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Nanaimo musician releases debut album of ‘emotional’ rock-jazz music

Keanu Ienco’s Celestial Desire came out last week
Keanu Ienco, raised in Nanaimo and educated at Vancouver Island University, released his debut Celestial Desire on March 18. (Astrid Lyre photo)

A Nanaimo rock and jazz guitarist relied on some “home cooking” for his debut album.

Celestial Desire, released March 18, features Vancouver Island University grad Keanu Ienco’s guitar and compositions and was recorded in the Harbour City area, with elements of rock, jazz and Indigenous music. In Nanaimo since age 7 and raised on Queen, the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, Ienco says he has a rock foundation, but earning a bachelor’s in jazz studies from VIU and his own Native American heritage (Havasupai Tribe in Arizona) also had a bearing on the album’s sound.

“A lot of Indigenous music, it’s different from European music where it’s very strict on form and always in 4/4,” said Ienco. “Indigenous can be a lot more free and it can be really interesting, and so from a compositional standpoint, I try and take some inspiration from that into my tunes, whether it be a lullaby or something, and I try and see what type of melody are they singing or what type of harmony are they really doing and that’s what I try to put into my music, of course while still blending, rock and jazz and the more western traditional sounds of music.”

The COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 was also a catalyst for the record, recounts Ienco.

“Over the years, I acquired various music gear or recording gear, and was basically just at a point where I thought that I may as well go for it and do something under my own name … then I just started writing what came from my emotions,” said Ienco.

He worked with a co-producer during 2020 and 2021. He recorded guitar tracks at his home, drum tracks were laid down at Risque Disque Records in Cedar, vocals were recorded at Tonebone Marone Audio in Ladysmith and bass was added by a friend in Vancouver.

While Ienco sang on Celestial Desire, he also relied on friend and fellow Nanaimo musician Elise Boulanger for vocals above his range.

“I’ve seen Elise in the scene over the past years in Nanaimo … her music and her voice invokes a really emotional, celestial, type of sound, which perfectly fits my project,” said Ienco. “I really like how she does music that’s accessible, it’s very artsy and my path of stuff is very emotional and unique. Over the past few years, we’ve become friends and hung out and played some music together and she was really just the first choice I had to sing on my album.”

Ienco also credits co-producer Jim Blair, who taught him how to play guitar and also taught him a lot about music history, music theory and songwriting.

“He basically taught me to be a musician. He didn’t just teach me how to play guitar. He taught me how to send properly-worded e-mails, how to prepare for a recording studio, how to set up gigs, how to act properly at gigs, be a professional and all those things along the way,” Ienco said.

Of the two singles released, he describes I Still Shine as a upbeat song about “uplifting oneself and regaining self-confidence” while Indigo is a more mellow song about “letting go of a relationship and growing from it.”

While no Nanaimo dates have been formalized yet, Ienco will perform at Vinyl Envy in Victoria Saturday, April 2 and at the Duncan Showroom in Duncan on April 23.

For more information, including how to get Celestial Desire, go to Ienco’s website at

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

After interning at Vancouver Metro free daily newspaper, I joined Black Press in 2010.
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