If that name sounds familiar, you may have watched Blount’s heartfelt performances on the television show America’s Got Talent last summer, earning him a place on the show’s finals. Originally from the mountains of Valdese, North Carolina, the singer-songwriter thinks of himself as an unlikely figure for the country music scene as a biracial, bald, bearded and heavily tattooed man.
In 2010, Blount was signed to an indie country music label and gearing up for the release of his first single, “Carolina,” with an extensive radio station tour. A week before the scheduled single release, his label abruptly shuttered and three years later, “Carolina,” originally written for Blount by Parmalee, became a chart-topping hit for the country band.
Despite this stall in his career, Blount is anything but bitter; he remained a full-time musician and became a stay-at-home dad to his son Jaxon. Last year, he was contacted by America’s Got Talent producers to audition for the show after they found an online video of him performing. Blount attributes his atypical looks to his success on the televised talent competition. “I think they thought I was going out to play a rock’n’roll song,” Blount said of America’s Got Talent judges Howard Stern, Howie Mendel, Heidi Klum and Mel B. The judges unanimously voted him into the next round in New York City’s Radio City Music Hall after auditioning with Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away.”
Blount became known on the show for his unlikely country renditions of widely recognizable radio hits, like A Great Big World’s “Say Something (I’m Giving Up On You).” The show’s producers suggested the emotional ballad for Blount, who related to the song’s lyrics with his journey in the music industry. “[The producers] knew I was not walking away from a genre of music, but walking away from a certain direction, just to go into another one that ultimately would be better for me,” said Blount.
For his semi-finals performance on America’s Got Talent, Blount wanted to further surprise audiences with an unlikely but personal rendition of a pop tune. After taking a risk with “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten, he was left in the bottom three of six semi-finalists. However, viewers voted to save him from being cut and propelled him into the show’s Top 10 finals. Blount became the season’s only Top 10 solo vocalist contestant, and while he did not earn enough votes to advance into the finale episode, he performed a guest duet with Rachel Platten herself on the season’s last episode just before the winner was announced.
Now residing in Greenville, South Carolina, and with a bigger fanbase than ever, Blount is touring the country and slated to play the largest country music festival in the United States—the four-day CMA Music Festival in Nashville—next week. But first, you can check out Benton Blount’s star power for yourselves and hear his unique voice live (and for free) at the kickoff concert for Levitt AMP Jacksonville tonight at 7pm in Central Park!
Each week during the 2016 Levitt concert season, we’ll be turning the spotlight on a different artist performing on a Levitt stage, so stay tuned for more Spotlight Series posts!