For his debut record, a Nanaimo rock and jazz guitarist used some “home cooking.”
Keanu Ienco, raised in Nanaimo and educated at Vancouver Island University, released his debut Celestial Desire on March 18. (Astrid Lyre photo)
Celestial Desire, which was released on March 18, features guitar and compositions by Vancouver Island University graduate Keanu Ienco and was recorded in the Harbour City area, with elements of rock, jazz, and Indigenous music. Ienco, who has lived in Nanaimo since he was seven years old and was reared on Queen, the Beatles, and Led Zeppelin, claims to have a rock base, but his bachelor’s degree in jazz studies from VIU and his Native American origin (Havasupai Tribe in Arizona) also influenced the album’s style.
“A lot of Indigenous music isn’t like European music, which is very tight on form and always in 4/4,” Ienco explained. “Indigenous music can be a lot more free and interesting, so from a compositional standpoint, I try to incorporate some of that into my tunes, whether it’s a lullaby or something, and see what type of melody or harmony they’re really doing, and that’s what I try to incorporate into my music, of course while still blending rock and jazz and the more western traditional sounds of music.”
According to Ienco, the COVID-19 lockout in 2020 was also a driver for the record.
“I just started writing what came from my emotions,” Ienco said. “Over the years, I acquired various music gear or recording gear, and I was basically at a point where I thought that I might as well go for it and do something under my own name… then I just started writing what came from my emotions.”
During the years 2020 and 2021, he collaborated with a co-producer. Guitar tracks were recorded at his house, drum tracks at Risque Disque Records in Cedar, vocals at Tonebone Marone Audio in Ladysmith, and bass was added by a buddy in Vancouver.
While Ienco sang on Celestial Desire, he enlisted the help of Elise Boulanger, a friend and fellow Nanaimo artist, for voices above his range.
“I’ve seen Elise in the scene in Nanaimo over the last few years… her music and voice elicit a really emotive, celestial type of sound, which perfectly complements my concept,” Ienco said. “I really enjoy how she makes accessible music that’s still extremely creative, and my route is really emotive and distinctive.” We’ve become friends over the years, and we’ve gone out and performed music together, so she was the first choice I had to sing on my record.”
Jim Blair, a co-producer on the album, taught Ienco how to play the guitar and taught him a lot about music history, theory, and songwriting.
“He basically taught me how to play the guitar.” He didn’t simply show me how to play the guitar. Ienco added, “He taught me how to send properly phrased e-mails, how to prepare for a recording studio, how to set up shows, how to act appropriately at gigs, how to be a professional, and all those things along the way.”
I Still Shine is an exuberant song about “uplifting oneself and restoring self-confidence,” while Indigo is a quiet song about “letting go of a relationship and developing from it,” according to him.
Ienco will play at Vinyl Envy in Victoria on Saturday, April 2 and at the Duncan Showroom in Duncan on April 23. While no Nanaimo dates have been confirmed, Ienco will perform at 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, go to Ienco’s website at www.keanuienco.com.