Photograph by Jessie DeVoe
Cheyenne Benton’s first instrument was a drum set of pots and Tupperware.
Cheyenne Benton loves the San Diego County Fair. Except when she hates it. “One of my best stories would have to be when I was performing at the 2019 fair,” she recalls. “We got to the final song on our set, and when I looked out into the crowd I saw Vic Fuentes from Pierce the Veil and his girlfriend watching my set.
“I instantly lost my cool — nearly threw up on stage, I was so nervous — but he stuck around after the show and bought a CD, and talked with me for a minute. That meant so much to me, being able to meet one of my musical heroes, and to have him be so down to earth and genuine. Hands down one of my favorite gigs to date.”
On the other hand, “One of my worst gigs was the first live show I ever booked — once again, at the San Diego County Fair, but back in 2015. It was scheduled for what I thought would be a sunny summer day — and as soon as I got on stage to perform, it started raining.”
“Because the stage equipment is all outside, they booted me off stage for safety reasons, and I was unable to reschedule. It absolutely broke my heart, and I had a moment where I had to decide whether or not I was cut out for this type of thing. But I pushed through my fear and I’ve played many of wonderful gigs since then!”
Benton was born in California City near Lancaster in the high desert north of Los Angeles, but her family moved to San Diego just before she turned five. “My mom likes to tell the story of my love for making noise very early on, at about two or three when I would crawl underneath the sink to grab pots, pans, and Tupperware to create my own make-shift drum sets.”
“I just about drove her insane, so she bought locks to put on the cabinets to keep me from getting into trouble. That worked for a hot minute, until I eventually memorized the key code and was able to unlock them myself.”
The first instrument she mastered was the baritone ukulele, age eight, around the same time she discovered Taylor Swift. “She was the first artist I felt I truly connected with, and to see a young woman being able to write and perform her own music inspired me to do the same.”
“Growing up, we really only listened to country music, and I mean that was it. I remember my first exposure to pop music was around nine or ten, riding in the car with my Auntie, and Maroon 5’s ‘Makes Me Wonder’ came on, and I was hooked. I went home and hopped onto YouTube, which initiated my deep-diving into the world of pop music.”
“The type of music that influences me today is a lot of synthwave, ’80s-inspired sounds — so, the 1975, Lorde, Pale Waves, Kim Petras, Carly Rae Jepsen, Ke$ha, Transviolet. I love bubblegum pop with meaningful lyrics, a catchy riff, and somewhat of a nostalgic sonic feel.”
Performing in public, she started out a bit wobbly, but righted herself swiftly. “My first experience performing to an actual audience was during a Christmas play at my old private elementary school. I was in the fifth grade, I played the role of Mother Mary’s Donkey, and we got to sing a solo song while holding hands. The girl who played Mother Mary was my best friend at the time, and I remember being absolutely petrified to sing in front of other people. But she was right there alongside me to cheer me on, and it was received really well.”
“I remember being extremely intimidated by the San Diego music scene when I started seriously playing gigs. Mostly because it’s so male-dominated and I jumped into it pretty young, around 16. Attending and playing the local open mic gigs taught me a lot about what it means to be an artist, and how it really isn’t as black and white as the media makes it seem. Some of the most talented people you will ever hear can be found playing to empty chairs and empty tables in hole-in-the-wall coffee shops.”