Ben R. Atkinson

Writer, Musician & Presenter

About

Ben’s passion for music started young; growing up in rural Leicestershire in the very heart of England (you couldn’t get further from Nashville), he discovered the music of Bonnie Raitt, The Mavericks, and Dolly Parton amongst his parent’s record collection. Throw into the mix his Grandparents’ James Taylor records and on the other side his Grandma’s love of gospel music, and you start to get an idea of where the passion for country and Americana comes from.

Although he credits his school music teacher with introducing him to the guitar at the age of seven, Ben never had any formal musical training and wouldn’t return to this early passion for many years. His journey thus far has been anything but typical, yet on reflection, it all adds up to a creative and fulling career that engages his passions of music, writing, and technology.

Having had his eyes opened to country, folk and the blues from an early age, at sixteen Ben joined the local radio station in his hometown, 103 The Eye, to co-present the country music programme. Fast forward two years and when his co-presenter departed, leaving the show in Ben’s capable hands, things really started moving and Ben’s Country Music Show was born. Through his show, Ben has had the opportunity to interview artists from both the US and the UK, bring listeners the latest music alongside standards of the genre, and popular features such as This Week in Music History.

In 2010, aged eighteen, Ben left home to take up a place on the prestigious Media Production course at the University of Lincoln, taking his radio show with him. From a little studio in the city, the show was quickly syndicated on stations across around the UK and over the decade that followed would expand to the point where it is now broadcast in the UK, Ireland, and Australia. In the meantime, midway through his degree, Ben spent six months living and studying in the US state of Minnesota, part of the 10th cohort of exchange students between the University of Lincoln and Minnesota State University, Moorhead. It would be a seminal experience, with Ben having the opportunity to visit Nashville for the first time, covering the CMA Awards for his radio programme and interviewing country legends Lynne Anderson and Charlie McCoy. On his return from the US, Ben graduated from Lincoln with a First-Class degree and the award for Outstanding Contribution to the Lincoln School of Film and Media, having chosen to focus on Digital Media and Radio in his final year. Further training with the BBC Production Talent Pool would follow from 2013-14, before Ben returned to Lincoln to complete an MA in Digital Media.

While continuing to write and present Ben’s Country Music Show, Ben’s career moved in a different direction as he spent 2014 – 2017 at the helm of his own business, Tall Lime LTD, a bespoke digital agency that provided website, graphic design and mobile app development services for national and international clients, predominantly in the not-for-profit and education sectors. In 2016 the business was named a finalist in the Best Digital Startup category at the inaugural Lincs Digital Awards. It was through his business that Ben was made aware of a digital development role at his alma mater and in 2017 he re-joined the University of Lincoln as the Digital Education Developer (Learning Technologist) for the College of Arts, where he had once been a student himself.

Still, the passion for country music and Americana shone through, and a chance meeting with a like-minded colleague led to Ben being invited to present on his undergraduate and MA experiences at the Tower Talks series for current students. There Ben discussed his varied experiences and passions, cumulating in the MC for the evening asking if he’d ever considered studying for a PhD? It was a very interesting question! A short while later it felt like a new door was opening as Ben discovered the academic discipline of Ethnomusicology and the study of the history and culture of music, for the first time. It seemed to draw all his passions together, from academic study, through his radio show, and keenness for championing female artists in the country genre. It all made sense and in March 2020 Ben embarked on his PhD – a study that will see him observing female country performers and establishing the extent to which social and technological changes since the new millennium have allowed women in country music to circumnavigate traditional gatekeepers.

Throughout his career to date, one through-line is clear: Creativity. Over the last fourteen years, Ben has continued to present his radio programme, alongside many other broadcast credits including specialist radio documentaries and podcasts; he has written two novels both of which were published independently with the support of his former school, King Edward VII in Melton Mowbray, and in 2020 during the national lockdown he recorded and produced his first album of original songs, collaborating online with musicians from around the world. The resulting album, Cold Hard Shoulder, was released digitally and on CD and vinyl in August that year.

Right now, Ben is continuing to work hard on his PhD, hopes to carry out fieldwork in Nashville in 2022, and is back in the studio recording a follow up to his debut album which will be released on the eve of his 30th birthday in September 2021, and named for the Phil Vassar/Tim McGraw song: My Next Thirty Years. Ben often wonders what might lie in store!