Who: Michael Kenyon
From: Vancouver, BC
Program: Advanced Music Production
Recent Advanced Music Production graduate, Michael “Art” Kenyon, is a musician, poet, engineer and producer. He effortlessly gives off an air of sophistication and creative authenticity reminiscent of some of the great young musicians of the last decade, and yet he is unabashedly himself.
Michael easily embodies the Nimbus philosophy of “how to be”: he is kind, dedicated, constantly in pursuit of creative excellence and despite an offhanded joke about being ‘self obsessed’, he clearly cares about those around him.
Michael graduated from Nimbus this summer, and is already finding success in the music industry as an artist, producer and engineer.
Michael comes from a family where he was taught to embrace and love music from the beginning. It was common to hear Rage Against The Machine, Pink Floyd, Nirvana, Radiohead, Oasis, The Beatles, The Carpenters and many more, in a home where creativity and expression was encouraged. In addition to singing, Michael plays piano, guitar, and even theremin! “I dabble in everything,” he says.
Michael’s first musical breakthrough happened by chance a few years ago as he was ‘out walking the dog’. “I actually met producer Vince Ditrich,” he explained:
“Vince took me in and listened to my songs. He said ‘these are pretty good, you should try doing this and this and this,’ and then I came back after having done that and he said ‘you should try recording this.’ He gave me some direction and insight into what it was like to be a musician. It was really inspirational.” It was Ditrich who helped Michael develop his stage name of Art Kenyon. Vince thought Michael was too casual and so Art Kenyon became his alias.
Michael’s recent music video release is part of what came out of his work with Ditrich. Watch the video here:
Before coming to Nimbus, Michael studied at UBC and Berklee in Boston. He started visiting Nimbus long before joining us as a student, he explains:
“Since I moved to Vancouver, I had been going to the Nimbus open houses. I really liked what Garth and Bob did. I thought it was a weird coincidence that the first CD and the first record my Dad had ever given to me were ‘The Wall’ on vinyl and the first Rage Against the Machine album on CD, so I thought it was crazy that these two people were in any way related. I was starting to get into some production stuff and my band was recording, so I would go to Nimbus to check out their gear. We would go home and see if we could rent what Nimbus already had and try to do it ourselves.” He laughs, “I was snooping!”
When it comes to writing his own music, Michael says he enjoys writing poems. “When I started writing music, I tried to go back retroactively and fit lyrics from my poems that sounded like they would go with the melody… I just write the melody, and it’s… whatever fits.” But despite the seemingly random process, he says there comes a point when the songs start to take on a purpose.
His style comes from the music he grew up with, Nirvana, Rage Against The Machine and other rock artists. “We can’t escape the music we grew up listening to,” he says.
But Michael is more than an artist. He is a passionate producer and engineer, seeking not just to create and collaborate but also to communicate and enable others to reach their audience.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to get tired of sitting around with people and having this idea on an acoustic guitar or just having someone singing something and then bringing that into something where you can hit a button, so it’s always there. It’s a pretty amazing thing. You’ve created something from the metaphysical.”
Now that he has graduated from Nimbus, Michael is excited to be working as an Assistant Engineer at Afterlife Studios (formerly Mushroom Studios) right here in Vancouver.
When asked what he wants to do or be in the future, Michael says with a coy smile, “I would be… me. I like what I’m doing. I work at AfterLife Studios and at Tom Lee part time. I met a bunch of great friends at Nimbus and I’m doing production and music stuff just for fun. I like being me!”
Michael says in the future he would like to find himself in more production and mixing roles.
“It just seems that as a musician that’s where I have the most fun and get to be the most creative. As a singer, I feel like that’s a key thing, we’re emoting and putting words and sounds and noises out there. I think it would be really redundant to do that just for yourself. The reason people externalize those types of things is to connect with other people, to ring them in on what’s happening inside of the singer.
I feel like a Producer is a really key role, because it’s easy as a musician to get too sucked up into that, to be too angry when you’re trying to sing angry, to be too sad… to be anything that detracts from you being able to actually connect. And connection is why you’re putting yourself out there. So I like the idea that as a Producer, a musician comes to you and together you figure out how to refine this so that… [the musician] can connect to people and an outside listener can interpret the song in a positive way.”
While he hasn’t had much time to dedicate to his own music projects in the last year, Michael has worked on several music projects including Jessicka’s single with Business Class Records.
You can hear his piano playing in the EPK for Jessicka’s single here:
“In Shawn Cole’s Production 200 class, we had Jessicka come in to do the Business Class Records single. And they were looking for someone to transpose the song and I said I could do that. While I was doing that she said “you make the piano sound really full and I want that sound on my album and you should play the piano.” Nimbus gave me that experience. I still hang out with Jessicka and Brad sometimes. They record at Afterlife Studios, and it was a cool experience to make that connection. That was a great thing Nimbus hooked me up with. Jessicka and Brad actually told me about Afterlife Studios and that’s how I got that job there.”
In addition to his work with BCR while studying at Nimbus, recently Michael co-produced the new Greg Beamish album “Dude on Fire” with Moka Only. He worked on the latest Still Creek Murder EP, an album for Dope Soda, Chicken Like Birds and more.
“If I can keep creating, life’s good,” he says.
In addition, Michael formed a new two-piece music project called Phono Pony. You can check them out on September 17th as part of UBC’s Live @ Lunch!
Of his Nimbus experience, Michael had this to say:
“Nimbus is great. The teachers really care. I’ve been to a bunch of schools. I’ve been to Berklee in Boston, I went there on a scholarship for vocals and got to work with some amazing people who have worked with Mike Mangini, Sting, Steven Tyler…. But you come here (to Nimbus) and there are people who have done that same thing but they don’t only have time for you during class hours. They are willing to go above and beyond.
When I compare comments, from instructors at UBC and Berklee, to the comments that I got from my teachers at Nimbus, the Nimbus faculty are much more personal and it seems like they knew me better than any teachers I’ve ever had. It’s really inspiring. Also, I ended up getting a job coming right out of Nimbus.”
And don’t forget to keep an ear out for his new project Phono Pony!