A year of jazz conservatory at Virginia Commonwealth University left Ben Phan rebellious: uninspired by the environment and fed-up with the structure, he knew he didn’t want to be an academic musician.
So Phan began his professional career as a founding member of the Richmond Afrobeat Movement, a blend of jazz, funk and African dance music which earned significant attention in the South, including a TV appearance and other media features.
A stint as Musical Director for Free Run Wine Merchants gave Phan a chance to develop his professional skills, setting up musical events for the company, which included solo jazz gigs as well as band arrangements.
Phan then joined a bluegrass and folk band, the Rusty Strings, and discovered the joy in sitting on a porch and singing together with others, simply for the love of music.
In 2014, Phan decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and his life changed forever. Along with everything else he needed, he carried a mini-guitar on his back and became known by the name “Shredder” because of how he “shredded the guitar” when he played. Five months of travel on foot, 2,668 miles from the Mexican border all the way into Canada, playing for himself and the people he met, transformed his relationship with music. He began writing songs, drawn from his experiences on the trail as well as his past struggles with depression, addiction, loss and love. The music offered hope and solace, to him and to his audiences.
The time on the Pacific Crest Trail renewed Phan’s passion for music. With a prolific body of original work, he returned to Asheville to record his first solo EP, “Hold On, Let Go.” He assembled a band, made up of some of the best musicians in Asheville: besides liking his music, they appreciate the dedication and professionalism Phan brings to his work. The band released it's debut album, "Dreams in Modern Folk", to a sold out crowd at the Altamont Theatre, one of Asheville's finest listening rooms. The band continued to perform successful shows over the following year, refining their high energy sound which combines fiery improvisation with rich composition. This led to a successful kickstarter campaign to fund their next album, "Fear is the Teacher", which the band is currently recording with Grammy winning producer Matt Williams. Phan continues to perform with the band, as a solo artist, and in collaborations with other musicians; he has also built a successful guitar teaching practice, which he finds a great source of inspiration.
Phan is a prolific poet, songwriter, and guitarist, with the soul of an improviser. He crafts his songs to give room for improvisation, presence, and self-expression in the moment. He believes that the best live music is when everyone playing is co-creating – which means that every one of his concerts offers audiences a different sound and a unique experience.