional level that you’re at now? 

I started producing music when I was probably 14, and it wasn’t good at the beginning. I was definitely just figuring out how to generally record music. I spent about four or five years just making a million songs trying to find what I wanted my sound to be. I used to do this thing where I would write a song a day and regardless of if it was good or not, I would try to finish a song a day, just the writing part of it. Sometimes I would do that by saying like, okay, well today I’m going to write a song that I imagine Sabrina Carpenter would put out or like, I’m going to put a song out that I think Lana Del Rey would release.  It would challenge me to come up with ideas in a fresh way. The first song I ever put out as Miss Benny is a song called “Rendezvous” and when it was done, I felt like this was actually the most me that it could have been. That process taught me about trying things in a new way and just following a feeling is absolutely the way for me that works best. And now I typically follow that all the time, where when I write to this day, I’ll usually have an idea or a seed of an idea. I’ll just sit at my computer and be like, all right, let’s just follow that idea and not worry about anything else. And a lot of the time you get a really good song from that.

That sounds like a really healthy approach, to be honest. It took a long time to get there. I mean, that’s probably like a 10-year process now to get where I am now. And I still have notes for myself. So I’m hoping to keep improving. I mean, you live and you learn, right? I feel like as a creative, you never stop learning, you know.

Do you remember the first ever song, not just as Miss Benny, but overall, that you ever wrote?

Yeah, it’s memorable because it’s kind of funny to me now, but I was like 12, or 13 even. I wrote a song which was a really heavy song about being extremely depressed and going through it and I remember I played it for my mom one time because I used to take singing lessons in Texas and I don’t know why I ever agreed to this, but my mom was sitting in the vocal lesson one time and I don’t know why, but that day I just felt like I brought in a song that I wrote and I want to play it. And so I sang this really melodramatic, heavy song. And I just remember my mom being so freaked out. And now looking back, I think, Oh, how weird it would be to have a child who you think you know very well. And then like all of a sudden they’re singing about how the world is against them and it’s so dark inside. It makes me laugh because that’s just such an encapsulation of how I was as a kid. It’s just so dramatic, but It’s also sweet because it shows for me that songwriting started as a vessel to talk about things I was not talking about with anyone else and I have a lot of love for that song and that process that I had. It was so pure. It was just like I needed to write this for me which I think is really sweet.

What a story! Do you ever listen back to it here and there and like to remind yourself how you’ve grown or do you just cringe when you think about it? 

It’s a little bit of cringe, but it’s a little bit of endearment. I do listen to all of my old demos all the time. Usually, I’ll listen to them when I have an idea that I want to work on now and I’m like, wait, there’s something that I did in the past that I could pull into now and then it usually just turns into me like cringing and laughing at myself. It’s like reading an essay I wrote when I was 11. 

Haha, I can relate, we were all dramatic as kids it seems. 

Oh yeah. And I was at the ripe age on Tumblr where a drip of melodrama went into my body every day and I soaked it all up. 

Good times. Which kind of artists did you grow up listening to and who still influences you to this day?

My dad is a huge music fan. He grew up in the eighties and his children just grew up with anything he played. And so it was all of the greats from every generation, like big rock bands, such as Queen. Then there’s the element of my family having been super Christian. And so I grew up with a lot of singer-songwriters, like guys with guitar-type music which honestly really influenced my melodramatic songwriting. When I was old enough to find my own sense of music taste, it was all about Lady Gaga, and Miley Cyrus and I was like, Oh, I think I like dance music and I think I like partying and I think I like the sound. And so I have tried to find a way to balance the singer-songwriter instincts with some of the more upbeat electronic pop stuff. Again, I come from the school of Tumblr and so having Marina and the Diamonds and Lana Del Rey and Sky Ferreira, it’d be like, oh, right, a persona is also such a big part of it. And so the longer project I’m working on now is somewhat based around a character that I’ve created and it’s really freed me to just write about so many other topics that I otherwise would be maybe uncomfortable to approach. All of my music tastes created this weird snowball that I am so fond of now. 

That was such a great era for music, Lady Gaga and Lana del Rey were my absolute favorites as well. I just need to know your favorite Lana song now. 

I think “Shades of Cool” will always be that one for me. That just hit at a really impactful time for me. The Ultraviolence album came out when I first moved to L.A. For the first time, I was feeling independent and just stepping into my body and myself. What an album to have as a background for that! I mean, I had moved to LA, going through my first awakening romantically and sexually and just feeling like myself. And then I had this super dramatic, West Coast, grungy sound which is why “Shades of Cool” is definitely, definitely the one for me, but I’m sure that if I sat down and made a list of the top 100 Lana Del Rey songs it would take me all day and I would cry.

Great choice, and I totally agree. I would too. So going back to your EP Swelter –  what is the inspiration behind the title, and can you just talk us through the themes that you explore in the EP’s tracks? 

I started writing Swelter at the beginning of the pandemic. When the pandemic started, I think it just forced everybody to stop and question everything they were doing. And for me particularly, I feel like in the years prior to the pandemic, I was just on autopilot and I was just going super fast so I didn’t have time to stop and process any of my feelings. Around that time, I was going through my first heartbreak and I was going through identity questions and I had so much anxiety and just stuff stirring in my body and when the pandemic happened, I remember I was forced to address all of those feelings because I couldn’t go party anymore and I couldn’t go distract myself. What I found is that I had a lot of anger and a lot of resentment. I’m someone who never experiences anger, so I was so upset by this feeling and it manifested. I remember I would have these panic attacks where I just felt like I was having a hot flash so music has always been the thing that I used to address what I’m feeling. And so I started writing songs about just being angry and uncomfortable. The title Swelter is specifically about the literal definition – like an uncomfortable heat. So I had this idea of what if I just label all of these songs as what I’m feeling amidst a swelter of personal emotions. It felt super cathartic to do it. Release-wise I had never opened up to my audience in that way before. So it was really just a big way for me to introduce myself as a person to everybody so that moving forward, I can sort of talk about things in my music and not feel like I have to explain it as much. The impact of Swelter now is making me feel so validated and encouraged to do whatever I want to talk about. 

I love that, it’s so crazy how music can be such a form of therapy. The reception truly has been great so far, and it is such a good project indeed. You also mentioned a bigger project that you are currently working on. Is there anything you can unveil yet? 

Yes, I’ve been referring to it as a mixtape for now, but there are quite a lot more songs on it than there were on Swelter.  I’m taking the initial approach I had to music with dance music and fun music and taking the sort of personal songwriting style that I used for Swelter and just finding a way to mix them. I find that with songwriting, you tend to know yourself better than you realize. When I first started writing songs for this new project, I was pretty amazed at the things that were coming supernatural to me as far as what I was expressing and the feelings I was having and It made me super excited. I’ve spent the last four weeks just recording every day and I look like I’m going insane because I have this poster board with all of these post-it notes and ideas pinned to the wall. It’s been super exciting. 

That sounds super exciting. Thank you so much for your time.