When multi-talented musician Ben Rector isn’t in the studio or on stage, he can be found on the fairway. In addition to being a stellar singer-songwriter and inventive instrumentalist, he plays golf with the best of them. In “normal” times, one of his favorite tour stops is Phoenix. We caught up with the Nashville-based linksman to discuss his favorite things about the Valley of the Sun – from its pristine golf courses to a certain sandwich that he says is worth the trek from The Volunteer State. Rector, whose music has been featured on American Idol, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Pretty Little Liars, also hints at new music in 2021.
Does a Phoenix audience differ from a Nashville audience? What is the energy like?
It’s difficult to answer for sure as I’ve played in Nashville a lot more than Phoenix, but the Phoenix audiences I’ve played for have been so kind. That’s not to say a Nashville audience isn’t kind, but that the Phoenix audience was so immediately receptive and open. Occasionally shows in Nashville can take a moment to get going.
What do you miss most about touring?
I love getting to see different parts of the country, the landscapes and architecture. I also really miss trying new restaurants and visiting old favorites outside of my hometown.
What do you like most about coming to Arizona?
This might be too on the nose, so forgive me, but man, the sunshine. Winter in Nashville is brutal, not because it’s so cold, but because it’s grey a large percentage of the time, and being on the edge of the central time zone it gets dark super early. And in both warm and cool weather, the air in Nashville is usually pretty humid. Anytime I get to pass through Phoenix I feel like a houseplant that’s been put outside on a sunny day.
What is your favorite music venue in Phoenix?
I loved The Van Buren the last time we came through! The backstage area was super comfortable, which always feels like a gift to a band and crew. Not every venue makes the green room/communal areas feel comfortable and when a venue does it’s a real treat.
Where’s your go-to place to grab a drink or get some grub before or after a show?
Hillstone has an entree called Ding’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich that I would travel many miles for. They’ve also got a kale salad that is delicious (I know, I know, kale salad, but it’s incredible).
Say you have a day off in Phoenix. What would your day look like?
I would absolutely be golfing. I’d probably start it heading to Cartel, then I’d head out to either We-Ko-Pa or Whisper Rock (if any friends that were members were in town and kind enough to host me). I’d probably aim to play 36, then I’d probably grab Ding’s Crispy Chicken sandwich at Hillstone and call it an evening.
You’re an avid golfer. What’s your favorite course in Phoenix?
So hard to pick! There are so many incredible courses out there. I think realistically Whisper Rock would have to be my favorite, just such a great course and such a great overall vibe. However, We-Ko-Pa is right up there for me, I played the Coore Crenshaw course on my first ever golf trip, and it has stuck with me as a favorite. There are so many courses around Phoenix that I love though, hard to pick just one.
If you could play a game of golf with anyone, pro golfer or otherwise, who would it be?
I think playing with Ben Crenshaw would be a really cool experience, with his experience as both a player and a designer. If it were a non-golfer, I’d say Huey Lewis, as he’s got my favorite voice in pop music and is a great golfer.
What’s your first stop next time you come to the Valley of the Sun?
First stop would be just going outside and letting the sun wash over me, next I’m heading to one of the many excellent golf courses.
Leave us with a great piece of advice your received recently.
This might sound trite but it’s probably ‘”Let the main thing be the main thing.” I’m finishing a record currently and it can be easy for the minutia to cloud the big picture, so always running things through the filter of whether or not they are serving the main goal of a song is hugely helpful, even though it sounds simplistic.