If you mention Kristin Scott Benson, you will nod your head and say, “She is the five time IBMA Banjo Player of the year. She plays with the Grascals.” And you’d be right, but she’s so much more than that. I recently had the chance to sit down with her at the Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival over a BBQ dinner – on a paper plate, at that – where we discussed what most women like to talk about, our kids.
Benson shared, “I would love to talk about my son. Hogan is not at all interested in music. He is a typical 15 year old, with his own interests.” While Kristin is a constant figure on the stages across the country, her son is completely unimpressed. We spoke of the juggling of life on the road, with family and a teenager, and she said, “It’s really no different from most couples. My music is a job, we work as a unit, and it works.”
Now a sophomore in high school, Hogan’s passion is fishing. He is on the fishing team, and his mother admits she knows nothing about fishing, but beamed with pride as she pulled out her cell phone and showed me a current picture of her pride and joy with his prize smallmouth bass, which weighed in at 7 lbs. 5 oz.
Being at the top of the ladder as a banjo player, Kristin manifests impeccable taste, tone, and timing. She plays a Deering Golden Wreath series banjo, and when it comes to her banjo says, “It’s like a cannon, and does exactly what it’s supposed to do. It punctuates and cuts through a bluegrass band. It isn’t mushy, and it doesn’t get lost. You have got to have clarity, and the Golden Wreath has that!”
Benson became an officially endorsed Deering artist in July of this year.
Kristin had a new single hit the charts in October, Red Mountain Wine, with Mountain Home Music. Partnering with her husband, Wayne Benson (25 year veteran of many time IBMA Vocal Group of the year, Russell Moore & IIIrd Time out), this song shows the many musical facets of the power couple. As a unit with the same love of music, the difference is that they don’t entertain together in the same band, and have completely touring different schedules. However, in 2022, tracks from the first Benson album were released.
This creative impact of pure bluegrass highlights a mutual perception. Their vision is the same, especially when it comes to family and their love for bluegrass music.
In addition to his work with IIIrd Tyme Out, Wayne launched a mandolin instruction site during the COVID shutdowns, something that Kristin is also quite proud of. You can follow Wayne’s World of Mandolin online.
Kristin is also actively teaching her skills to others. At the time of our interview, she had five students at the festival, and teaches about 50 regularly online. In fact while at OIBF, she had given a lesson a few minutes before our chat. Several of her students were awarded scholarships that were given out at the festival. Kristin aspires to teach with nurturing oversight, and creates a place for her students to not only learn how to play, but to fall head over heels in love with bluegrass while they do it.
Then we crossed over into what ifs? Benson never had the privilege of playing with Byron Berline, who was a crucial part of organizing this annual festival held in Guthrie, OK. She shared, however, that “Byron has a true legacy of concrete contributions to bluegrass and fiddle music.”
Kristin Benson is not only a five time winner of the IBMA Banjo Player of the Year recipient, she has also been named the Banjo Performer of the Year several times by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA), and received the Steve Martin Banjo Award in 2018.
In 2023, Kristin can be found teaching at The Blue Ridge Banjo Camp, and on tour with The Grascals.