Mike Janzen, who spent his childhood growing up in Steinbach, going to high school in Winkler and then studied music at Brandon University, has released his third album of Psalm interpretations, Songs From The Canyon.
Janzen says the first two Psalms albums were more contemplative, meditative, and lyrical.
“I was coming out of a pretty serious concussion and so the only music I could actually listen to was more gentle, whereas this album is much more cinematic, muscular, and bigger, and it's got a few more drums and strings and the tunes are a little bigger in scope.”
This album was the first time he has used a producer in his career.
He says the producer had a great vision for Songs From The Canyon.
“When I first sent him some of the demos, they were a bunch of songs that didn't actually make it on the first two albums, so I sent them to him thinking he's just going to respond with ‘yeah, maybe not.’ But instead he emailed back saying these were some of his favorite songs and I'm like, really?”
Janzen says his producer helped tweak the songs and he is thrilled with the results.
The album features lead track, 'Echoes (Psalm 8),' that highlights Indigenous Canadian artists Ray “Coco” Stevenson (Cree/Objibwe) and Jonathan Maracle (Mohawk Nation).
He says he wrote this song out in the white shell while he was still recovering from his concussion.
“I went out on my paddle board, and I was out in the middle of the lake, and I just sort of heard this chant and song come out. And so I was working on it for a few years and we recorded it and then I just wasn't quite happy with where it landed up.”
He talked with his producer, and they thought to add a couple more voices to the song.
That’s when Janzen contacted Coco Stephenson from the Winnipeg area.
“He's a wonderful Indigenous singer and he improvised something on the end of the song and in the middle, which is really cool.”
He adds that Jonathan Maracle, a singer from Ontario, also did some vocals on the track.
“The result I'm thrilled with, it feels really organic and earthy. It's the song about the creator and creation, and so I think it was really fitting that a couple of Indigenous artists were on it as well.”
Janzen says the Psalms are great prayers to read through and make your own.
“And my good friend Steve Bell always says one thing we can do with the Psalms is take our own stories and resonate them with the Psalms.”
Janzen says a lot of the songs on his new album have pieces of his own life in them, even though he’s following what’s written in the book.
Parts of his life like his concussion, his love for creation, and some of the hard things people around him have been going through in their lives.
“These are all intersecting with the Pslams and the result is this project Songs From The Canyon.”
You can listen to our conversation with Mike Janzen, below.
- With files from Corny Rempel -
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