STEPHENVILLE — He may be more familiar with playing the "bar scene," but local talent Jason Benoit is enjoying the different experience of his first summer performing with the Stephenville Theatre Festival.
"Audience members attend to strictly see a show and they're so much more attentive and you get feedback from them. In a bar, it's different because people go out to have a good time more than to listen to the art of music itself," he said.
With relatives like Bernie and Robert Felix of Felix and Formanger from Black Duck Brook; Mattis Benoit and a number of musically accomplished people from West Bay, where he actually grew up, Benoit said music was always part of his family.
Benoit started playing the guitar at age 14 with lessons from his brother Myles on his turnarounds from working in Nova Scotia at the time, then went from there on his own. At the age of 16 years he was performing at local charities and other functions, including talent shows.
His popularity grew in 2007 when he won West Coast Idol, held at the Arts and Culture in Stephenville. He then did several Appalachia Country Shows, which were initiatives of the local Arts and Culture Centre.
Benoit hooked up with a band called the Senior Boys and the Kid — of course him being the kid at the time.
He went solo for a bit, but then teamed up with Lloyd Swyers to make up the duo Flashpoint.
Now at age 27 and with more than a decade of performing under his belt, Benoit feels a lot more comfortable on stage and actually performs a number of solos in the Hit Country show at the festival.
There is a total of seven performances of this show this season, with sold out audiences for the first three and close to a full house for the fourth. The remaining performances take place on Aug. 2, 5 and 11.
Some of the songs he performs include: "Okie from Muskogee" by Merle Haggard; "Singing the Blues" by Marty Robbins; "Only Make Believe" by Conway Twitty; "He Stopped Loving Her Today" by George Jones.
Benoit will be performing two songs at the Stephenville Festival Gala, which are in the process of being selected now.
While he doesn't have any CDs out, projects are in the works for next year as he and manager Jenson Vaughan out of Vancouver are exploring the release of a single to radio in 2013.
Benoit writes a lot of his own music, something that he's been doing since the age of 14 years. Depending on how well his single does, he may even eventually try Nashville.
Currently, his day job is an account-opening specialist at the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union in Stephenville, which he has been doing for the past five years. He lives in Fox Island River.