Ben Rector Rediscovers ‘The Joy of Music’ with New Album

Written by Lisa Valentine
Ben Rector Rediscovers ‘The Joy of Music’ with New Album

Singer-songwriter Ben Rector brings light and positivity to the world with new album The Joy of Music. While the unexpected halting of tours and live music was disheartening to artists and fans alike, from the times of isolation and lack of distractions came some of the most innovative music that many has ever been created. Choosing to find the good in uncertain times, Ben Rector emerged with an album that embodies all the fun, light-hearted, and simplistic wonders that we so often overlook in everyday life.

Prior to the world going into lockdown, Rector was in Los Angeles, writing songs that he thought would make it on his next album. However, once the realities of the pandemic hit, he found himself grounded at home in an entirely different scenario: one that didn’t involve deadlines, distractions, or a rushed writing and recording process to complete an album to tour. Rather than being on the road, away from his everyday life at home, this unexpected change of pace opened the door to a whole new world of possibilities when it came to his creative process.

“Basically, I just started writing stuff that I loved and because I loved it,” explains Rector. “It was kind of an interesting headspace to be in because I didn’t realize how long it had been since there had been no expectation on what I was doing…That doesn’t mean that I was writing the other records from not a good place or something, it’s just that I didn’t have anything to distract me. I wasn’t going to play shows or having to go do other stuff.”

While he is extremely grateful for his career, this unexpected moment in time allowed Rector to get back to the mindset he had when he first started making music. He was able to return to the pure, uninhibited love of music and an environment without outside commitments, distractions, or opinions. “It was literally like, just go out and do what you love…” he says of the process of making this album. “This sounds so trite and cheesy, but it’s actually what happened. I was kind of remembering why I loved music because I hadn’t been able to access that feeling as easily because it had just gotten so complicated,” he says of all of the logistics that come with writing, recording, touring, etc. “I hadn’t been able to just sit in the part that I loved the same way as when I started. Because when I started, nobody cared, and I was just writing music all the time…The more it’s grown it’s just gotten mixed in with other things.”

From unexpected collaborations to new sounds and musical elements, Rector ventured outside the box with this album, challenging himself in ways he never has before. “It’s kind of like I’m on the edge of what I’m capable of and that feels good and refreshing to feel vulnerable in that way…” he says of the record that he also made an accompanying film for.

This album truly showcases Rector’s talent as he seamlessly combines high-energy songs that make you want to dance with introspective lyrics that both reflect on the simplicity of childhood while also focusing on life’s often overlooked moments and appreciating them in an entirely new light.

Acknowledging everyone from his Bible study leader to the fastest kid he knew growing up, “Heroes” pays homage to the role models of his youth with hard hitting lyrics such as, “I miss back before I understood/All the ways that life would break your heart/Before I knew that’s what they called growing up”. Rector calls for a rekindling of child-like wonder and confidence in intro ballad “Dream On” which refrains, “When the world says you’re crazy/Just tell them they’re wrong and dream on.”

As a father of three little ones, Rector has spent the past few years experiencing a new phase of life as a parent and has found that many of his longtime fans have entered into this chapter alongside him. Not one to gloss over the struggles or life’s ordinary everyday moments, Rector is an authentic artist that keeps it real in his songs. With lyrics about taking on the role of examining his little girl’s scraped knee in heartful song “Daughter” and life’s little moments that he was immersed in while being home during the pandemic, Rector sings of things like getting his steps in and singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” for his kids in “Living My Best Life”. Without realizing it, Rector’s music has become a soundtrack for parents who are stepping into these new roles in life as he has seen fans post videos on social media, dancing with their kids to his songs.

“I didn’t realize how much this stage of life is a part of the record…” shares Rector. “I do think there’s a little bit of a gap, in especially Pop music where so much of it is about escapism and so much of it is these mountaintop moments. I think that on some level, 1.  I’m not here to do a good job making that kind of music because that’s not what my life looks like and 2. I’m kind of like ‘Oh, there’s not that many people that are singing about this kind of stuff and this is the only kind of stuff that I know about.’ So I am excited to say that stuff and make hopefully Pop music that is relatable and kind of real. And that’s not to say that other Pop music is not real, it’s just not necessarily what my life is like. It makes me pumped to be like ‘Oh sweet, people can see themselves in this music because there really isn’t a lot of music that is about this kind of stuff. These days it’s mostly about escaping your life or whatever and this is more like ‘We’re here, let’s soak it in’…”

Rector’s faith is evident in songs such as “Supernatural” featuring the talented Dave Koz with lyrics, “It can be hard to remember who we are/That we are beautiful/That we are holy things/That the pen that wrote the moon and sun and stars/Wrote a symphony inside of you and me.”

“Faith has always kind of been a frame or a lens that I look at the world through…” shares Rector. “I think on this record I just felt a little bit more free for whatever reason. So a song like ‘Thank You’, that’s one of the feels where it’s just like ‘This is what I want to say to God and it’s a simple thing and somehow I can still say that even though there are times where I’m like ‘Man, I don’t understand this or this doesn’t make sense to me’, I think that it came from an earnest place. That’s really important to me because I never would want to mix commerce with something that I think is supposed to be pure and important. And also, I would never want to say something that I didn’t totally sign off on that was like ‘Oh man, I think it’s more complicated than that’. I think in a weird way ‘Thank You’ is something that I can still say at the age I am now with the way that I see the world now that I also probably could have said when I was 15 and I think those things are hard to come by sometimes. I was just excited to get to say something that I felt like a simple statement of gratitude. I think anyone can say that, even if someone’s like not a religious person, they can probably say and believe that ‘Hey, I’m just thankful for the life that I have, for my health or whatever’. I was just super excited to get to write that song because it can be a tough needle to thread sometimes, and I feel like that one came together in a good way.”

While the lyrical content of this album holds great meaning and sentiment, the album truly lives up to its name, being Rector’s arguably most fun album to date it, includes extraordinary collaborations on songs like “Cliches” with Dawe’s Taylor Goldsmith, Hanging Out featuring Kenny G, and “Sunday” with the legendary Snoop Dogg.

“In keeping with the spirit of what the album is about and the place I was in making it, I literally for the first time was just like ‘I want to do what sounds like fun,’” explains Rector. “I think that for a long time fun didn’t factor in as much because it felt like it wasn’t important enough to consider fun like, ‘No, I have to do a great job to make sure it doesn’t fail.’ On this album I was like ‘Wow, this is my real life. This is a fun job; I should have fun doing it.’ So, the collaborations, it didn’t set out like ‘I’m going to get Snoop Dogg and Kenny G on my record…With all the collaborators, I literally was like “Wouldn’t it be fun if?’…and magically everybody said, ‘Yes’ and it was awesome.”

Like so many others across the country, Rector watched Snoop Dogg’s Super Bowl halftime performance in awe with his family and friends as they agreed that “Snoop is probably the coolest person alive,” he says. “Just his presence and vibe can’t get any cooler…He’s somehow still current, but also classic and funny and approachable, but also, he’s Snoop Dogg.”

Rector—who was only a couple shows into an acoustic tour in 2020 when the pandemic started— is eager to get back on the road for his upcoming tour “The Joy of Music: Live”.

“I feel like I’m more excited than I’ve ever been because it just feels vibrant and fun,” he says of getting to play this album on tour. “I think sometimes music can sound cool recorded and then to have to bring it to life, some songs are harder than others and in general on this album it just all feels vibrant enough that I feel like it’s music that’s made to be played, made to be performed…” Be sure to catch Rector and his lovable, fuzzy red character Joy from his film on tour!