LaFaye and the Fellas are headlining next month’s Juneteenth Festival at North Charleston’s Riverfront Park
LaFaye Benton, the entertainment director for the Black Food Truck Festival, hosted the festival’s Battle of the Bands event at the Music Farm in January.
Music has always been in LaFaye Benton’s blood. The 32-year-old grew up singing, whether performing in her dad’s church, Revolutionary Ministries International in Atlanta, or with her high school choir. Upon graduation, Benton joined the Army, working as a mechanic until an officer discovered she was a talented entertainer. Reclassified as a vocalist, she spent three years touring the world with Army rock band Audie Murphy Mixtape, which played for service members and their families, as well as at many memorial services.
While Benton was stationed in Savannah, Georgia, she’d drive up the coast to Charleston on days off to check out live music at The Commodore and Pour House. After completing her service in the Army, she moved to the Holy City two years later in 2020. Today, she and her band, LaFaye and the Fellas, are a popular act at music venues and community events, including headlining next month’s Juneteenth festival at Riverfront Park. The six-piece band puts on a high-energy show, playing crowd-pleasing tunes from rock and roll and R&B to soul and funk, often getting the audience involved. Here, she shares how she uses music to uplift spirits.
TheVoice: In the Army, I sang at more memorials than anything, and I learned that sometimes you have to be the uplifting spirit. I always have that in mind; I always try to think about what someone might be going through that you don’t know about. Once, I was performing at a cocktail club, and a lady came up and hugged me. She said she had been contemplating suicide, but I saved her life. I hold on to that.
Recognizing her Talent: Before I started LaFaye and the Fellas, I sang with several other bands. I loved it, but I always felt like if I start my own band, I can really have something special. Working with other bands, you see the behind the scenes, the business aspect of it, how people are handling their money, how they’re communicating, and how they’re talking to their clients. The business side of LaFaye and the Fellas is a priority. The fellas in the band, when it comes to loyalty, we’re all really close, because I look out for them beyond the stage. It’s not every man for themself. Starting my own band, I want to make sure that the back end is good and what people see is good. If both of those are in one accord, then there is no way that we can fail.
Motivating Factor: Before shows, I watch videos of artists, singers, and performers who inspire me. I watch James Brown, Prince, Tina Turner, and Whitney Houston in the early stages of their careers. That’s my motivation. I watch how the audiences are in all of their shows. They went crazy. I want my people to feel like that. I want them to go crazy, not necessarily over me, but over the fact that when they see this band, they’re about to have a damn good time. Oh, yeah!
Biggest Challenge: For years, I sang incorrectly, which is singing from my throat and not from my diaphragm, which is what I believe did damage to my vocal cords. So now I’ve very conscious of singing correctly. I’m having to do vocal therapy to get used to a polyp there. I’m learning that it may be there for the rest of my life, if I don’t go through with surgery. I’m learning to adjust to it being a thing and knowing that it’s possible to be able to perform and to sing with it.
Side Gig: Last year, I took a job as a substitute teacher just to have a job, but it quickly became a passion. I absolutely love it. Kids are pretty tough on substitutes, but they know not to play with Miss Faye. They confide in me, and they’re respectful. A lot of kids don’t have behavioral intervention support, and I live to be able to provide support in that form. Some don’t have any support; they don’t have adults to talk to. Some are just alone. I try to be a light for them.
Giving Back: Auntie’s House is an organization I created [in 2022], that started out as an acoustic show but grew to become a production organization to empower and uplift youth in our community through music and the arts. We also want to provide artists a platform to put on a show, showcase their talents, and propel their artistry. A lot of kids depend on their teachers and don’t have structure when school’s out. Summer is coming up, and when school is out, it’s out. Nobody’s reading, nobody’s doing anything with them. Our main goal is to figure out how we can keep them involved.
Don’t You Wanna Dance? My goal has been the same since I started: I want to make a difference and make the world dance. I want people to know when they see LaFaye and the Fellas, they will have an amazing time.
Simply the Best -- WATCH: LaFaye and the Fellas sing Tina Turner’s ”Nutbush City Limits” at the Wine + Food festival in March.