New pop/worship artist Manny Benton is set to release his debut single, "I Look To You," July 28 with pre-orders starting July 17. The single will be released under Benton's independent label, Noisemakers Music Group, LLC.
Benton spent several days studying the book of Hebrews, which helped birth the song. "It was a week where I just felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders," says Benton. "I literally opened my Bible asking God to reveal a word to me through scripture and I was led to read Hebrews. It's a familiar book, but what really struck me is how chapters 11-13 have this build-up from explaining what faith is to teaching us how we ought to fix our eyes on Jesus who is the author and finisher of this faith."
It was in Hebrews where Benton discovered a verse that would later become the foundation of his debut single. "Hebrews 13:14 tells us that here we have no enduring city but we seek one yet to come," he added. "This simple verse really just set a fire in me because when you read it in context with the previous chapters, it's simply telling you to fix your eyes on Christ for that's where your hope is found. This hope is the only absolute we have. So we ought to look to Him!"
Benton, 24, grew up in Fort Washington, MD where he was a three-sport athlete as a child: soccer, baseball and football. At the age of 17, Benton started his own football blog that would later aid him in landing professional gigs writing about the Washington Redskins football team. "As a guy who grew up a huge fan of the Redskins, having an opportunity to cover the team was a dream come true," Benton confesses. "It's my passion, but I came to learn that the Lord wanted more from me."
Coming from a family full of ministers, including his grandfather, Rev. Dr. Harrison E. Benton Jr., who pastored for 18 years, Manny Benton grew up in church. Although he started learning piano when he was four, Benton did not really become active in the music department at his grandfather's church until his mid-teens. "I was a bit of a rebel when it came to music," he cracks. "I enjoyed taking piano classes, but I didn't enjoy having to read sheet music. That was extremely boring to me!"
It wasn't until his mother, Crystal, took him to a Jazz music festival around the age of 11 that he would begin to develop a strong passion for music. "I had an opportunity to see this Jazz pianist, Brian Culbertson, live and it just changed my entire perspective on music. It was fun and creative."
After discovering this new passion for music, Benton decided to give the piano a try again and realized he could play by ear. As he became more proficient at playing the instrument, he gradually discovered that he could hold a tune vocally. "I would blast music from my living room stereo when my mom was out of the house and I'd record myself singing to it," he recalls. "It was always Christian artists like Ron Kenoly, Jr. or the Kenoly Brothers that I would sing to. Looking back on it, that's really how I trained my voice."
With those voice recordings, Benton would timidly share them with his mother. "She's a straight shooter, but I thought it sounded okay and wanted to get her feedback," he remembers. "That turned out to be a good and a bad thing. It was a good thing because she confirmed that I could sing, but it was bad because she would then force me to sing. Not only that but she broke the news to my middle school music teacher who in turn had me join the choir and I'm not a fan of singing in choirs." Benton would later play the trumpet in his middle school band and the snare drum in high school.
It wasn't until he was around the age of 16 that he decided to sing in church at an open mic service. During that period, Benton had discovered that he could write songs and decided to perform an original at the service. "Most of the people who watched me grow up in the church never heard me sing," he says. "It was kind of nerve wrecking to do an original while letting people hear me sing for the first time." The song, "Walking on Water," was a hit within his church community and was the beginning of his musical ministry.
Benton would go on to lead the praise team at his grandfather's church, singing mostly songs that he wrote. "We sang a lot of hymns at my church, so that was the sound I was used to," Benton says. "Although, I didn't like playing hymns on the piano, I liked the emphasis placed on the lyrical content. So, I began to discover my sound and focus more on writing. When I did play an artist's song it was always Israel Houghton or Chris Tomlin's music."
Becoming a musician was never Benton's goal, but he couldn't deny the gift of writing worship songs. "I went through a phase of discovering worship as something I liked doing to it now becoming the very fabric of who I am," he says.
The new radio single, "I Look To You," was produced by Sean Hill (Jamie Grace, Brad Guldemond) and it reflects Benton's primary goal as an artist - helping point people to Christ.