Guitarist Benjamin Dara Mahallati, 25, graduated from Hillcrest High School and Jordan Applied Technical Center, as well as attending the University of Utah for a couple of years.
But Dara — his stage name is Benjamin Dara — considers some of his most important training coming much earlier, as he was classically trained as a youngster in the homes of his Persian family.
"I have always been way into music as my uncle and cousin are very talented musicians," he said. "From a young age I was mesmerized by the beautiful sounds produced and would pay close attention to various mediums of music."
On Feb. 22, Dara released his debut album "Single Frame," a collection of acoustic-driven, ethnic-folk-inspired songs that showcase his sublime, flexible voice.
He answered questions posed by The Tribune about his inspirations, Utah background and the perfect day.
What inspires you?
Most everything, when my perception shifts into an open space. The things I really resonate with are influential people of all accords — speakers, musicians, writers, actors, sports athletes, scientists — as well as the universe and nature in general. When you walk outside and watch the sun continuously rise each morning, it really can grab a hold of you and teach a lesson of dedication and perseverance.
What is the most musical thing in the world?
The moment. When you get lost within it, to me there is nothing else as musical. It can take form in the shape of a garbage-can lid, your hand banging on a table, pots and pans clanking together, and so forth. To be in that space of ultimate fluidity is something else. A very talented musician said to me as we were jamming, "It’s as if I am observing my hands playing the instrument and I am not even here." That feeling to me is the most musical thing in the world, regardless what style, instrument or emotion is being played upon.
Does being from Utah help or hinder a music career?
Depends on how you look at it. Most people would probably say it hinders it. I like to think of it as a great learning opportunity to grow as a musician and a person and eventually branch out into the big world that exists outside of Utah. Personally, I love Utah. It’s extremely beautiful and offers an amazing space of creativity to write from.
What does your recorded music say about you
It says, "Hey, get out there and be you. Go enjoy that wonderful thing we call life."
Describe a perfect day.
I wake up. I’d like to say that for every day. However, if you want me to play favorites, I would say a really awesome day would be heading up to the canyon with my acoustic guitar for half of the day, heading back down to jam with other musicians (playing lead on my electric), and then stare at the stars with great company (or even by myself) to top off an amazing day. I’m sure there are other great things that can happen along the way.
Describe the process in how a song comes about.
A song just happens. No real rhyme or reason. Sometimes it will take shape in the form of chords or a riff. For others, an idea formulates and I’ll sketch it down on a piece of paper, and maybe lyrics will come right at that moment. Maybe not. Then at other times a melody will come first and that will be the foundation of how the song begins. My biggest method of writing a song is to have no method , being extremely open to the creative process.
Benjamin Dara’s album "Single Frame" is available on iTunes and Amazon, as well as available for purchase off at http://www.benjamindara.com
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.