by Britt Rizzo
Christiana Benton is often the first face you’ll see when you stop by WCL for a show and the first voice you’ll hear when you give us a call to buy a ticket. While you can find her behind the box office plexiglass most nights, on June 1st you’ll find her center stage in The Lounge for her show with local indie-pop artists Sadie Leigh and Katie Hackett of The Lunar Year.
Benton is a wearer of many hats in the music industry. She got her start with staircase performances of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” for family and friends (couldn’t help but think of this video). Once Christiana received her first guitar at 13 years old, it was game over (lucky us, the music rips) and she dove straight into the world of writing, producing, touring and releasing music.
Currently, Christiana holds down a remote gig working for Mark Schultz of Surround Mix Group in addition to her WCL box office duties. If you’re thinking, “Hey, that’s a lot of cool stuff, does your co-worker Christiana find time to sleep?” We’re curious too, and probably should’ve asked, but instead, we went ahead and asked about her music.
Tickets to see Christiana Benton with Sadie Leigh and The Lunar Year (solo) in The Lounge on June 1st are available here.
How’d you land the gig at WCL?
I ended up at WCL when I started asking myself what kind of job I would enjoy as a supplement to my other remote gig. I realized I was interested in working at a venue, especially coming out of the pandemic and craving social interaction again. I texted a handful of friends in the area asking them to keep me in mind if they heard of anything. A couple of days later my friend, Dennis, sent me an Instagram post from World Cafe Live announcing they were hiring.
I kid you not, it was the first place I applied & the last place I interviewed. From the moment I sat down in the WXPN lobby, I knew I wanted to work there, which was only confirmed as I met more people & learned more about the venue.
Ironically, it was also the last place I had played a show before the pandemic shutdown began, so I knew firsthand how they treated their artists & that it was a community I wanted to be a part of.
Local musicians often have a day job while juggling their creative pursuits. What’s it like to be a musician with a gig at a concert venue?
There’s so much I could say about this, but it really comes down to perspective. I’ve spent a lot of time spinning my wheels comparing myself and feeling deflated. I still have those moments, but I’ve learned that seeing someone else succeed in the thing I aspire to do just means it’s possible for me to do that too.
Ultimately, working at WCL has helped me overcome imposter syndrome because I see a much bigger picture than the 30-90 minutes the artist is on stage. I know from paying bands and interacting with artist management that there is a way to tour sustainably if you keep chipping away at it, know your worth, and build a good team.
It also goes without saying: I’ve learned how a venue staff deserves to be treated. Mutual kindness/support goes a long way. I also feel like I have the best of both worlds: being in live music & being a homebody. I get to be part of a different show (or two) every night & then go sleep in my own bed.
How would you describe your tunes to those who want to check them out?
When Paramore was huge, people would say I reminded them of Hayley Williams. Now they tell me I remind them of Phoebe Bridgers. I think both are a stretch in terms of my singing capabilities, but I am flattered nonetheless. I hope it means there’s both softness & strength to my voice.
Ultimately, the music is melodic indie with melancholy-leaning lyrics. I’ve started writing slightly boppier songs recently (thanks, Prozac) but the majority of them feel like journal entries I’m letting everyone read.
Favorite thing about working at WCL? Most memorable Box Office encounter?
My co-workers are some of my favorite people. Truly, we are the cutest group of weirdos you will ever meet. Throughout any given night, staff members will come into the box office to make jokes or vent or talk about their crushes (or their crushes’ astrological signs).
I call it “The Chamber of Secrets” and live for the thrill of knowing too much. I’ve had too many memorable encounters to choose one, but I think sitting in that little glass box making each other laugh is a major highlight.
My other favorite thing about working at WCL is that we’re independent and have advocated for independent venues as a whole. In my opinion, the difference is palpable.
You spent some time in Nashville. Both Philly and Nashville are known for their music scenes. What’s it like to be back in Philly and playing music here?
I love this city. Nashville is an incredible place to visit with rich music history. Some of my best friends live there – I spent my twenties drinking whiskey with & around people I never thought I’d encounter, no less glean from. You’d be reading at a coffee shop and realize you’re sitting next to a member of Wilco. That’s just daily life there & people treat it like daily life, but there’s this electric undercurrent where it feels like anything could happen. At the same exact time, people move there the way actors move to L.A. – looking for a “big break”. So there’s also this damp (humid) feeling of comparison & disappointment in the air too. For some people, moving there works out beautifully & they thrive.
Personally, I didn’t move to Nashville to conquer music, but I did learn a lot about making it by just existing there. I also had to unlearn a lot when I moved here. The main difference between Nashville & Philadelphia is that Nashville is curated as f*ck – from the murals to the bachelorette parties to the lifestyle bloggers photographing their lattes for twenty minutes.
In Philadelphia, we’re messy just for fun. Our mascot is Gritty. We like pop-punk and basement shows and being overtly liberal. We may not smile at you on the street, but when you play a show, we won’t stand there with crossed arms either. Under all that Philly angst is enthusiasm waiting for its moment to come out. Playing music here has felt like a natural progression – a home where I can stand out a little more and spread my roots a little further.
You recently started going by your name rather than the moniker The Still Small Voice. Does this change signify a new era in your music?
I hope so! I’m really thankful for everything I learned and got to experience as TSSV, but it felt like it was time to peel back a layer. I don’t know that the music itself will experience such a drastic change (maybe a little less mid-2000’s emo influence), but I do think it will naturally feel more intimate as I pull back some of the instrumentation, have a greater hand in the production, and take more confident ownership of what I’m doing.
What inspires your music?
Experience, really. I overheard an artist answer this question at the merch table outside The Lounge recently. Her answer was, “Just…paying attention,” and I loved that. Julia Cameron is one of my favorite authors and she says the exact same thing: “Art is born in attention.” So while musical artists like Mike Kinsella or Madi Diaz might inspire me, so can a really good tree, or a really strong feeling of grief. If you pay close enough attention, it might spur you to make something.