Calling Montreal, Quebec home is singer-songwriter-producer Ken Presse. After earning a BA from McGill University, he decided to pursue a career in music full-time. Over the years, his music has led to him opening for Mumford and Sons, performing in the Montreal Jazz Fest & at Osheaga, as well as a playing 4 sold-out Metropolis shows as the guitarist for The Franklin Electric (Presse). “In the last three years alone, he toured in over 18 countries with The Franklin Electric, and others with roles in guitar, keys, vocals and bass.” (Presse). This year, he channelled his eclectic musical tastes into his own unique brand of folk-country, with his debut single, “The Thing About You”. A song that speaks to a person someone loved that they can’t seem to forget even if their relationship has ended.
Recently, I spoke with Ken Presse about his path to pursuing music, his debut single and his goals for this year.
Kyla Pearson: For those who are unfamiliar with your music, can you tell us a bit about your path to pursuing music? What made you want to become an artist?
Ken Presse: From a young age, I was always surrounded by music. My mom called me Ken because she was such a huge fan of Kenny Rogers. As soon as I was old enough to hold an instrument I always seemed to have one in my hands.
My first instrument was the violin at age 6. From there I never stopped performing. Funny enough my first paying gig in music was doing musicals as a guitar player. I did some off-Broadway in New York and in Montreal. From there it just kept going. I played in some indie, folk and Rnb bands which allowed me to tour the world. But, I never forgot my dream of being a solo artist. Since I was a kid I wanted to have my own project. Unfortunately, I was a little too wrapped up in all the other work to make time for it. The lockdown, caused by Covid, is actually what gave me time to step back and make the time to write and produce for myself.
Kyla Pearson: You’re also a guitarist for The Franklin Electric and are now pursuing a solo career in country music as well. What made you want to pursue a solo career? How has your previous experience in the music industry helped your solo career thus far?
Ken Presse: I’m still playing with The Franklin Electric, as well as producing and writing with many different artists. I think that’s one of the best things about being a musician, you really get to do a lot of different things in a lot of different styles. I feel like my music is an amalgamation of all the experiences I’ve acquired over the last many years of working in music. I use a lot of banjo and slide guitar but you’ll still get to hear strings or indie guitars, as well as vocal harmonies that aren’t particularly common in country music.
When you write, produce or play for other artists you are helping them accomplish their vision. It’s definitely a great feeling to be able to help someone achieve their dream and to see them play the song you produced or wrote together being performed or playing on the radio. At this point in my life though, I felt like it was time to follow my dream. Getting to do my own thing really allows me to see my vision through without restrictions. I’m able to create and write things that are personal and meaningful with the hope that listeners will be able to relate and get something out of it.
Kyla Pearson: Your debut single, “The Thing About You” which you produced yourself, speaks to a person someone loved, and they can’t seem to forget even if their relationship has ended. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind the song?
Ken Presse: I wrote the song down in Nashville with Eric Ethridge and Mario Telaro. Initially, we weren’t sure who we were writing for. We talked about what we wanted to write about and that’s when we realized we always have that one relationship or that one person we never forget. In my case, it’s about an ex-girlfriend who I was with for many years. It ended pretty abruptly and I don’t think either one of us got the closure we needed at the time. We were compatible in so many ways and would have the best time together even if we were just sitting around the house. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the same future for ourselves. I was touring a lot and focused on music while she was looking to settle down. For a while, after the break-up, I would struggle to do anything without thinking about her. I turned to alcohol thinking it would help, but after a while, I realized that it just made things harder. Slowly I was able to move on but to this day I still think about her.
Kyla Pearson: The song is also a co-write between you, Eric Ethridge (Dream Girl) and Mario Telaro. Can you tell us a bit about the songwriting/recording process that went into making the song?
Ken Presse: Eric Ethridge, Mario Telaro and I started writing the song down in Nashville. The first session was about 5 hours long. We all left feeling like we had finished. It wasn’t long before we all started messing around with the lyrics. In the end, it took us a total of 3 sessions to finish it.
I’m fortunate to have a music studio at home. Once we decided this song was going to be the first single, I locked myself in the studio for days trying to figure out what direction to take it. A song can go so many directions so it’s always a bit scary to commit. By the time I was done, this song had 3 different demo versions. After having people close to me give them a listen we decided to go with a darker/vibier feel. So I went back to the studio, played all the instruments and mixed it before sending it down to Nashville to get mastered by Pete Lyman at Infrasonic Sound.
Kyla Pearson: In relation to the song’s theme, why do you think some people are harder to forget than others?
Ken Presse: There’s just that special connection you have with certain people. You have so much in common, you think, feel and react the same way. Even if you’re just sitting at home watching television there’s nowhere else you’d rather be than with that person. There’s no doubt in your mind you are made for each other. But sometimes, unfortunately, you have different long-term dreams.
Kyla Pearson: You recently released the official music video for the song, which highlights the empty feeling one experiences after a breakup. Can you tell us a bit more about the creative direction behind the video? What was the filming process like?
Ken Presse: Filming the video was really a great experience. It’s a whole other art form for you to express the sentiment of the song. From the first time I met the videographer, AJ Korkidakis, I was asking him if we could do a split-screen. I really wanted to express that it’s not only one person who suffers from a breakup. Both people are going through similar emotions. AJ was able to help me narrow things down and create a vision that was realistic and just as a representative, if not more so, of the song.
I was so lucky to work with such talented individuals for my first music video, including Jess Abran who played the female lead. It made things run really smoothly and everybody had a great time.
Kyla Pearson: You’re also a part of the rising wave of Quebec country artists. What are some of the advantages and/or challenges to being a part of this country scene, compared to other prominent country scenes across the globe? How has it impacted your career/musical sound?
Ken Presse: I really see it as an advantage to be part of the growing country scene in Quebec. A lot of us know each other, play together, write together and most importantly we’re always there to support each other. It’s really a great family to be a part of. And not only the musicians but industry people as well. Take Agence Ranch, for example, they’re a big part of this movement and provide so much support to country artists.
It definitely impacted my sound to grow up in Montreal. Although I grew up around country music, when I started working full time as a musician, there were no country acts that would pay the bills so to speak. So I played Indie music, folk, pop and Rnb. I like to think those musical experiences add a different twist to the style of country I do.
Kyla Pearson: With live music starting to be a reality once again as lockdown restrictions begin to lift, what is one venue or show you’re looking to perform at? What live shows do you have coming up that fans can catch?
Ken Presse: Right now I’m really trying to focus on writing and producing the upcoming EP due to come out in 2021. I’m getting to write with some great people in Quebec and in Nashville. We’ll also be playing a couple of acoustic shows around Quebec this summer.
If I had to pick one festival to be a part of, it’d be Boots and Hearts.
Kyla Pearson: Lastly, what is one goal you hope to achieve by the end of the year? Do you plan on releasing new music other than “The Things About You”?
Ken Presse: I definitely plan on releasing an EP in 2021. Once that’s done we’ll play more live shows, especially with a full band. There are few things as special as getting to put together a show with creative interpretations of the songs. Also just being able to have that connection with the crowd is something that I really miss.
Listen to “The Thing About You” now:
Stay up to Date With Ken Presse:
Presse, Ken. Interview. Conducted by Kyla Pearson, Jul 6 2021.
Unknown.“Featured: singer-songwriter-producer Ken Presse”. Photo courtesy of Agence Ranch. Accessed Jul 6 2021.
Unknown.“Official cover art for Ken Presse’s debut single, ‘The Thing About You’ ”. Photo courtesy of Agence Ranch. Accessed Jul 6 2021.