Opp native wins Scottish award

Published 12:02 am Friday, November 9, 2012

Erin Bennett writes a song. | Photo courtesy of Kevin Byrne


An Opp native recently won an overseas award for her songwriting and is now in the running to perform at Scotland’s most prestigious awards ceremony.

Erin Bennett, a 2005 graduate of Opp High School, is living out a dream many can only imagine, but it hasn’t come without hard work, dedication and a little bit of trial and tears.

Bennett, who began her songwriting career at the age of 9, said she learned to play guitar 12 years ago, and her career has grown from there.

“I moved to Dothan (after graduation), where I got involved in the city music scene,” she said. “Whilst living there, I happened to meet a nine-piece, all-female rock band from Britain, who was passing through on their way to a show in Miami. They pretty much instantly hired me as an engineer.”

Bennett moved to Detroit, where she formed a side project – Syren – with the band’s drummer and bass player, Jo Heeley and Amanda Smith-Skinner.

The band is categorized as an alternative-rock trio.

In 2006, Syren erupted into the United States’ underground music scene, playing in some of America’s top rock venues and impressing audiences with their powerful songs, addictive melodies and unbelievable musicianship, the band’s website said.

Demand of the band’s original music and confident performance led Syren from Detroit to Cleveland, Ohio, all the way to Panama City, Fla., and kept them playing live shows five days a week throughout the county.

In 2008, Syren was offered sponsorship from companies such as Hartke Amplification, Rain Song Graphite Guitars and Danmar Percussion, which led them to record their debut album, “Dehumanized.”

After the album’s release, the group was offered a United Kingdom and The Netherlands tour. Syren also toured with 60s rock band, Hawkind, who offered them slots on their winter 2008 tour.

In 2010, the band relocated to The Netherlands to work on a second album, titled “Something Has to Separate.” In 2011, the band set up its own Sapphic Studios and begin final production of the album.

In August 2011, drummer Heeley was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“In the beginning of 2012 our drummer, and my civil partner, Jo passed away,” Bennett said. “Of course, this was a very tragic event, personally, as well as professionally, as our bassist (Amanda) found the lost quite difficult and decided not to continue with Syren.”

Bennett said she wrote the song, “Never Give Up the Fight,” which she released in Heeley’s memory and in aid of the UK’s charity, Breast Cancer Cure. All of the song’s profits are donated to the charity.

“It was this song which was nominated for a Scottish New Music Award – Frankie Miller Songwriter of the Year 2012,” Bennett said. “I went on to win the award at the ceremony in Glasgow (Scotland) in September. Winning the award was such a mind-blowing experience and quite reaffirming for me as a musician in such a difficult personal state of mind.

“I had dreamed of a moment like that ever since I was very young and to stand on stage being presented with the beautiful award made me feel like I could do anything in the world,” she said. “It was so moving to see that thousands of people all over Scotland, the UK, the USA and Europe had all voted for me and for this song, and I simply could not find words to say at the ceremony apart from, ‘Thank You. Jo would be so proud.’”

Benett said because of the inspirational achievement, she re-formed Syren with new musicians, and they are now working on a new album.

“At the moment, I am involved in a competition to perform at quite a prestigious Scottish awards ceremony, the Creative Scotland Awards,” she said.

But she needs help from her fans and hometown folks.

Anyone can vote for Bennett online at www.pathwaystomusicstage.com/entries/erinbennett.