Backed by timeless grooves, majestic electric guitars and funky beats, Nick Behnan effortlessly embarks on an enchanting instrumental journey.
The Detroit singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist beautifully glides from one hypnotic genre-filled world to the next on his latest 10-track, funkified R&B-rock odyssey, Magic Trip.
Initially written and recorded for sync licensing opportunities, each fluid, spellbinding track showcases Behnan’s versatility, prolificacy and creativity as an evolving songwriter and producer.
“I’ve never released an instrumental album before that shows my love for all genres. My main focus was to pick songs that were groovy, funky and somewhat up-tempo, but I try to write and produce the same way that I listen to music as a fan,” Behnan said.
“I never just listen to one kind of music all night. It will roll from Gregory Isaacs to The Congos to The Bee Gees to Prince to Wilco to Radiohead to Kendrick Lamar to Beck and many others all in one night. The trick was picking the songs because I have so many; I could easily put out five albums right now.”
While Magic Trip eloquently blends Behnan’s eclectic, refreshing influences, it instantly soars into a laid-back, welcoming sonic adventure on the jam-tastic, improvisational title track. Shimmery, wah-wah electric guitars, majestic bass, whirring synths and soft drums recreate the sound and feel of a sunny, breezy spring day in the mind’s eye.
“Several of the songs were made mostly with TV and film licensing in mind while others were started a few years ago. Some songs like, “Magic Trip” and “Inner City Funk” are brand new. Overall, I hope people feel good when they listen to it and enjoy grooving and rocking out to the music,” he said.
After taking the initial “Magic Trip,” Behnan shifts to a jovial ‘80s trance funk jaunt on “Walk Around Happy.” Jumpy, disco-esque guitars stride alongside buzzy, intergalactic synths, bouncy bass and thumping drums on the project’s shortest instrumental track, which is featured in the 2018 movie “Poor Greg Drowning” narrated by Cedric the Entertainer.
“I actually didn’t collaborate with anyone on this album. I’m playing every instrument, and I produced and mixed it myself as well. I’m getting asked more and more to produce tracks for other artists of all genres. I serve as a one-stop shop since I can write the track, do the instrumentation and record and produce it,” Behnan said.
Behnan quickly deviates to darker instrumental textures on “Lights Go Out” as vivid, swirling electric guitars, steady drums, thoughtful bass and psychedelic synths shroud listeners. Recorded and produced by Bobby Myers, the track originally served as the main riff featured in The Infatuations’ 2014 gem, “Down Jefferson.”
“When I was putting the songs together for this album, I really thought it fit and stood on its own even though there are hardly any changes to it. It’s mostly one melodic idea that builds as the song goes on – it’s hypnotic,” he said.
After spending time in the dark, Behnan rides a gnarly, surf rock wave on “In Too Deep” as fuzzy electric guitars, propulsive drums, driving bass and tingling tambourine crash into eardrums. The ‘60s-inspired track smoothly floats across an ocean of score possibilities for Tarantino and Lynch-like films.
“‘In Too Deep’ is the only track with a Latin feel and a surf rock element to it, so it’s just something completely different for the album. The song is now used in George Lopez’s latest commercial for his Chingon Kitchen at San Manuel Casino,” Behnan said.
Another Magic Trip highlight includes an R&B-funk-infused instrumental version of Behnan’s 2019 Motor City tribute single, “Right at Home,” featuring Kendrick Hardaway and Saint Diggidy. Pounding drums, roaring electric guitars and thumping bass mesmerize fans like its vocal-centric predecessor.
“That was another track that stood on its own as an instrumental. Kendrick Hardaway and Saint Diggidy brought a ton of flavor to this song and took it to the next level. I’m really happy with the full vocal version, but I thought it would be cool to have an instrumental available as well,” he said.
“Kendrick is my brother though; we will always make music together. I’m sure we will put something out this year. I will most likely put out another full-length instrumental album, and maybe even put a band together for it and do some live stuff.”
Behnan developed an instant fascination with R&B, rock, funk and hip-hop music while growing up in Farmington Hills. His musical tastes ranged from Stevie Wonder to Michael Jackson to Jimi Hendrix to Pink Floyd and inspired him to play piano and guitar.
As a teenager, Behnan started writing music and gigging heavily around metro Detroit until he formed his first band, JIVA, while attending Michigan State University. JIVA went through two iterations, a female-fronted heavy rock project, and a male-fronted soul rock group, before disbanding in 2011.
In November, Behnan released a 10th anniversary deluxe reissue of JIVA’s funky alt rock Breathe album, which features two new tracks, “Set Me Free” and “Live.” Today, Behnan licenses much of the band’s catalog to Fox Sports.
“I was excited to re-release the Breathe album because we put that out before streaming was such a big thing. We were blessed to work with some of the best producers in Detroit on that record, and I think it stands the test of time sonically,” Behnan said.
“When we had a few reunion shows back in 2018, I started producing a new track called ‘Whole Again,’ which we added to the project to make it a full 11-song album. The guys from the band are like my brothers, so I’m sure we will do something in the future.”
Outside of JIVA, Behnan joined The Infatuations, a funk-soul-rock nonet based in Detroit, and later added Hardaway as the group’s vocalist. He also formed The Wells, a Motor City rock quartet, as another side project.
By 2018, Behnan also joined The Lows, a Detroit hard rock quintet fronted by singer-songwriter Angelo Coppola. He played guitar on the band’s latest grunge-influenced singles, “Love Xtinction” and “Love Will Find a Way,” as part of “The Love Sessions” EP. Today, he continues to co-write a batch of new tracks with Coppola for an upcoming Lows release.
“The Lows are still alive and well. Just like all other bands we really got held up due to COVID. The new songs that Angelo and I wrote have a different feel. I’m excited to finally be able to get into the studio to work on those this year,” Behnan said.