Kicking Things Off with Farhad Khosravi

Welcome back! This new academic year is sure to be an interesting one, and we’re excited to explore new ways to connect with students, artists, and the community. As everyone gets settled and familiar with this unique semester, we thought it would be a great time to check in with Farhad Khosravi and ask him about his new release, Mosàfer.

Farhad’s outdoor socially-distanced album release party is at the Tree Frog house this Sunday, September 20th at 1:30pm! All AHS guidelines will be in place. Please email for tickets and more info.

How has your socially distanced summer been going?
Not the greatest! The hardest part has been all the bad news that we hear from around the world, especially my home country Iran. 
Also, one of my busiest summers for sure. It took me a while to get used to working from home. 

What music have you been listening to recently?
I have been listening to one of my favorite Persian artists, Mohsen Namjoo, a lot recently. He is one of the most creative artists who mixes Persian music and genres from Western music such as jazz, blues, and rock. I’ve been listening to his new album, Motantan, which came out in March this year, so many times. 
I’m also always listening to the romantic and later classical music such as Beethoven’s string quartets, Chopin, Debussy, Arvo Part, Ravel, and so on. Their music is timeless and I always get inspired by their work. 

What is the meaning of Mosàfer, and why did you choose that for your album title?
Mosàfer means “Passenger” or “Traveller” in Persian and Arabic. Some of the pieces of the album are inspired by the poetries of one of my favorite Persian poets, Sohrab Sepehri. He has a famous poem called “Mosafer” which describes a traveler’s journey through the country and viewing everything with a meditative and spiritual eye. A few years ago, a dear friend of mine asked me to play music while she recited this poem for a podcast and that’s how I wrote the track “The Passenger.” Later this poem also inspired the track “Day of Creation.”
Since I really liked these two tracks and this poem, and the name of it, I chose this title for my album since it also captured the theme of someone’s journey through life, which this album is about. 

What were some of the inspirations for the songs you composed for the album?
As I mentioned above, the tracks “The Passenger” and “Day of Creation” were inspired by the poem “Mosafer” by Sohrab Sepehri. The track “Observation Verse” is inspired by one of his other poems with the same name. 
I wrote the track “Day of War: Part I” for the music of a theatre performance which was written by my friend Payam Saeedi and conducted by my other friend Maryam Zarei in 2017. This performance was about the war in Syria and how the media views the events happening in that country. The form of this piece inspired the second part of the track two years later. 

Is there an artist you would like to work with in the future?
I would really love to work with Mohsen Namjoo who I talked about above. I have a few pieces I’m working on that would like him to sing on them. 
I also would love to perform music with my mentor, Kiya Tabassian. He is a musician in every way and I just get inspired by being around him.

Checking in with Allan Gilliland

After the cancellation of his concert at the Winspear Centre, we reached out to Allan Gilliland to hear how he is faring during these uncertain times. We also asked about how he writes his music, and where he wants to take his project in the future:

How has COVID-19 affected you personally?
Many premieres and performances have been cancelled.

What is your motivation to keep writing new music?
To tell you the truth I’m feeling quite unmotivated. With a full-time job as Dean of Fine Arts, my time to write is limited and often under what I call “crushing deadlines”. Turns out I kind of need those to be motivated. When I have no deadline I’m without that drive. Someone once asked Duke Ellington what inspired him to write and he said, “a deadline, and not enough time.”

Is there a particular artist that you would want to work with? Why?
I’ve been so lucky to have worked with some of the finest soloists and ensembles in the world, that being said, I’d love to work with Yo-Yo Ma. Not only is he one of the greatest living cello players, he’s also an artist who is not afraid to cross over into any style or genre. I respect that so much and would love to write “Dreaming of the Masters V” for him.

What do you want to do in music going forward?
I want to continue to collaborate with great artists. Recording The Prague Sessions has been a career highlight and has given me the bug for more recording. I hope to raise money again to hire an orchestra and continue to record my back catalogue of orchestral music as well as new orchestra pieces.

How do you think the COVID-19 situation will impact on the music industry in the future?
The economic impact will be profound and there are so many things we will not even know until it’s well over. My hope though is it will highlight how important the arts are, particularly live performance, for society and how empty our lives have been without it.

Have you been working on music or composing during this time? In what way?
My next big project is a musical based on a book called The Englishman’s Boy. I’m very excited to be working with Vern Theisen (who is a Govern Generals Award winning playwright) and Royce Vavrek (who is a Pulitzer Prize winning lyricist) on this project.

Mike Rud’s new single “Salome’s Dance” now streaming!

Mike Rud caught up with us to share an acoustic solo version of “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” from his upcoming album, Salome’s Dance: The Mike Rud Trio Invites Peter Bernstein, and let us know what that recording process was like.

You can find Mike’s album on streaming services, CD, and vinyl starting May 12, 2020. In the mean time, check out his new single “Salome’s Dance” out now!

Tune in tonight and on April 30th at 7:00PM MST as we continue to check in on artists from the record label on Instagram Live!

Jemma Hicken Shares Her Process

We caught up with singer/songwriter Jemma Hicken of Jemma & the Good Thing at our first Artist Feature livestream on Instagram this past Tuesday, April, 21. She performed an acoustic version of her song “Lipstick Dreams” and let us know how she’s been keeping up with the online music scene.

We also checked in with Jemma and asked her to share with us what inspires her, her songwriting process, and how she balances gardening and practicing on a daily basis:

How has your schedule changed since isolation being imposed?
Hugely! I’m just completing the third year of my undergrad, so the fact that school is now online has shifted my everyday life pretty drastically. I’m working on curating a routine that keeps me practicing and songwriting often, and my family has started a big veggie garden—so I’m spending a lot of my days planting seeds and weeding and watering.

What music have you been listening to recently?
Fiona Apple’s new album Fetch the Bolt Cutters, lots of John Prine, William Prince, Chicano Batman—an eclectic mix!

What was a favourite part of the recording process with Bent River Records?
I loved all the new ideas that were incorporated into the two tunes we recorded. I sometimes feel a little too “close” to my own songs to come up with fitting ways to alter them, but when somebody else has a great idea, it can feel like magic. I appreciated all of the creative collaboration that happened in the studio.

Which song were you most excited to play at the Spotlight and why?
I wrote a song last year about the car my family had throughout my childhood—it was an old silver hatchback Volvo, and it was constantly breaking down. I’ve incorporated a singalong/clap-along section at the end, and it’s consistently my favourite song to play live. It’s a relatable song, I’m really proud of a few of the lyrics, and I love feel-good community singing and audience participation.

Have you been writing or composing during this time, and how so?
Yes! In the first two weeks of isolation I was on a creative roll! A song every couple of days—which was great. My mum’s been really sick, though, so since arriving back home I’ve put most of my focus into supporting her and my dad.

What themes do you find yourself writing about in your music?
Nature is the main theme I regularly find myself writing about. I moved to Edmonton from the West Coast, and I don’t think I realized how much my identity and view of the world has been shaped by my surroundings—until I was away from home. When I’m feeling disconnected from the Pacific Northwest, it’s metaphors and imagery tend to work their way into my songs.

Is there an artist you’d love to work with in the future?
Countless—but one of my idols has always been Kimya Dawson. Her songwriting is so stream-of-consciousness-y, and I really appreciate how simple, personal, and literal it all is. This amazing sense of eccentric community comes shining out of her music, and she always sounds like she’s having so much fun—even on recordings.

If you missed Jemma on last week’s show, be sure to catch our next two Artist Feature livestreams on April 28 & 30 @ 7:00PM featuring other guests from the record label on Instagram Live!

Catching Up with Mike Rud

Grant Stovel, from CKUA’s Alberta Music, caught up with Mike Rud and the winning student designer for his album cover competition, Alan Ngo. Check out the full clip where they discuss the competition and Mike’s upcoming release for Salome’s Dance: The Mike Rud Trio Invites Peter Bernstein.

After the cancellation of the 2020 Artist Spotlight, we reached out to Mike Rud to hear how he is faring during these uncertain times. We also asked about how he writes his music and where he wants to take his project in the future:

How has COVID-19 affected you personally?
What was a very fluid scene with quite a few performance opportunities is now barren. What remains is online, and does not pay. I am doing okay for now. But many musicians I know are feeling the hurt.

What music have you been listening to during this time?
Been revisiting Mahler, Kurt Weill and Randy Newman.

Which tune were you most excited to play at the Spotlight? Why?
Really more about the relationships with the other musicians than individual tunes. It’s the players I was looking forward to reuniting with. The title track, “Salome’s Dance,” is quite evocative, and I really look forward to crowds hearing it.

What is your motivation to keep writing new music?
It is who I am. I learned to play guitar initially almost entirely for writing songs. I haven’t been writing consistently for a while now, so I’m really looking forward to being in that zone of getting excited about new material. That’s when it most feels like I’m really alive.

Is there a particular artist that you would want to work with? Why?
Peter Bernstein, our guest on this album, is someone I’ve always wanted to record with. I feel he is the guitarist on Earth who’s music is most fulfilling today. Also the great John Stowell, from Portland Oregon, is a fascinating and visionary guitarist
with whom I plan to record soon. My roommate, the incredible pianist David Restivo, and another virtuoso pianist from Toronto, David Braid. I’ve had the honour of working with each of them and the textures were in each case other-worldly, though they are very distinct from one another.

What do you want to do in music going forward?
Sing more, write more lyrics.

How do you think the COVID-19 situation will impact on the music industry in the future?
Nobody knows. But it’s a chance, if you can stay safe, to focus on creation of new work, undistracted from live performance.

Have you been working on music or composing during this time? In what way?
Not yet. Our semester at Selkirk is ending, and I have been working hard to see that my students complete all their coursework. But the few months should give me a chance. As for the process…well…a good cook never reveals his or her secrets haha!

Tune in to our Bent River Records Artist Feature this Tuesday, April 21 @ 7pm on Instagram Live as we check in with Mike and other artists from the label!

Nisto Looks to the Future

After the cancellation of the 2020 Artist Spotlight, we reached out to Nisto to hear how he is faring during these uncertain times. We also asked about his experience recording with Russell Broom, how he writes his music, and where he wants to take his project in the future:

How has COVID-19 affected you personally?
I try not think about it. I’m fortunate enough to already come from an isolated life, so I’m used to it. Any plans to perform, working has had to be put on hold. I have family members with immune deficiencies and that scares me more than anything else. That being said I think it’s important that we do what we can to just relax—stay put—and be safe, until this blows over. I’ve been using the time to be with my family, dogs, enjoy music, laugh a lot, and reconnect with my roots a bit.

What music have you been listening to during this time?
Lightnin’ Hopkins, Stax Records stuff, John Prine, Guy Clark, The Strokes’ new album The New Abnormal and Dan Auerbach’s Waiting On A Song.

What was you favourite part of the recording process with Russell Broom?
My favourite part was performing the songs live in the studio with Russell and Dan Stadnicki, who each brought their own distinct sound to the songs. We kept it in the moment. That to me, is where most of the fun and magic happens. I’m not very calculated in the way I do things. I just hang on and let ‘er buck.

Which song were you most excited to play at the Spotlight? Why?
“Folk Song” The way you hear it on the EP is the first time I’ve played it like that. We sort of blended these different versions I’ve had into one, and then I got to crank my amp at the end, which is something I find my self wanting to do more often these days. I like noise.

What do you find yourself writing about in your songs?
In the past more so, it was living in a remote area, hopelessness, paranoia, and substance abuse. The songs were all written when I was younger and in a much darker place in my life, but they also lead me out of that lifestyle, so Little People is in some ways an execution of those thought patterns for me. These days I write more about the things I see around me,
rather than woe is me’s.

Is there a particular artist that you would want to work with? Why?
More than anything I like to rock, play blues and trip people out, so someone like Sturgill Simpson or Dan Auerbach, but that’s out of the ball park probably.

What do you want to do in music going forward?
Nisto was set out to be a rock band when I released my first single “Los Sin Dios”, but it never ended up happening, because I’m a recluse. I still want to tinker with that idea, create more rude, greasy, heavy sounds circulating around junkyard, backwoods blues, and Black Sabbath. Ultimately recording that band and playing some shows around the country would be a dream come true… I’ve still never left the province of Alberta.

Have you been working on music or composing during this time? In what way?
Yeah. Writing a lot of more than I’ve been able to in a long time. Just me, my guitar, my notebook, and the sound recorder on my phone, after everyone is sleeping. I enjoy the peace and quiet.

Tune in to our Bent River Records Artist Feature this Tuesday, April 21 @ 7pm on Instagram Live as we check in with Nisto and other artists from the label!


Do you find royalties mightily confusing? You’re not alone! To make a living as a recording artist, it’s essential to be properly registered to receive royalties generated by the performance, purchase, and broadcast of your music. Join Olivia Street, A&R Associate with Bent River Records, for a one hour lunch-time Zoom session on Wednesday, April 22, hosted by Alberta Music. She’ll give a guided tour through the SOCAN platform, as well as talk about the many other royalty streams that can generate income for artists, songwriters, composers, session musicians, and more. 

Music royalties are a complex bundle. As Vel Omazic of Canada’s Music Incubator has often explained, you have to think of a musical creation as being made up of two distinct parts: “The first is the sound recording of a musical work, which is performed by musicians. The second is the underlying musical work (or song) created by songwriters. There are four major groups of people involved in the making of recorded music. These groups are technically referred to as “rights holders” and they are each entitled to earn royalties for their role in the making of recorded music. In the case of an independent songwriter who performs on and funds his/her own recordings, they hold the rights of all four groups.”

These rights-holding groups are:
1. The performer. This could be a recording artist, band members, session players, someone who played the tambourine in the background… anyone who performs on a sound recording of a musical work.
2. The maker. This means the record label, or if you are self-released, it means you. You own your masters, so you’re the owner.
3. The songwriter/composer. The person or people who wrote the tune. Music, or lyrics, or both.
4. The music publisher. Don’t have a publisher? Then, you’re considered self-published, and you own this chunk.

There are royalty collection streams associated with all of these rights-holding groups. Learn more from 12 pm to 1 pm on April 22nd!  Click here to sign up for this free seminar.

2020 Artist Spotlight Postponement

It is with heavy hearts that we announce that due to the COVID-19 crisis, our 2020 Spotlight has been postponed. Along with our 2020 Spotlight, we will also be postponing the releases of Allan Gilliland’s Dreaming: The Prague Sessions and Nisto’s Little People EP until further notice. We are incredibly proud of what these artists have created and have decided to delay the releases until a time when we can celebrate them properly. While we are disappointed that we cannot continue with the event and releases as planned, Bent River Records is still actively working to promote our artists and to contribute to Alberta’s vibrant music scene. 

Despite the current situation, we will be celebrating the release of:

Mike Rud’s Salome’s Dance: The Mike Rud Trio Invites Peter Bernstein  
Single release of “Salome’s Dance” available on streaming services April 28th, 2020
Album available to stream or purchase May 12th, 2020

Contact us at if you would like to purchase a physical copy of the album on vinyl or CD.

Many of our artists are continuing to celebrate music from the safety of their own homes by sharing their new work through social media and live-streaming, often using Instagram and Facebook Live. Be sure to check out their social media pages and websites, where you can support them by buying merchandise and listening to their music!

Take care and stay safe,
The Bent River Records Team

Huge Thank you to Dr. Craig Monk!

“Listening to vinyl is a very physical experience… It’s about actively participating in
your music experience.” These are Dr. Craig Monk’s words, MacEwan’s provost and vice-president Academic. They reflect his deep passion for music and particularly of vinyl records that was sparked while he was working in a record store in the late 1980s. That passion hasn’t waned since those early days and he makes a point of visiting a used record store in whatever city he finds himself in.

Earlier this year, Bent River Records held a contest for design students to submit their ideas for the new albums being released in 2020. After Dr. Monk saw these designs, he was inspired. “I hadn’t realized Bent River produced vinyl, and it got me interested in the ways that album production could involve different program areas across campus.” This realization led to Dr. Monk making a generous major gift of $50,000 to fund Bent River’s production of vinyl and to ultimately encourage a cross-disciplinary engagement amongst students to create these albums, like the previous design contest.

This gift enables Bent River Records to engage with students across MacEwan and offer them opportunities to contribute to the many releases the label is working on. Dr. Monk’s gift will have a huge positive impact on Bent River. All the associates, interns and artists at Bent River would like to extend our deepest thanks, for it is donors like Dr. Monk that keep local artists and arts organizations like Bent River Records alive and well.

If you’re interested in hearing what inspires Craig Monk on a daily basis, listen to his Top 50 Vinyl Listen’s on Spotify!

Josh Sahunta – “Be Alone” (Live Version) Recording Session

Last Thursday, we had a recording session in the studio with Josh Sahunta, Canadian songwriter based here in Edmonton, AB. The song  that was recorded is called “Be Alone” (Live Version). Josh describes his music as R&B/Pop: “kind of like if Ed Sheeran was in a band with Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids.” His Influences are John Mayer, Ed Sheeran, Drake, Daniel Caesar and Anderson Paak.

Josh answered some questions for us:

What is your musical background and how long you have been playing music for? 

I’ve been into music since I was very young and always had a natural aptitude for it. I played drums and piano growing up but didn’t really start taking it seriously until later in my life. I picked up the guitar to impress a girl in high school, and that became my main instrument from that point on. While I was studying psychology in University, I was practicing and playing some small gigs here and there, but it wasn’t until I graduated in 2017 that I really started putting my all into it. 

Can you tell us more about the song you recorded? 

It is a live version of a previously released single. “Be Alone” is a song I wrote as I reflected on being away from home a lot last year because of touring. It’s a song about trying to hold a relationship together while you’re on the other side of the world and kind of just the realities I faced last year of being absent from so many of my loved ones lives for such a long period of time. 

I wanted to record a live version because the song has done so well on Spotify and has gotten over 100,000 streams, so I wanted to give my listeners a little treat as a thank you for their support on the song. 

Could you tell us about your experience in the recording studio during the session?

I’ve worked in this studio before and it was great as always. It’s truly something to be able to work in a room that has the equipment that the MacEwan studio has. It’s a gear nerd’s dream. I’ve only ever used software versions of all the equipment MacEwan has and so seeing and using the real deal was special. I’ve always had a great time working with Paul Johnston and he’s always been so supportive and accommodating to my goals and vision. I’m very appreciative of him and I look forward to working with him more in the future.


The recording session took place in MacEwan University Recording Studio A. The instrumentation is composed by vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, electric bass, and drums. The tracking in Studio A was all done through the studio on-board hardware, taking the signal through the pre-amps and equalizers built in the console and taking them out from a direct output into the software. Students from MUSC 467 in the Music Department assisted with the session as a way to learn more about the recording process.