Did you know that MacEwan University has one of the newest state-of-the-art recording studios in Canada? Not only that, but the studio’s head recording engineer, Paul Johnston, has been nominated for 10 Juno awards, five of which he has won for his sound engineering. He’s also the head of MacEwan’s recording department. Out of this beautiful studio, MacEwan’s very own record label was created in 2017: Bent River Records, named after the North Saskatchewan River. The label has already recorded some of Canada’s (and Edmonton’s) finest musicians such as Mallory Chipman, Tom Van Seters, Chandelle Rimmer, Mike Rud, and Joshua Rager.
After last year’s success, Bent River Records is preparing for another artist showcase featuring three new records. One of the bands featured, Nature Of, was the winner of Bent River Records’ 2017 competition to record a full-length album. The other two artists will be announced throughout the year.
Audio and Recording Associate Kristjan Buckingham is always looking for students and volunteers to help out at the studio. He explains that they’ve already got an arts and cultural management student helping out while also earning credits for her class. When designing physical records and CDs, students in MacEwan’s design program can contribute anything from the layout of the tracks and notes, to the main cover art. There are already a few working on album packaging concepts for Nature Of’s spring release.
Johnston works closely with many students in the recording program, often bringing them on board to help with projects the studio is working on or recommending them to other studios around Edmonton such as Sound Extractor and The Audio Department. These opportunities can lead to students being hired at these businesses as permanent or part-time employees.
When asked how students could get involved, Emily Gryba, an employee at Bent River and student at MacEwan said, “We’re always looking for students who can bring something new to the table, so if that’s you, we’d love to be in contact with you. Another way is to volunteer at one of our pop-ups or at our annual spotlight — which will be on April 9 this year”.
“We’re proud to have several MacEwan alumni and faculty on our artist roster, but it is definitely not a requirement,” says Buckingham.
When choosing which artists to record and collaborate with, the team at Bent River uses its roster of musicians, arrangers and composer to cultivate a close working relationship. This often means that they will record artists from MacEwan (professors and graduates of the music program), but it doesn’t mean their doors are closed to outside work.
“We would love to have a conversation with any musician that has the means to create something with us” says Gryba.
Bent River Record’s future holds much to be excited for. “This is our second year as an established record label since our 2017 launch party, and we’ve learned a lot in that short time. Now that we’ve started to get the hang of things, we want to focus more on community involvement within the city and the university.” says Buckingham.
Being a small operation, they’ve given themselves freedom to define their label on their own terms, which will ultimately create a label that is unique in sound, values, and artists.