A rock and jazz guitarist from Nanaimo relied on some “home cooking” for his debut album.
Celestial Desire, released March 18, features the guitar and songwriting of Vancouver Island University graduate Keanu Ienco and was recorded in the Harbor City area, with elements of rock, jazz and native music. In Nanaimo since age 7 and raised on Queen, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, Ienco says he has a rock background, but earning a bachelor’s degree in jazz studies from VIU and his own Native American heritage ( Havasupai Tribe in Arizona) also had an impact on the sound of the album.
“A lot of native music, it’s different from European music where it’s very strict on form and always in 4/4 time,” Ienco said. “Indigenous can be a lot more free and it can be really interesting, and so from a compositional perspective, I try to draw inspiration from that in my tracks, whether it’s a lullaby or something like that, and I try to see what kind of what melody are they singing or what kind of harmony are they really doing and that’s what I try to put in my music of course while mixing rock and jazz and traditional sounds more western music.
The COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 was also a catalyst for the record, Ienco recounts.
“Over the years I acquired various music or recording equipment, and I was basically at a point where I thought I might as well just jump in and do something under my own name…then I just started writing what came from my emotions,” Ienco said.
He worked with a co-producer in 2020 and 2021. He recorded guitar tracks at his home, drum tracks were recorded at Risk Disc Records in Cedar, vocals were recorded at Tonebone Marone Audio in Ladysmith and bass was recorded at was added by a friend in Vancouver. .
While Ienco sang on Celestial Desire, he also relied on friend and fellow Nanaimo musician Elise Boulanger for vocals above his range.
“I’ve seen Elise in the scene for the past few years in Nanaimo…her music and voice invokes a really emotional, celestial type of sound that fits my project perfectly,” Ienco said. “I really love the way she makes accessible music, it’s very artistic and my journey is very moving and unique. Over the past few years we’ve become friends, hung out and played music together and she was really the first choice I had to sing on my album.
Ienco also thanks co-producer Jim Blair, who taught him how to play the guitar and also taught him a lot about music history, music theory, and songwriting.
“He basically taught me how to be a musician. He didn’t just teach me how to play the guitar. He taught me how to send well-written emails, how to prepare for a recording studio, how to to organize concerts, to act correctly at concerts, to be a professional and all those things along the way,” Ienco said.
Of the two singles released, he describes I Still Shine as an upbeat song about “uplifting and regaining self-confidence” while Indigo is a softer song about “letting go of a relationship and getting out of it”.
Although no date has yet been made official in Nanaimo, Ienco will perform at the Vinyl Envy in Victoria on Saturday April 2 and at the Duncan Showroom in Duncan on April 23.
For more information, including how to get Celestial Desire, visit Ienco’s website at www.keanuienco.com.
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