NPR recently sent out the call for musicians across the U.S. to record original music videos for the 2016 Tiny Desk Concert Contest. The contest is an offshoot of NPR’s popular Tiny Desk Concerts – intimate video performances recorded live at the desk of All Songs Considered. Gaelynn Lea, a violist from Duluth, MN, was the national winner.
Sad Giants is 23-year-old Brookings-based guitarist and singer Bobby Benedict, who also performs with The New FM.
SDPB: How long have you been performing solo as Sad Giants?
Bobby Benedict aka Sad Giants: I have been performing as Sad Giants since August of 2014 when my band The New FM couldn't make a show that I had already booked and so I went out there myself and played the show.
SDPB: Where/what venues in South Dakota do you typically perform as Sad Giant?
SG: I play Wooden Legs Brewing Company in my town of Brookings, I love that place for both the beer and the people and they always treat me real well. In Sioux Falls I'm either playing Latitude 44 because it's got a great atmosphere and Cyndy has been supporting me and many others for years now, or I'm at Total Drag because it's the only all ages venue in Sioux Falls right now and it really is one of the best regional venues. I've played the Red Rooster Coffee House in Aberdeen on a small tour with some friends of mine and it was a fun experience, on that same tour I went out to Rapid City and played the Sahara Nights Hookah Lounge which was an interesting place to say the least.
SDPB: How did you make the leap to live performance?
SG: I've always loved performing. I did a lot of theater and band in high school and after a while I had a little high school garage band that I drummed in. The call of the spotlight led me to start taking guitar more seriously and write songs for myself, eventually I ended up paring down each experience I've had into a solo performance.
SDPB: How do you find performing in South Dakota? What are the benefits? What are the challenges?
SG: People are, for the most part, extremely supportive. Most of the time, if people are performing in a bar or venue, then people pay attention or want to be a part of the fun. It's a great atmosphere to be in as a performer. On the flipside that also begets the challenges, people want to be entertained and to hear live music but not always original music. South Dakota is the place I hear more people than ever ask if I take requests. There's a good deal of successful cover/tribute bands that people love around here and in some areas you won't be able to get booked if you aren't playing mostly covers. I try to keep a lot of covers in my back pocket just in case, there's been times on tour where changing to a Top Hits style format will get me paid and maybe get less things thrown at me.
SDPB: How did you find out about NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert?
SG: I think the first video I ever saw was the T-Pain video from them where it was just him singing sans Autotune and a pianist, it was great. After that I kept seeing singer-songwriters and bands that I really enjoy pop up my YouTube suggestions.
SDPB: Why did you choose “Not Goodbye, See You Later” to enter into the Tiny Desk Concert? What were you hoping judges would hear?
SG: I chose that song because it's one of my more relatable songs. It's about loss and the things we tell ourselves to deal with it. I think that it has a nice build to it, it's catchy but still meaningful, and it has a heartland rock sort of feel. It's definitely one of my best songs, I was hoping the judges would hear my voice, not only literally but the songwriting perspective as well, and the heart that I put into both the writing and performance.
SDPB: Are any of your songs, either with Sad Giant or The New FM, influenced by South Dakota?
SG: Ha! Well, there's a few unsavory songs of mine that are influenced by the topographical qualities of this state. I've made the drive up and down I-90 a good many times and that definitely came through once while I was moving from Sioux Falls back to Brookings. Actually, "Not Goodbye, See You Later" was a bit influenced by some of the drives I've taken along that same route, it can be inspiring to see the sun break the horizon and dip back down, after a long tour it can be cathartic to see home again. Maybe that's not the right word. Inspiring? Either way, I've had plenty of things run through my mind driving around South Dakota.
SDPB: I think readers love to know the genesis of band/performer names. Can you tell me about the name “Sad Giants”?
SG: Everyone was pretty into my solo performance so I figured I'd keep on trying. Initially I was trying to be Sad Giant but the Facebook page had already been taken so I pluralized it to Sad Giants so I could have an easy to remember Facebook name. I also figured ambiguous singer-songwriter monikers have worked out before like with The Mountain Goats or Iron & Wine. I wanted to be Sad Giants because initially my songs were all fairly self-loathing or based around some of my depressive moods, and though it may not come off in my writing I am actually quite large. I'm 6'6" and so Sad Giants was born.
See Sad Giants' Tiny Desk Concert here.