With her aptly-titled “Seasons,” a four-song extended play (EP) digital collection, Richmond Hill native Anna Benton will give those outside her church a chance to hear her heavenly voice.
Benton and her husband J.R. wrote the songs (scheduled for release Jan. 25) more than two years ago; music intended to give comfort to those going through seasons of discontent.
The couple took a break to welcome two foster children into their home, only to learn the time spent with the boys would be short. The heartache of seeing them go gave a special meaning to the musical project.
“We had our two little boys for over a year,” the 27-year-old Benton said. “They were recently reunited with their family, so we’re back to being empty nesters now. It’s the worst pain that we had ever felt, and we wish we still had them, but we know it is part of God’s plan.”
That plan, Benton said, was to complete the EP as soon as possible and share that music, because as the EP’s producer Justin Murray told them, “God gave you these songs.”
“It’s really funny that I wrote these songs before that. Because God just gave me the words people need to hear that will comfort them or encourage whoever is walking through a hard season, and at the time I really didn’t feel the songs were for me,” Benton said. “And then after all this happened, the first time I listened to the (music) I just cried. It’s like God knew these words. It was exactly what I needed to hear.”
And now others will be able to hear those words as well.
Attendees of Compassion Christian Church in Savannah have enjoyed Benton’s powerful voice on stage during their worship services, and many in Richmond Hill have listened to Benton’s rendition of the “National Anthem” and “God Bless America” during area events.
On Saturday night, Jan. 25, the public is invited to the EP release party of “Seasons” at Compassion Christian Church’s East Campus, 9150 Old Montgomery Road, Savannah. The free event starts at 7 p.m. Benton will perform all four songs from the EP and talk about what each one means to her. The band will also perform some other songs as part of the night of worship.
On that day, the EP will be released in a digital format, available for streaming on all of the major services like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and more. There will not be a physical CD or album manufactured at this time.
Benton’s journey to musical artist accelerated in recent years. Although she says she’s always loved music as a child growing up in Richmond Hill, her focus was more on sports.
She grew up playing softball and got a college scholarship to Thomas University in Thomasville, Ga., but in her sophomore year she was injured. Two knee surgeries later ended her collegiate softball career, but as she would tell you, it was an opportunity by God to open a new door to her music.
She said she grew up singing in the church (First Baptist Church of Richmond Hill), but had never played with a band. It was at a church in Thomasville where she met her future husband, a guitar player, and “it was the first time I really discovered my love for the music.”
She married J.R. in 2015 and the two moved back home to Richmond Hill about three years ago when J.R. was hired at Compassion Christian Church. She works for the City of Richmond Hill in the planning and zoning department.
Her supervisor, Randy Dykes, the department’s assistant director, said “I have had the privilege of working with Anna for almost three years now. She is a true asset to the City of Richmond Hill. When people come into our office, Anna is the first person they see and talk with. If you asked any of them, I’m sure they would say that she’s very helpful and great to work with, but most don’t realize that they are speaking with a great singer with a heart for the Lord.”
He added, “My family and I are blessed to get to hear her sing at Compassion Christian on a regular basis. We are most excited about the fact that she is following her dreams and passions about singing and that the public will soon see just how talented an artist she is. With her song writing abilities, a beautiful voice, her love for the Lord and a supporting husband, we know that there are great things in store for her in the future.”
It’s that song-writing ability that may surprise some who have only heard Benton’s voice. She writes the lyrics and J.R. the music, she said, and it comes fairly easy.
“For me I recognize that’s a gift that God has given to me. I love to write. For me, it’s a reliever after a long day. It’s neat that J.R. and I have those gifts that complement each other,” she said.
Benton described what listeners will find on the EP. The songs, “Seasons,” “Good Good Love,” “The Story” and “I Know a Father” vary in style, with some songs upbeat and others beautiful ballads.
“Seasons is a fun, folky upbeat tune that has a banjo and trumpet,” she said. Her favorite song? “Oh my goodness. As far as what’s my favorite to listen to, I’d say Good, Good Love.” She said it was simple and “a good little catchy tune to it.”
She was quick to compliment the musicians on the EP. “As far as musicians go, that’s where I have been blessed immensely,” she said. “I have the best friends in the world. They could have charged me thousands of dollars.”
The musicians include her husband on guitar, Hudson Farmer, drums, Kyle Conner, guitar, Nick Carter, keyboard and Luke Russett, on bass.
Sean Ihrig, the worship pastor for Compassion Christian Church’s downtown campus co-wrote one of the songs.
“One night after a worship rehearsal, she bugged me until I started writing a song with her,” Ihrig joked. “That’s the kind of contagious energy Anna has. After a few weeks, and a few more writing sessions, that song turned into “The Story”. I am thankful for Anna’s persistence and proud of the song that came out of it.”
Ihrig described Benton as “joy personified. Her contagious love for God and people is the first thing you notice about her. The second thing you notice is her incredible voice. When you find people like Anna, who are able to steward their talent with humility and love for others it’s a really cool thing.”
So what happens if the EP is a huge success and propels her to the top of the Christian music charts?
“For me, success would be being able to make music full time, leading worship and traveling and meeting people,” Benton said. “My goal for this year is to book a tour, either opening for someone or on an independent tour.” She is currently unsigned and is an independent artist.
Through this, she and her husband still consider themselves foster parents “I’ll always be an advocate for foster care. Right now, the season that we’re going into, we’re not taking placements right now but still offering respite. That means when a foster family needs an overnight break, the children can come stay with us.”
Benton’s supervisor Dykes summed it up this way: “We know that it’s just a matter of time before Anna has a song on the top of the Christian music charts. I know the day is coming when the City of Richmond Hill will have to fill her position again. It will be a huge loss for the City but it will be a great gain to those who will have the honor of hearing her sing around the world, using a voice that God has so richly blessed her with.”
For more information about Benton go to www.annabentonmusic.com.