Count Your Blessings
Benny Blessed makes music through his truth
Performing as Benny Blessed, Benji Solano is a rising singer/songwriter based in Phoenix who’s ready to set his audiences on fire. Hailing from the Bronx in New York, Benji moved to the Valley 10 years ago when he decided, “I just had to get out of the mindset of New York.” He debuted his music on stage in November, 2019 at an event benefiting the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.
Benji’s hot Italian and Puerto Rican heritage bubbles up the surface in his often sexually charged songs created with Latin beat and tempo to get his audience worked up. And often a little bit (well, okay, a lot) sweaty. His latest release, “Tell Me, Tell Me” is designed to start a fire down below you-know-where with lyrics like,
“I can see your friend grew, baby let me say hello
This sessions overdue, let me feel you down below,
I can make your mind up, come baby open wide,
Ready set, wind up , cause you’re out of time.”
Tempted? You should be. You will be. “I’m a sexual person … but not with everyone,” Benji laughingly admits. Despite his on-stage sensuality and bravado, Benji is cool and mild-mannered. Using music as artistic expression brings out another facet of his personality: sensitivity.
“Music is very healing for me. It’s like therapy,” Benji explained. He was sexually, mentally, emotionally and physically abused by a family member at a young age. “I grew up feeling that I wasn’t worthy. I decided to turn the negative into a positive. My favorite part of performing is when people come to me and tell me, ‘I can relate to what you were saying. It’s like you wrote it for me.’”
Writing was a gift Benji only shared with his mother who passed away from cancer in 2015. “My mother instilled a lot of morals and values in me,” he remembers. Three years ago, Benji suffered from depression; that’s when his mother came to him in a dream and told him to keep writing. “‘Always walk in your truth,’ my mother told me. I pray every day that gay people will have a mother like mine.” Now 42, Benji didn’t come out until he was 28-years-old. “I had to wait until I felt comfortable in my own skin.”
Benji credits his niece, Vicky Lyn, who pushed him to perform. She is also the engineer behind his music, putting it all together in her living room in the Bronx. “Recording my first song was very emotional for me. I didn’t know how I could do it, but I’m very much an overthinker, and since I wrote poetry when I was younger, my niece said, ‘Why don’t you just rap it? It’s got to come from you.’”
“I want to be able to travel and perform for the gay community as a positive influence. I came from nothing. Statistically I should not be where I am in life.” A lot of people helped make things happen. “I wouldn’t be able to do this with out a great team—my niece Vicky Lyn, Espressa Grande, Jeremiah and Cruz Daniels, and my choreographer Judam Jackson,” Benji said. “And lastly and most importantly, all the support from my family and friends.”
A positive attitude and drive keeps Benji on the right track. “I’m very big on energy and a proper mindset; 2018 was a emotional roller coaster for me while 2019 was a year of learning and growth experience. We’re all in charge of everything in life—good or bad. It’s a blessing to wake up every day.”
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Benny Blessed will be performing at Charlie’s Phoenix on February 29, and again on the outdoor stage at The Rock on March 7, at the Melrose Street Fair. His music is available on Soundcloud. Follow him on Instagram Benny_Blessed78