BEN RICE TRIO
Ben Rice wears square-rimmed glasses, collared button-up shirts, jeans, and black loafers. New audience members hoping to hear some great blues music seem shocked when Rice walks on stage – he is the complete opposite of what a blues singer looks like. However, once Rice picks up his guitar and starts singing, the Eugene audience is taken straight to the Deep South.
A fan of Rice’s describes him as a “black blues singer stuck inside a normal white guy.” Rice, originally from Newberg, Oregon, is the lead singer and guitarist of The Ben Rice Trio in Eugene. He is a perfect example of why you should never judge based on appearance. He describes himself as a shy and awkward person, but you would never perceive that about him from his performances. Rice says that the biggest influences of his music are artists like Carlos Santana and B.B. King. However, he is inspired by music from a large range of varying genres – everything from blues to rock, soul, and even eastern African music.
In addition to having the voice of a Southern black blues singer, Rice is an amazing guitarist. He picked up his first guitar, a 1981 Washburn A10, when he was only five years old. At the age of seven, he began taking lessons, and now, at the prime age of 22, Rice says that he can “convincingly play four instruments” – the guitar, bass, trombone, and drums.
Once Rice begins performing, a complete character transformation happens before the audience’s eyes. As Rice closes his eyes and begins playing his guitar, you can see his feelings in his face as he is moved by his own music. He’s a natural onstage. Then, he opens his mouth, and this deep, soulful voice comes out and blows the audience away. It doesn’t take long for the audience to get involved with the music. One verse into the first song and people are already tapping their feet or clapping along with the beat. Rice sways back and forth, eyes still closed, and belts out his blues.
Rice wasn’t always into the blues, though. He joined his first band in 1997 as a guitarist when he was nine years old. It was his two older brothers’ metal band, Minor Effects. The same year that he joined, Minor Effects opened for both Motörhead and Iron Maiden, two very popular metal bands. Rice’s blues career began two years later when he performed his first blues gig at the Hop Madness Celebration in Oregon.
Rice has been nominated for the Cascade Blues Association’s Muddy Awards 10 times. They have performed in multiple cities in Oregon, Washington, and California. In 2007, Rice and his band represented the Cascade Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. They placed second in the King of Beale Street competition.