Congratulations, Grads!

Congratulations to the nearly 2,200 MacEwan 2023 graduates! Special shout-out to Gladwyn Badger, who joined the Bent River Records team as an intern in September 2021 and stayed on as an associate until he graduated in Spring 2023. Find out more about Gladwyn and other grads from the Faculty of Fine Arts and Communications, including Reinette Schabert who helped out with recording on many BRR sessions, here:

Getting to Know Esther Forseth

Esther Forseth is the winner of Bent River Records 2021 Art-Songwriting Competition. She is in her fourth year of the MacEwan Music Program, minoring in Songwriting. Esther is passionate about music and songwriting and is thankful MacEwan has recently started offering songwriting as a minor.

Esther’s art-song lyrics for, “Preacher’s Daughter”, were selected as the winner of the Songwriting Competition. The lyrics originally started as a journal entry/poem. Esther wrote this poem as a metaphor for the pressures and expectations she faced growing up in a religious home and being the daughter of a preacher. She grew up in a Christian family feeling religion can make us see things as black or white, and rigid, which causes us to lose out on elements of love and other good things. A few times in her life, Esther felt suffocated by external pressures and rules, which affected choices she made. “Preacher’s Daughter” allows Esther to express her spiritual side and share her wish for greater freedom.

Esther says this competition has provided her with the incredible opportunity to put herself out in the music and songwriting industry. She is thankful that Bent River Records has this competition for MacEwan students. Esther claims it would take around a million streams on the Internet to make the amount of money awarded to the winner of this competition. After sitting out of the competition in prior years, Esther convinced herself she had nothing to lose by entering “Preacher’s Daughter” in the competition. She was feeling discouraged before the competition, but having her lyrics chosen as the winner has encouraged her to continue writing songs. Esther claims she is grateful and honoured to have won. 

According to Esther, recording “Preacher’s Daughter” was one of the coolest moments in her life.  Joel Toews arranged a composition with a string quartet for Esther’s song. Esther had the opportunity to sing and record her song live with the string quartet while playing guitar. She says having this spooky haunting world created by the string quartet was an incredible experience. Esther has enjoyed watching her small thought turn into something pretty big that might resonate with others. 

Esther’s parents and siblings are musicians, so she grew up in a house full of music. Esther became obsessed with listening to music and used music to help her get through difficult times in life. Throughout her life, Esther has been part of a percussion ensemble, played guitar, played saxophone in a band, and sang in church with her dad. After high school, Esther decided to enroll at MacEwan University and begin vocal training. Esther knew music was an essential part of her life, but it wasn’t until she came to MacEwan and started writing songs that she knew songwriting is what she is meant to do.

Esther encourages other students who want to write their own songs to just do it! She believes it is important to practice writing songs and then learn from your mistakes. Esther says you cannot expect to be really good at first. The more songs you write the better you will get!

Artist Connections with Jim Head

Jim Head is the first artist to participate in this fun interview where artists on the BRR label cross-promote each other’s projects by analyzing an album from another artist(s) of their choice while providing insight into what it is like working with Bent River Records!

Could you tell us about the Bent River Records album you chose? What stood out, or what did you like about the album?
The record I chose was Mosàfer by Farhad Khosravi. The rich texture and rhythmic energy of the album stood out for me.

How do your musical influences affect the way you appreciate this album?
I’m interested in rhythm, I’ve listened to a lot of music that incorporates odd or mixed meters, so that is something I find interesting in the music on this album. I’ve also been interested in music that draws inspiration from folk traditions.

What is your favourite song on the album, and why?
“Day of Creation” is a track that stands out for me. A rich composition that unfolds beautifully. I love the interplay between the melody and the counter melody, the vibrant rhythmic atmosphere. 

How would you describe your musical taste?
I guess I would describe my musical tastes as very eclectic. I listen to a very wide range of music.

Can you share your thoughts on what it’s been like working with Bent River Records?
The Bent River team has been wonderful to work with. They always put artists needs and concerns first. 

Bent River Records Artist Spotlight – April 2023

We are excited to announce the next Bent River Records Artist Spotlight will be at the Yardbird Suite on April 20th, featuring performances by Jim Head, Esther Forseth & Andrea House. Save the date and join us for an evening full of live music and fun!

The event will take place on Thursday, April 20th, 2023 at the Yardbird Suite, 11 Tommy Banks Way NW, in Edmonton, Alberta.

The evening’s lineup includes three performances featuring artists with new releases from Bent River Records. The night will open with Esther Forseth performing her indelible brand of progressive folk; next, the sensational and multi-dimensional, Andrea House; and Canadian Jazz great, Jim Head, will be closing out the night. CDs of the performer’s albums will be available for purchase. Bent River Records merchandise and other previously released works from Bent River Records will also be available for purchase. Entry to this event is by donation to the Students First Campaign. A QR code with the link to donate will be available at the event. No RSVP or ticket purchase is necessary.

Click here for the Yardbird Suite event page.

Catching Up with Mike Bruzzese

What was your inspiration for writing Even When I’m Dreaming? Were there any unique approaches to how you wrote for it?

Without making a conscious effort, a lot of the music I wrote for this record is dedicated to significant people in my life or what inspires me. For example, “Roots of the Poet” is a tribute to my late grandfather, and “Roots of the Seeker” is written for my grandmother. “Eyes of Tranquility” was inspired by my partner, while “Sky Hook” describes a basketball shot that I love. I explore what stimulates me and gives me a reason, to compose and play music. 

Who are your most significant Jazz Influences, and why?

I have so many jazz influences, that I would struggle to list them all. John Coltrane is a good start. I recorded two compositions by him (“After the Rain” and “Transition”) as a medley, to show my appreciation for his art and creativity. My main guitar influences, in terms of sound, are Grant Green, Barney Kessel, and Sonny Greenwich. They are all so unique but in terms of sound, I am drawn to their bright, melodic style. I feel like they are singing through their guitars. I am certainly inspired by all the great drummers of this music, including Elvin Jones, Billy Higgins, Roy Haynes, and Rashied Ali. I recall that one of my mentors, Ra Kalam Bob Moses, always advised me to think of myself as a drummer.

Where do you find your creativity when you aren’t feeling creative?

When I am not feeling creative, I seek inspiration wherever I can find it. Whether it is reading a book, watching a film, going for a walk, or watching highlights of my favorite basketball players, there is always something that re-ignites the fire in me!

Other than music, what other hobbies or interests do you have?

I am a huge basketball fan, so I enjoy going out there and playing pickup basketball with friends and strangers. There is something about the rhythm of the game that reminds me of the flow of music. 

What does 2023 have in store for Mike Bruzzese?

My objective is to continue working with my bands and composing new music. In addition, I plan to get started on my next record. I teach approximately 20 students a week because I feel it is important to transmit my knowledge to people who share a passion for music. 

Do you have any special shoutouts or people you’d like to acknowledge in the creation of Even When I’m Dreaming?

I want to thank my partner, Lianne Currie, for supporting me and always encouraging me to continue to grow and challenge myself. My parents and my sister have also been tremendously supportive. I feel blessed to have a great family that loves music. I feel so much gratitude for the musicians that played on this album. I truly feel that I recorded with some of my favorite musicians. Special thanks to Michel Lambert, Ira Coleman, Gentiane MG and Caity Gyorgy for their collaboration in Even When I’m Dreaming. Lastly, I want to thank everyone at Bent River Records for contributing to this project. It is an honor to be on this label with a roster of superb artists.