Basic Folk 181 – Ken Yates

Lizzie No interviews Ken Yates!

Ken Yates grew up in the college town of London, Ontario and he is truly Canada’s Next Top Model, by which I mean he is wonderfully talented, disarmingly nice, and from Canada, obviously. Ken is a Berklee College of Music graduate, and I took the opportunity to talk with him about that experience. Why would somebody choose to go to music school, what were you hoping to gain, and what did you actually get out of it, are questions that are fascinating to me, and Ken’s answers were super interesting. One takeaway I learned from his stories of Berklee is that even some of the most talented musicians feel like they have no idea what they’re doing. 

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Ken’s breakout 2016 album, ‘Huntsville,’ earned him the Emerging Artist of the Year award at the Canadian Folk Music awards. It was not just a huge and competitive honor, but it was also a defining moment where Ken started getting categorized as a folk artist. 

Ken released a beautiful album, ‘Quiet Talkers,’ in 2020, and instead of touring in support of that album, he had to do a bunch of covid-era online shows. I was impressed with how gracious and level-headed he seemed despite the crappy circumstances. This grace, perspective, emotional openness, and flexibility, are a big part of what makes his new album, ‘Cerulean,’ so special. ‘Cerulean’ came out in 2022 and it bridges the gap between folk and indie rock, between skepticism and hope, between the pain of losing someone and the possibility of embracing what you have. ‘Cerulean’ has a distinct groove, features vocals from Americana stars like Kathleen Edwards, Liz Longley, and Katie Pruitt, AND some of the prettiest production I’ve heard all year.

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