Asheville musician Ben Phan on facing fears and his leap of faith

Ben Phan/ photo by Adam McMillian


If fear is indeed a teacher, then Ben Phan is a willing student.

The Asheville musician took a leap of faith earlier this year and quit his day job at a juice and tea bar to devote his free time to pursuing his first love – music. That risk inspired an album full of material, songs that he has compiled into a new album aptly named Fear is the Teacher.

With a show Sunday at the Grey Eagle, Phan and friends will introduce fans to every song and launch a crowdfunding campaign to fund a studio album.

“I hope people can connect with the message that, no matter what field you’re in, you can take risks and follow your dreams,” Phan says.  “I hope it will inspire them.”

Phan has been building toward the move for awhile now, he says. Working part-time jobs and creating a solid client base for his guitar lesson offerings, Phan “got to the point where I couldn’t the next steps in my music until I fully devoted my time to it.”

Since then, Phan says he’s been practicing more while writing “simple, poignant songs with interesting arrangements.” A fan of improvisation, he says he’s seeking that balance between form and freedom. Every song that will appear on the new album, which Phan will play Sunday, was inspired by his leap of faith, he says.

A talented crew of fellow musicians will be joining Phan on stage as part of his “soul symphony.” Fiddler Molly Barret is a former winner of the prestigious Fiddler’s Grove Competition; drummer Mattick Frick is “a rhythmic and improvisational genius who has toured all over the world,” Phan says; Ryan Kijanka is accomplished and versatile on the upright bass; and Franklin Keel on cello is a “true prodigy,” Phan says.

The studio, namely the Eagle Room in Weaverville, is Phan’s next stop, just a couple of weeks after the Grey Eagle show. He’s planning to be involved in the mixing and editing with studio owner Matt Williams, and have the completed album out by spring.

The fear of taking on music full-time aside, Phan says he’s focused on how to level up. When he’s not dreaming of having a song picked up for use in a big Hollywood movie, he’s content to play gig after gig, hone his craft and play more rooms like the Grey Eagle in other towns.

“I just want to keep building momentum,” he says, “and give people a chance to hear my music.”

Ben Phan and the Soul Symphony will play the Grey Eagle on Sunday, Dec. 11. Doors open at 6, with the show starting at 7 p.m. Hannah Kaminer will open. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door