Benjamin Burnley

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Benjamin Burnley
Benjamin Burnley.jpg
Burnley performing in February 2009
Background information
Birth name Benjamin Jackson Burnley IV
Born (1978-03-10) March 10, 1978 (age 37)
Origin Wilkes- Barre, Pennsylvania, United States
Genres Alternative metal, post-grunge
Occupation(s) Musician, singer-songwriter, composer, guitarist
Instruments Vocals, piano, guitar
Years active 1998–present
Labels Hollywood
Associated acts Breaking Benjamin, Adam Gontier, Three Days Grace
Notable instruments
PRS McCarty II, PRS Custom Baritone, PRS Customs

Benjamin Jackson Burnley IV (born March 10, 1978) is an American musician, best known as the lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist, primary songwriter, and sole constant member of the band Breaking Benjamin.[1] He has written some of the group's most successful singles such as "The Diary of Jane," "Sooner or Later", "Breath," "So Cold" and many others.


Early days as a musician[edit]

Benjamin Burnley was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey and grew up in Cape May County and in Snyder County Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. At 16, he became home schooled, and quickly passed the GED requirement. At 21 he moved to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he became a roommate of former Breaking Benjamin bass player Jonathan Price. During his early teen years he taught himself to play guitar by listening to Nirvana's Nevermind (he cites Nirvana as his biggest influence). Before Breaking Benjamin was formed, Ben Burnley earned money playing cover songs, mixed in with his own in various coffee houses and other all age venues mostly with local neighboring muscians . It was during this era that his band got its name. After performing a Nirvana cover, Ben knocked over a microphone (in imitation of his lifelong idol Kurt Cobain) and cracked it. The mic's owner walked onstage and said, "I'd like to thank Benjamin for breaking my F-ing microphone."

Starting Breaking Benjamin[edit]

In 1998, Burnley and former lead guitarist Aaron Fink, got together (along with Nick Hoover and Chris Lightcap) and started the band "Breaking Benjamin." Eventually, Ben wanted to try something different and went out to California to try some new material. The other three members went on to form the band "Strangers With Candy." They recruited old friend Mark Klepaski to play bass and he joined in, and shortly after, Nick Hoover was asked to leave the band.

In 1999, Ben Burnley moved back to Pennsylvania, and started a band called "Plan 9" with drummer Jeremy Hummel. Originally, the band was a three-piece. The lineup consisted of Ben on vocals and guitar, Jeremy on drums, and Jason Davoli on bass. Plan 9 would occasionally open for Lifer at home shows. During one show, Ben said "Thank you, we're Breaking Benjamin," thus reclaiming the name from 1998. Later on, Mark left Lifer and found himself playing bass for Breaking Benjamin. Lifer continued going through struggles, and months later, Aaron sat in for a set with Benjamin. Finally, Aaron left Lifer, and was offered a spot in Ben Burnley's band, and they became a four-piece.[2]


Burnley has lent his vocal and songwriting talents to other acts as well. He has performed numerous live duets with fellow alternative rock bands such as Three Days Grace and Evans Blue. He made a guest spot on a special remix of The Drama Club's single "Brand New Day." He also co-wrote the Red hit song "Shadows." Currently, Burnley has been collaborating with former Three Days Grace singer, Adam Gontier,. Together, Burnley and Gontier have written a song titled "The End of the Day".[3]

Personal life[edit]

Burnley suffers from several phobias, a fact that inspired the title of their 2006 album Phobia. Phobia's cover, which depicts a winged man hovering above the ground, represents Burnley's fear of flying, which has prevented Breaking Benjamin from touring outside the United States and Canada.[4] Burnley also suffers from hypochondria and a fear of the dark. He says that he doesn't believe in a person's time to die and he wants to put off dying for as long as he possibly can, which is why he doesn't fly or even ride in a car unless it's necessary. He incorporates his phobias into his music on the album We Are Not Alone in the song "Break My Fall," in which a pilot is heard over the music saying, "Mayday, mayday. Request permission to land. I cannot control the plane. We are in danger of crashing.”

Burnley is an avid video gamer, and conceived of the idea for Breaking Benjamin to write and record the song "Blow Me Away" for the soundtrack to Halo 2. The song "Polyamorous" is also featured on the games Run Like Hell, WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw and WWE Day of Reckoning (along with their song "Firefly"). "Diary of Jane" appears on NASCAR 07.[5]

Burnley is a recovering alcoholic, admitting in an interview with that he wanted to "drink himself to death."[6] He says that he regrets ever drinking a drop of alcohol and is victim to Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome due to his past excessive drinking. Dear Agony was reported to be the first ever Breaking Benjamin record to be written by Burnley without the aid of alcohol.[7]

In honor of his grandfather and uncle, his name was chosen by the then only Burnley female, his mother, who took back her maiden name of Burnley: Benjamin Jackson Burnley. There is a long line of Benjamin Jackson Burnley males preceding his grandfather and uncle. Like many a family name can attest to a place, they hailed from Burnley, England. Burnley's family owned B.J. Burnley Company since 1967. It was begun in Nicetown, Philadelphia. With the family relocation in 1969 to Ocean City New Jersey, the company was active and expanded to Middleburg, Pennsylvania in 1986 where it thrived until the passing of Benjamin J. Burnley Jr., in 2008 and his son, Benjamin Jackson Burnley III untimely, in 2010. His uncle, Benjamin Jackson Burnley III, died on June 29, 2010, at the age of 54.[8] It was firmly decided that the company be closed after Burnley III's death, because with the passing of the last of the two founders, it could never have the benefit of the combined wisdom that father and son had amassed for more than 40 years.[9] Burnley is married to Rhiannon Napier (née) and they are expecting their first child in the fall of 2014. Burnley is continuing to honor his name, by current history of the name, by placing V (the fifth) by his firstborn son's. On November 1 at 6.37 am, Rhiannon Napier Burnley gave birth to their first child, a son, Benjamin Jackson Burnley V.