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City Rain: Back from the Void

November 19, 2018

Story by Lauren Silvestri. Photo by Milton Lindsay.

Ben Runyan never thought he would perform as City Rain again.

After starting the electronic project in 2007, it became a full band in 2010. In 2013, he released the single “The Optimist” as a duo with guitarist Scott Cumpstone, which caught MTV and VEVO’s attention and did well on Spotify.

“I’m just blessed and happy that I had one piece of art that reached people on more than a molecular level,” Runyan says as he sips his coffee in Center City’s Capital One Cafe.

However, by 2015, Runyan felt disenchanted. He became increasingly unsatisfied with the production and end result of his last album, Take Me To The Void. It was the first record that Runyan did not solely produce, and the different creative opinions lead to screaming matches with the co-producer.

“I don’t think I really understood the implications of what working with another producer would look like,” he says. “I felt like I wasn’t in control, and I’m fine not being in control in a lot of aspects of my life, but in my artistic life, I do require that control, and I think I have a right to it.”

The experience, coupled with personal conflicts within the band, caused City Rain to go on an indefinite hiatus in 2016, and Runyan admits he does not speak to most past members.

In fact, he’s pretty sure they all hate him.

“I would imagine I’m not the easiest person to work with, because I have such strong opinions,” he says. “I’ve been accused of such before.”

Visual artist and director Stephen Rutterford, who has collaborated with Runyan in the past, says he has not come across that behavior. He calls their relationship a “two-way mentorship.”

“He has a very clear vision on things,” Rutterford says. “He’s so passionate about music; there’s an excessive fire within him.”

During the hiatus, Runyan preoccupied himself with JUSTPROCESS, an ongoing collaborative project where he writes and produces for other artists. He also teaches music technology at Drexel, Rowan and The University Of The Arts. Over time, he missed creating his own music but believed City Rain was over.

His best friend and current band member Matt Rivard relentlessly tried to convince Runyan to restart City Rain. Runyan was reluctant, but one day he wrote a riff during a class. At home, he finished the song and realized it was a City Rain song. He released the electro-pop spinner “Little Dreamer” under the City Rain moniker in May.

Soon after, he reformed the band with Rivard, Amanda Desenna and Gabby Relos, debuting two new songs on Radio 104.5’s Live at 5 earlier this year.

“It felt natural making the songs again,” Runyan says. “It’s a core emotional outlet for me.”

At 31 and recently married, Runyan feels better than ever.

“I’ve proved myself,” he says, his “No Excuses” tattoo peeking out from his black T-shirt. “I wasn’t a well-developed adult during some of the earlier years of the band, and I think that affected my relationships with bandmates. The walkaway was a good thing for me, and I’m glad I’m doing it again. It provides me with an identity, which I think everybody needs.”

Runyan believes his identity is more than a performer.

“A performer is a small aspect of it, but my records and what I write, I think that’s something that will hopefully last forever,” he says.

He’s become his own optimist.

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