That’s The Way It Is

These days, Benjamin Wagner is a 22-year-old singer-songwriter in Saratoga Springs trying to make a name for himself with his debut CD “Bloom.” But when he attended college four years ago, Wagner wanted to be “the next Walter Cronkite.”

“No shit,” Wagner muses. “That’s what I wrote on my college application to Northwestern — which rejected me because I mispelled Cronkite.”

Oh well. Wagner did end up going to the highly regarded Newhouse School for Public Communications at Syracuse University, but it wasn’t long before the music bug bit him. For three years, he played with an alternative rock band, Smokey Junglefrog, which performed alongside the likes of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and almost won a SAMMY in 1992. The band broke up, however, prompting Wagner to explore the solo realm. His first release, “Always Almost There,” also was nominated for a SAMMY last year.

After graduation, Wagner travelled cross-country and went through a Vision Quest, a Native American rite of passage, in Utah. He had a few days to listen to what the voices of the universe told him about his direction.

“I thought I’d find out I’m supposed to be an accountant in Chicago,” jokes Wagner, who grew up in the Midwest. “But I found I was on the right path.”

In October, the young songwriter moves to Saratoga to live with his brother, an editor for Broadcast News Networks. Over the winter, he recorded the CD in pianist Carl Landa’s studio upstairs at the Metro in Saratoga. The result is a bit more contemplative than “Always Almost There,” suggesting anything from the more acoustic side of Blind Melon to Dan Fogelberg.

Wagner celebrates the release of “Bloom” on Monday at the Caffe Lena, and he expects that the scene will be seeing more of him in the coming months.

“They sure as hell better not expect to see me less,” he laughs.

Metroland (Albany, NY)

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