Hoops & Beats: The Dual Passion of Jack Bennett

By Grace Pointner

From the court to the keyboard, Jack Bennett has been in the middle since he first discovered how to make music.

The stereotypes that athletes famously carry with them are a reality. They walk around school feeling distant from those that are different from them, misunderstood by those that are intimidated by them and confined to a routine lifestyle. Yes, this lifestyle is one they chose; but stepping beyond the field or court is a choice too, and one that few make. But Bennett is an exception.

Basketballs and Beats

In love with both basketball and writing music (music that would fondly remind you of Grammy winner Khalid) Bennett spends his time refining his ball skills and his beat skills here at Wheaton College. With these two passions, he contributes to the small percentage of students who participate in both arts and sports, and thus, stands in the middle of our sometimes divided campus.

A sports fanatic since fourth grade, Bennett grew up a highly successful athlete. He was recruited to play basketball for Wheaton College early on in high school while also receiving offers to play football at Division II schools. Indeed, his best high school memories and his entire friend group are wrapped up in sports. His current roommates are guys from his basketball team and his schedule revolves around the team.

And yet what he wants to do, all the time, is work on music.

Music, 24/7

“If I have time, I’ll just grab my guitar, sit down on my computer and start working on something,” Bennett commented, “If I have a whole Saturday, I could spend eight hours straight just working on a song. During the summer it’s the same way; all I do is work, eat, sleep and work on my music.” During the school year, Bennett feels this same pull towards music, “It’s been interesting to balance both (basketball and music) because I want to be working on my music all the time but I can’t because I need to go to practice and workout, so it’s been interesting trying to find time to do both.”

This passion for music began when Bennett was in seventh grade. After browsing YouTube he realized that he, an awkward middle school boy, could make his own beats. So he tried it just for fun. Using FL Studio program, he began layering sounds, humming melodies and slowly developing his skills as a musician. Without any formal training, Bennett relied on what he was hearing, “I do 100 percent of everything by ear. I just do what sounds good.”

His mom finally encouraged him to use his voice more when she heard him singing in the kitchen during Bennett’s sophomore year. “I started to take music seriously after that,” Bennett remembered, laughingly stating that his mom has been and will always be his number one fan. Not only has she supported his music tirelessly, but she’s pushed him to think and feel more vulnerably. “There was one time when I was going through stuff and not really telling my parents about it. My mom came to my room when she knew I was having a hard time and said, ‘I will always be here for you, you can always talk to me.’ That was the most meaningful thing that someone has ever done for me because it finally got me to open up.”

After this, Bennett embraced his music through vulnerability, emotion and creativity. Diving into storytelling, more complex beats and intentional lyrics, Bennett realized that his music was becoming as important, if not more important, than his sports. He was gaining thousands of listers from Spotify and Apple Music and, upon starting at Wheaton, his peers proved to be highly supportive.

With hit songs like “In the Moment,” “Dirty White Vans” and “So Far Gone,” Bennett earned a positive reputation for himself amongst his peers for his music. Although his athleticism dominates his first impression, he does appear different from his basketball friends. With sharp style, a quiet voice, and earphones perpetually in his ears, Bennett presents himself as a subdued artist. And even a five-minute conversation will reveal a wealth of wisdom and insight, both of which, Bennett would admit, was gained through music.

“I learn a lot about myself from it,” Bennett said, “I’ll go back and listen to a song and it’s so interesting to hear what I was thinking. Plus, it’s personally been a really good release from the world. I can just get lost for a couple of hours and it’s super nice.” Bennett went on to say that music was especially a way for him to escape from the pressures and stresses of basketball.

Bennett’s approach to music writing

Inspired by artists such as Quin, Sleeping at Last and Jon Bellion, his taste in music is diverse and unpredictable, mirroring his lyric/music writing process. Furthermore, Bennett loves sappy love stories, and he lets this inspire his music as well. But he doesn’t really have a writing process: “I’ll sit down if I feel in the mood (either super driven or super emotional) and create.” Bennett explained, “But I almost never write lyrics down. I’ll just have a general idea in my head of what I want, then I’ll freestyle, sing some melodies and add some words.”

This organic style of creating results in music and lyrics that are admittedly sappy, but “if you listen to the songs … some lines are hidden gems” and that is how he wants his future music to sound.

“So I’m starting a project with songs that are actually about me,” Bennett said. But he explained that these songs will still be guarded, for Bennett always hears the imperfections in his songs. “I hate a lot of my songs,” he said humbly, admitting that hearing something so deep, special and personal in his “messy” songs will be hard.

How does basketball fit in?

Bennett keeps his “music life” separate from his “athletic life,” a fact he enjoys and intends to maintain. But he is also interested in closing the gap between athletes and creators. He is too familiar with the middle ground between the artistic sphere and the sports sphere, and he believes this ground can be covered and converted. Although he does most of his work when alone, his roommates and teammates are well aware and supportive of Bennett’s gift.

Zach Holman, one of Bennett’s best friends and fellow athlete said, “I really love Bennett’s music, it’s always fun listening to his new songs. My one problem with it is he doesn’t put enough songs out to the public. He has so much content and he doesn’t listen to me anymore when I tell him to post it!” Other students, often athletes, comment on his songs, praising the quality of both the musicality and lyricality of his work.

Bennett is aware of this support and grateful for the opportunity to introduce athletes, especially men, to the world of creativity, music and vulnerability. “They don’t necessarily understand the creative more emotional side of life,” Bennett explained, “so with my roommates, it has been super fun to cultivate that in my room. Creativity is pretty countercultural to athletes so it has been really fun to see my friends appreciate it and even want to rap now … it’s great!”

Bennett has voluntarily stuck himself in the athlete bubble his whole life. He’s had to fight to see past his athletic accomplishments and find a more tender, quiet side of life. But through music, Bennett has tapped into a world that is far from the athlete stereotype. And in that world, he’s found value, success and passion.

In the middle and in the moment

“Let’s be in the moment,” Bennett sings in his most popular song, “we don’t need to focus on the future cause if we both ended up homeless and we had each other it wouldn’t really mean much, we always find the joy in life when it’s just you and me love.”

Bennett has learned to be present between his two different passions: music and sports. He’s acknowledged the space between the two and found assurance and peace in the middle, fully engaging in both basketball and writing music. And above all, Bennett seeks the Lord in all of his endeavors, striving to see grace in his failings, and beauty in his work.