Michael Menegon is a roots-based Toronto singer and songwriter, who committed to writing in 2009 after years of playing as a musician, performing with contemporary dancers and working with multi-disciplinary artists. His instinct for writing songs that connect with popular issues has garnered him accolades with his Toronto audience. He writes about what he knows and about where he lives, and now, on July 7, 2017, he is releasing his debut full-length independent album – ‘I Just Live Here’.
Menegon’s songs often come from an onslaught of emotional connections to his environment; whether it be from the heart, observations of the mind or connections with the people he knows. Although his early inspirations in music come from the rock and jazz genres, he writes an eclectic mix of songs influenced now by world beat, folk, Caribbean rhythms and modern contemporary. He explains, “The rhythm and the melody come together – out of necessity for the song’s meaning and feel.” It is that mix that draws people in.
‘I Just Live Here’ is a collection of work that was created between 2010 and 2016. As diverse as the country they were born in (Canada), the songs cross numerous rhythmic themes and a wide range of topics from love to culture to questions of reality. “Just a representation of the times,” Menegon says.
Born and raised in Montreal also had its influences on Menegon. He first picked up the guitar when he was eight years-old, as he followed his brother John into the music world, and played in bands as a teenager. He attempted to learn to play piano, but could not sit still long enough. He grew up with the sounds of jazz, classical, opera and rock n’ roll playing in the house and a mother who cleared the living room so they could dance the jitterbug.
Creating music has not been his only passion in life. Menegon moved to Toronto in 1980 and drifted towards acting. He spent two years as a master student at the Banff Centre for the Arts theatre program (1982-83) and later trained as a dancer and worked as a professional choreographer for over 20 years (1983 to 2003).
Perhaps ironically, it wasn’t until Menegon started training and working as a professional contemporary dancer that he fully connected with his musical roots. He was fortunate to meet and apprentice with Cuban born percussionist Ricardo Abruet, who became Menegon’s mentor while he trained at the School of the Toronto Dance Theatre (1983-1986). The connection with Abruet enabled him to make a living as an accompanist for dance classes while pursuing a career in dance. “That changed my life forever and music was always why I danced or choreographed,” he explains.
From 1997 to 2004, Menegon and Toronto musician Alexander Sascha Tukatsch were breaking boundaries in dance presentation with The Beat Suit Projects – music technology based collaboration, which gave the dancer access to any pre-recorded sound while dancing, thus allowing them to control and connect to the music at will. In addition to use in dance, The Beat Suit was a featured instrument with Toronto band The Fuzz.
In addition to self-producing over 25 shows as a choreographer, from 1987 to 2006 Menegon was also co-founder and artistic director for the ‘fringe Festival of Independent Dance Artists’ (fFIDA) in Toronto – the largest dance festival in North America. He then broadened his creative contacts, by directing and programming the multi-disciplinary Junction Arts Festival in Toronto in 2007, 2008 and 2009 – it was during this time when Menegon was immersed into the music/concert industry.
At present, Menegon also works with his partner Deborah Torr in their organic chocolate shop in West Toronto’s Baby Point area (COCO Crafted Organic Chocolates), and plays percussion for dance classes and gigs in and around Toronto.
Menegon also plays with group ‘Kayt and the Hard Folk’ (guitar, vocals and occasionally percussion/drums) and has newly formed a multi-discipline band called ‘Sound of Movement’ – which, since 2015, combines improvised music with dance and video manipulation.
Ultimately, after Menegon’s dance career ended, he returned to his first love – music. It is the 30 years or so of playing as accompaniment to dance that has formed his overall approach to music though – one that is very “in the moment”, in much the same way as a dancer’s performance is. And, much the same way as ‘I Just Live Here’ is.
On June 15, Menegon launched the first single and video (track 10) titled “You’re My Religion”. The video was directed and edited by John Preketes, JPC Post Studios in Toronto.
‘I Just Live Here’ is an eclectic mix influenced by world beat, folk, Caribbean rhythms and modern contemporary (classical/electronic). The album was produced by John Preketes of JPC Post Studios, in The Junction, Toronto. “Tell Me” (track five) was produced by John Menegon at Upland Recording Studio, Kingston, NY, USA.
Musicians on CD: Michael Menegon (acoustic/electric guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion, drums, vocals), Nick Yaksich (electric guitar), John Menegon (upright/electric bass, keyboard), John Preketes (programmed drums and synth keys), Aquiles Navarro (trumpet, synth bass), James David Smith (piano), Rob Greenway (drums).
FACEBOOK EVENT (CD release): https://www.facebook.com/events/141819523034900.