From Behind the Glass & On the Stage, Andrew Kesler is a Musical Swiss Army Knife

Andrew Kesler
                   Musician and Producer Andrew Kesler shot by Von Wong

Andrew Kesler’s multi-faceted skills as an instrumentalist, singer and engineer have undeniably made him a valuable asset to the Grammy Award winning producers (Al Schmitt, Tommy LiPuma) and independent artists (Milan Boronell, Justin Dunlop) he’s worked with.

The Canadian-born music producer has married art and science to become a virtual Swiss Army knife in the studio. He’s learned to play seven instruments, including bass, drums, guitar and piano, since he picked up his first, the ukulele, when he was two years old. But it’s been his ability to create music from concept to finished product that’s set him apart.

“Part of what makes me unique is my versatility and experience,” Kesler said. “I don’t think it is common to find someone who plays a lot of instruments proficiently, writes, arranges and engineers music.”

Kesler’s worked with some of the industry’s top producers such as 21-time Grammy Award winner Schmitt (Quincy Jones, Steely Dan, Natalie Cole), three-time Grammy Award winner LiPuma (Miles Davis, Joe Sample, Barbra Streisand) and Grammy Award nominee Greg Wells (Adele, Katy Perry, Aerosmith).

Because of his reputation, Kesler was brought in to be the recording engineer for Al Schmitt in a session he was producing. After the session, Schmitt urged Kesler to move to Los Angeles, where he said his skills and personality would be a “breath of fresh air.”

The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native moved to L.A. in 2015 with an already impressive portfolio under his belt, and multiple projects underway. His work with some of North America’s brightest young talents has spanned across a wide variety of genres, ranging from classical to indie-pop.

His album “Dragon Suite” with Homzy/Kesler Duo partner Aline Homzy won Best Contemporary Classical Album at the Independent Music Awards in 2013. He played on Canadian singer-songwriter Justin Dunlop’s album “Black Bay Nocturnes,” which was nominated for a Hamilton Music Award in 2015. Kesler produced Montreal native Milan Boronell’s self-titled EP, which was released in February, and is currently working on the debut album of Mario José, who was featured on NBC’s hit show “The Sing-Off.”

Boronell, an accomplished singer, songwriter and guitarist, needed the skills of an experienced producer for his EP, so he called on Kesler. The pair spent countless hours together to ensure they were on the same page before production started.

“My approach when producing is to do whatever it takes to make sure the artist’s vision is realized,” Kesler said. “It’s never about adding my footprint to their music, but rather understanding who they are, what the message is and using my skills to present it loud and clear.”

Kesler used his talents as a producer and a musician to bring their concept to life. His chemistry with Boronell was so good that he played a vastly larger-than-normal role in the EP’s production. Not only did Kesler produce, but he also played instruments, hired additional musicians, arranged parts for strings and background vocals, engineered the recording sessions and mixed tracks.

“I wouldn’t normally suggest to an artist that I be the one to fill all these roles,” Kesler said. “However, Milan’s music resonated with me and he really liked my contributions, which lead to me shouldering most of the load.”

The deep musical bond he shared with Boronell was a great example of Kesler’s approach in the studio.

“To achieve my best work as a producer, I have to find something about the artist I can invest in. I have to develop a connection with them,” Kesler said. “If I think my skills can contribute to helping them create the music they hear in their head then to me that’s a perfect fit.”

The time he spent with Boronell in pre-production was typical of his workflow. But Kesler showed his flexibility when he produced Dunlop’s latest single “Into the Cold.”

Kesler wanted to capture the roots musician’s “creative vibe” rather than record a “perfect performance,” so they spent just thirty minutes playing through the parts and crafting the song’s arrangement before recording. A few hours later they had recorded the entire song, including the vocals, overdubs and beds.

“Because I know Justin’s style, I knew what kind of contributions I could make that would be fitting for his music,” Kesler said. “Knowing this we were able to achieve a ‘live off the floor’ feeling with nuanced performances and interaction. I try to bring this approach to the pop productions I do as well.”

Along with José’s debut album, Kesler is currently producing the second album for his a cappella jazz group Accent. The group will guest-speak at the EG Conference in Monterey, California in May, and is planning to tour Germany in November. He is also producing the sophomore album for his indie-pop group Holy Oker, which is planned for release in 2016.

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