THE STILL, SMALL VOICE Discusses “Roller Rink”, Protesting for George Floyd and Mental Health Awareness with Madness To Creation

THE STILL, SMALL VOICE Discusses “Roller Rink”, Protesting for George Floyd and Mental Health Awareness with Madness To Creation

Editor’s Note:  The Still, Small Voice is the current indie-rock project of Christiana Benton, who is based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The project officially began in Nashville, TN, with the release of her debut full-length album, “In Tension”, in 2012. Driven by her love of new experiences and interpersonal connection, Benton embarked on her first tour in the year following its release. Blessed with a musically adept community, Benton’s touring and studio bands have featured a rotation of friends-turned-collaborators. T.S.S.V. has performed in basements, traditional venues, and festivals across the continental United States.

Benton began writing lyrics before she ever learned to play an accompanying instrument. After having a dream that she could play the guitar, her father gifted her a Baby Taylor when she was thirteen. The ability to add a melodic counterpart to her existing lyrics quickly became a vital lifeline. Songwriting enabled Benton to explore and express the processing of her emotions and the world around her.

Though her songs clearly convey first-hand personal experiences, which are valuable in their own right, many of Benton’s tracks also offer a variety of thought-provoking themes that invite deeper contemplation. After releasing two additional EPs on her own (“Mourning Dove” & “MANAGE”) , The Still, Small Voice is currently working on a new full-length album to be released through Know Hope Records later this year.

In this in-depth conversation with Madness To Creation, The Still, Small Voice discusses how she left Christianity, the single “Roller Rink(which is out today), protesting for racial justice in light of the George Floyd murder, and the beauty of Philadelphia.  Fans can find The Still, Small Voice at the following locations:

www.facebook.com/tssvmusic

www.thestillsmallvoicemusic.com

Madness To Creation:  I’m intrigued with the name of your project.  It reminds me of being still.  Tell us your inspiration behind the name.

The Still, Small Voice:  So I actually grew up super Evangelical Christian, and while I don’t label myself as any particular religion these days and definitely don’t condone the warped cross-pollination of faith & politics in The United States, I am well-familiarized with biblical texts. In the story The Still, Small Voice is adapted from, the prophet Elijah is alone on a mountain waiting to hear from God. In the meantime, a terrifying windstorm occurs, then an earthquake, and then a fire, but he notes that God was not in any of them. Finally, a soft voice appears, so Elijah steps out of his cave and they finally have a conversation. 

In all the years I was in church, I experienced a lot of beauty, but also a lot of confusion, fear-mongering, and personal anxiety. Over time, I learned to recognize and gradually trust an inner-wisdom that spoke quietly, but made more sense than anything else in the room. The name of my project is a reflection of that, and also a reminder to pay more attention to the quiet stillness we each contain than the loud chaos we’re often surrounded by.

Madness To Creation:  Your favorite venue to play in Philadelphia.

The Still, Small Voice: I’ve never played at Johnny Brenda’s but it’s been my favorite Philadelphia venue since I saw The Fruit Bats there in 2010. Every show feels a little more magical to me in that space, and the way the stage is set up and the way the audience corrals around it makes it feel communal. As for places I have played, I’d say upstairs at World Cafe Live was a favorite experience. They take really good care of you, nothing smells weird, and the sound is crystal clear. A close second would be the time I played to a full house at Milkboy on Chestnut, was surrounded by friends, and won $200 (it was a contest). Basically, any show where I can pay my bandmates AND pay for parking is a win for me.

Madness To Creation:  Fun random question.  I am a diehard Sixers fan, I love Allen Iverson what’s your favorite Philly thing or Philly personality?

The Still, Small Voice: I’m originally from New Jersey, but I moved to Philadelphia from Nashville, TN. In Nashville, things are hyper polished and people go to great lengths to curate aesthetics. You can see it in the homes, stores, restaurants, and people, and you can certainly hear it in the music. As a native north-easterner, as much as I can’t get behind abrasiveness for it’s own sake, I like that people here are straightforward and a little, might I say – gritty. I want to be surrounded by realness and diversity and history. I want to be a well-rounded person. At the end of the day though, my favorite part of Philly is the buildings. 

Madness To Creation:  You’re releasing Roller Rink on June 10th. Take us into that song and what message do you want to convey to your fans or whoever is listening?

The Still, Small Voice: Roller Rink is a story about my eighth-grade birthday party where a crew of tough pre-teen girls decided they wanted to throw down in the middle of the rink. Me and all (five) of my friends were wearing skates and they were in sneakers. For the record, I was not even remotely a tough kid. That night traumatized me enough that my young Christian mouth said “FUCK” for the first time (of many future times). I must have gone as far as repressing the majority of the memory until I was moving into my new apartment in Philadelphia about to celebrate my 30th birthday. Suddenly, I felt this confident strength as a woman in a new city, making her own decisions and taking up her own space.

The first line: “I didn’t want you to see me like that, crying in the Roller Rink” initiated the rest of the song, which is about reflecting on your childhood insecurities and knowing that, while you still have them, you’ve come a long way and should be proud of yourself. I have this tendency, like most people, to want to avoid pain by strategizing it away. Unfortunately it doesn’t work, and as time goes on, you realize surrendering to the ebb and flow of life is the only way to thrive. Or you can stay rigid and snap. Regardless, it’s all worthwhile and gets woven into the bigger picture.

Also, one of my favorite lines of the song is “Love is something you can’t earn if it’s with working for”.

Madness To Creation:  My heart is broken over George Floyd.  Have you gone out and protested or what’s your thoughts on it?  What changes do you want to see made?

The Still, Small Voice: I attended a protest on Thursday and have been advocating / giving wherever I can, while encouraging my friends and the others who are advocating to guard their energies with care. The black community needs us writing emails to government leaders, signing petitions, voting, speaking up, raising awareness, educating ourselves, and putting our physical bodies between them and racism. They don’t need us exhausting ourselves in mile-long Facebook debates with extended family members who’ve already made up their minds, or writing platitudes on how sorry we are so we feel better about our previous passivity. 

But most of all, I think we need to recognize that the root of these issues comes down to someone being incapable of seeing someone else’s humanity. I believe police should be held to a higher standard than civilians, face consequences for brutality, and receive WAY more training on deescalation. I also believe that deeming all police human garbage is just adding to the problem, and it’s a really easy for us to point the finger as a distraction from our own complicity. We need to SEE each other and see ourselves within each other, or every fix will be temporary.

Madness To Creation:  The most challenging and rewarding aspect of writing is what in the writing process?’

The Still, Small Voice: Currently, the least challenging aspect is the writing. For me, the challenges are fleshing out the songs / the constant decision-making involved in the recording process. But even more so, it’s all the details of promotion and keeping up with social media. That’s why I’m so happy to have signed with Know Hope Records and finally found a great manager. It’s good to have a team. It’s a relief I’d somewhat relinquished getting to experience, so I’m really thankful for it. 

I will say this, though: the most challenging part of writing is consciously slowing down and paying attention long enough to get inspired. Writing a heartfelt song means letting your guard down and taking a risk long enough to see if it’ll work out in the end. It’s a dance between logic and mystery that really can’t be forced. 

That being said, the most challenging part is my favorite part. Seeing how lyrics can unfold into a story, while also rhyming, and also capturing a moment in your life that other people find solace in is the most rewarding thing I get to partake in.

Madness To Creation:  We pay particular attention to mental health awareness, what helps get you through and what makes you happy?

The Still, Small Voice:  One of my happiest places is laying on a blanket in the grass with a good book while my phone is off and away. That, or hiking in the woods. Nature keeps me sane, but I also have a whole slew of things I practice regularly to stay grounded as a very empathetic person: journaling, yoga, therapy, meditation, and spending time with people I can be my complete self and laugh with. Also, eating vegetables. 

Madness To Creation:  First thing you want to do when Covid effs off forever?

The Still, Small Voice:  Dude, the moment Covid eff’s off, I want to to hug all my friends for 20 minutes each, fly on a plane to legitimately anywhere, and drink a margarita on a crowded restaurant patio in the sun while complaining about how there are too many people. 

Madness To Creation:  What else would you like to add in terms of The Still, Small Voice?

The Still, Small Voice:  Not to get on a philosophical soapbox, but if you’re reading this, know that your life is simply a series of small decisions. Any lofty goals are built on those decisions and the best decisions are made out of love. So if you’re overwhelmed, just do the next best thing in love and what you end up building will inevitably be meaningful. Also, be relentlessly kind to yourself (and follow me on Spotify). xoxo

And there you have it!  Also check out Know Hope Records at:

http://knowhoperecords.bandcamp.com

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