Ben Peverall’s Nashville Adventure

“I always knew that I was going to pursue music, but as high school was winding down, there was this pressure to make a decision, to have everything figured out. Do you go to college? If not, what are you going to do? Where are you going to live? At that point, Nashville wasn’t part of the plan. I didn’t have a plan!”

The phrase “love at first sight” almost always refers to two people meeting, falling head over heels, and getting lost in each other’s eyes. But for Ben Peverall, the instant infatuation didn’t happen over a girl. Instead, it was a city that captured his heart.

Ben grew up in Wilmington. His parents still live in the same house, in the Middle Sound Loop area, that they purchased when he was just three years old. He is a self-described surfer kid, spending countless hours on Wrightsville Beach. He loves this area. It will always be home, but Ben hasn’t lived here for almost a decade.

In 2015, at just 19 years old, the Coastal Christian High graduate set off with some friends on a weekend road trip to Tennessee. It was a journey that would dramatically change Ben’s life. The group left Wilmington on a Friday afternoon around 2 pm. They arrived in Nashville just before midnight. A mere 36 to 40 hours later, they were back in their car heading home.

In the short time Ben got a glimpse of what he’s been looking for, even if he didn’t know it, his entire life. Nashville is the type of city with music outside on every corner and inside every bar.

Yes, the town has a well-deserved reputation for country music. The Grand Ole Opry is there, and so many legends like Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, along with modern-day artists like Tim McGraw, have all called Nashville home.

But for the last 30 or 40 years, the city has been growing well beyond its country roots. It’s now a place where performers, artists, and musicians—from virtually any genre—are playing on a nightly basis. In a short walk you can find pop, rock, R&B, blues, jazz, folk, hip-hop, and anything else you want to hear.

Nashville is now a much more abundant, diverse, and artistic city.

“I immediately fell in love. It was only a day and a half, but on the way back, I texted my parents and told them that I think I’m going to move here.”

The Wilmington Boy

“Other than the churches, I think all the places I played in Wilmington are now closed down.”

If the name Ben Peverall sounds familiar, chances are you’ve lived in Wilmington for a while. You have to go back at least 10 to 12 years to when the teenager was making his mark around town. You see, there was a time in the early teens (or whatever we call the last decade) when many people considered him a prodigy of sorts.

Before he was even old enough to drive, Ben was leading worship music at Life Community Church and often being asked to play for other local congregations and to sing lead at several college worship nights—even though he was still in high school.

Then, in his senior year, Ben’s attention turned to secular music. He formed a band with three friends. They called themselves The Able. The group wrote their own original songs, put out a few singles, and booked gigs at places like the now-defunct Calico Room and Orton’s Pool Hall.

“We played at one bar, and it was a strange setting because we were booked alongside another group, and the bar owner saw us and she was like, ‘What the hell are you all doing here? You’re not 21.’ At that point, we had already set up and done the sound check, and she had heard us and luckily was really cool about it. And then all of our friends, a huge group of teenagers, filled her bar. They served food; I guess that is how she got around it. But she loved the fact that teenagers go places in packs… and so she started to book us for weekend gigs.”

The Able didn’t last very long. Blame it on graduation. After high school, friends tend to go in different directions. Many of Ben’s buddies were moving on to college. He enrolled himself at Cape Fear Community, but academics were never his thing. And so he entered into that awkward phase, that perhaps you can relate to, where it felt like the rest of the world—or at least all of his friends—were moving forward while Ben’s life felt stuck in neutral.

Turns out he needed to get an education, too.

“That’s why I moved to Nashville. I wanted to learn. What I told everyone at the time, and it’s still true today, is I wanted to get better at music, I wanted to get better at my craft. I think the best way to get that kind of education is to surround yourself with people who are way better than you are and have been doing it for a long time.”

Just two months after that quick weekend trip, Ben was loading his few worldly possessions into a 1996 Ford Taurus and driving west. He wasn’t bringing a bed or any furniture to speak of. He just had clothes, a few instruments, and some personal keepsakes. All his life, people told him he was going places… he was after all a prodigy—but perhaps what they never explained is in order to get somewhere new, you have to leave your home behind.

The Reality Check

“It was immediate intimidation. That’s the thing people don’t think about when they chase their dreams. Everyone thinks they’re special. Everyone thinks they are an amazing songwriter, an amazing musician—and that’s not to say they’re not—but there is this unintentional ego that sits inside everyone before they make the big move. And then you get here, and the intimidation starts when you suddenly realize that there are a lot of special people and they are all pursuing the same dream.”

For the last several years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, sixty people move to Nashville every single day. It is one of the fastest-growing cities in America. No one, of course, keeps track of how many people are showing up with musical dreams, but anecdotally speaking, it seems like there are thousands of Bens trying to make it in that town.

Some are subsidized by their parents. Ben was not. He had to get a job right away—it paid $9 an hour. That small income, coupled with a little bit of savings was enough to get started.

He did not pursue music right away, at least not performing it. Instead, he first tried to make friends and build a community by joining a local church. And he knew he had to spend time, lots of time, writing new songs—that’s his pride and joy and what he thinks he does best. You see, he didn’t just want an education in performing, but really he wanted to master creating music from scratch.

So after his work shifts were over, he’d sit on the floor, in the corner of his apartment bedroom, and play his guitar while scribbling his thoughts down on paper.

“I wanted to make sure that I had some good songs, and then I started to play small shows and I bombed—like freaking hard bombed it—like the worst show you could ever go to. No one liked the songs. It was just really embarrassing.”

It turns out it’s one thing to do a show in your hometown. It’s quite another thing to play a room full of strangers in a big city who don’t know your name and have no interest in learning your lyrics.

What got him through those early, humbling, dark days was a lesson he learned from some of the other artists in town. They told him that the path you think things are going to take is never the path things end up going down. Your life changes as you’re pursuing the dream. Things happen during the chase that force you to adjust. But if you are committed to the process, committed to your artistry, then the center holds true even if everything is changing around it.

So Ben learned how to adapt. He was determined to put together another band, to master the art of producing and composing, to find writing partners (so he would no longer be in the corner alone). And perhaps most of all—even if Nashville is full of people all chasing the same dream—Ben figured out that they weren’t his competition but instead, they were his community.

These days, nine years after the move, Ben is still grinding away at the dream.  The now 28-year-old has his hand in songwriting, his own artistry, producing, and occasionally playing for other artists. He also put together a band with five other members that performed around Nashville for a few years.

These days he is releasing new music under the name Epoxy Shades. He’s already put out two singles, with several more songs that will be released throughout the year.

“If you’re going to pursue music, in Wilmington and especially here in Nashville, you have to get rid of your ego! And if you don’t, it’s going to be crushed anyway. You are going to watch people do things and perform in such a way and work their asses off harder than you. So, you have to open up to the possibility that you’re not hot shit. And that sounds like it’s a bad thing, but it’s actually not… because if you let yourself be humbled by what’s really out there, it has a way of making you a better version of your artistic self.”

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