“Want to hear a great song? (I mean a REALLY great song?)” – John Mayer, one forty plus
Born and raised in London, Ontario, Ken Yates honed his songwriting skills at Boston's prestigeous Berklee College of Music, where he earned high praise from industry professionals. After the release of his first CD, “The Backseat EP”, Yates received the opportunity to play a song in a showcase for John Mayer, resulting in a rave review from the artist. In a full page blog about Yates’ ability as a writer, Mayer stated, “Ken Yates wrote a song called ‘I Don’t Wanna Fall In Love’… this song moved me when I first heard it and still does today”. The EP received high critical acclaim, leading to a slew of online covers from fans. He has played numerous shows with veteran singer/songwriter and mentor, Livingston Taylor and his singles 'I Wanna Fall In Love' and 'Into The Backseat' are in heavy rotation on Sirius XM’s The Coffee House.
His incredible song writing and busy touring schedule has built a strong following of fans, who recently demonstrated their support by funding Yates' Kickstarter campaign to record a full length album, which will be released early 2013.
The Backseat EP - 2011
Want To Hear A Great Song? (I mean a REALLY great song?)
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Want to hear a great song? (I mean a REALLY great song?) I taught a songwriting class at Berklee ...Want to hear a great song? (I mean a REALLY great song?)
I taught a songwriting class at Berklee College of Music in Boston in March where I heard so many talented songwriters play some really great songs. Very few of the students have yet to record the songs they played for me, but Ken Yates wrote a tune called “I Don’t Wanna Fall in Love” and posted a live video of it on YouTube. This song moved me when I first heard it in the room and it still does today.
I love teaching at Berklee because I get to meet the artists that are going to keep the music world going strong before the rest of the world does.
Enjoy, two years early.
(lots of love to everyone else that day who fearlessly played their songs for myself and the rest of the room.)
London Songwriter, Ken Yates, Gets Nod From Star
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When Ken Yates enrolled in Boston's Berklee College of Music four years ago, the idea was to follow ...When Ken Yates enrolled in Boston's Berklee College of Music four years ago, the idea was to follow in the music industry footsteps of some of his idols – including John Mayer.
What Yates didn't know at the time was that the popular singer/songwriter would provide more direct inspiration than he could have imagined.
On Saturday, Yates released "The Backseat EP" at the London Music Club, a collection of five songs he wrote while majoring in songwriting at Berklee.
One of those is I Don't Wanna Fall In Love, which recently got the thumbs up by Mayer himself, who praised the track on his blog, One Forty Plus, and posted a YouTube video of Yates performing the song live.
"It's kinda my lucky song right now," said Yates, who got the chance to play the song for Mayer during one of the Berklee alumni's visits to the songwriting program.
"It was the most amazing experience I could ever dream of," Yates continued. "Since (the blog post) it's probably the fastest way I could imagine starting my career. That was huge."
Yates, a London native, is now officially a Berklee grad too. After a quick three-show stint that wraps up in Waterloo June 22, it's off to New York where he'll join former classmates and current band mates Joren Van Der Voort, Brian Dunne, Vince Delgado and Tyler LeVander.
He'll be taking his experiences from Berklee – and some advice he picked up from Mayer ¬– with him as he embarks on a music career in the Big Apple.
"Make everything simple was the best advice I could hear," said Yates, whose mellow acoustic work is reminiscent of Mayer's but also includes a classic folk sound from his other inspirations like Neil Young and James Taylor.
A couple of the tracks from the new EP can be heard on www.kenyates.com and that includes I Don't Wanna Fall In Love – about someone afraid they won't live up to the expectations of their new lover.
"I think it's the most honest song I've written," said Yates, although the song isn't necessarily about him.
"I don't usually write about personal experiences, I find my life too undramatic for that," he said with a laugh. "I try to make up interesting emotional situations."
Also a graduate of Saunders secondary school, Yates said he is enjoying spending some time in London before moving back to the States.
"I really like coming back here and playing shows knowing that I can usually draw a lot of people because it's my hometown," he said. "It's a good way to see everyone I haven't seen and people are always really supportive here."
Falling In Love With Yates
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Meet Ken Yates. He's 21, fresh out of Berklee College of Music in Boston, born and raised in Lond...Meet Ken Yates.
He's 21, fresh out of Berklee College of Music in Boston, born and raised in London and was just starting out in one of the toughest career choices only dreamers pursue, songwriting, when John Mayer wrote those words on his blog directing readers to a YouTube video posted by Yates playing his song, I Don't Want to Fall in Love.
"It was the day before graduation (last May) and I woke up and went on Facebook to check my messages and there were all of these notifications and messages from people and I thought there was something wrong with my page," recalled Yates.
"At first I thought it was a joke, but then I realized it was true what Mayer wrote on his blog. It's definitely the coolest thing I've ever had happen to me. It's pretty unbelievable he took the time to do that."
Yates had met Mayer, a Berklee alumni and a big influence on Yates' music, two months earlier and performed the song in the masters songwriters class Mayer was teaching.
Then, with the help of musicians and studio friends, Yates recorded a five-song extended play CD, The Backseat, followed by the YouTube posting.
After Mayer's endorsement, word spread and soon Yates' songs were being played on Sirius Radio's The Coffee House. Yates is also among a group of 10 songwriters the show is asking listeners to vote for singer-songwriter discovery of the year. Yates is in second place, just behind good friend Liz Longley.
Today, Yates lives in New York City to stay close to his music friends, playing clubs as often as he can for little more than tips. But he's chasing his dream and thankful for the kick-start from one of his idols growing up.
"At least I can say I went to New York and tried my best," said Yates this week after returning home to spend time with family.
While it's early to project his future, there are people in the music industry reaching out to Yates and for good reason. Yates' finger-picking stylings are impressively smooth while his voice, which sounds almost delicate yet sweet, is unique and interesting enough to want to hear again.
Yates is playing at the London Music Club Friday at a fundraiser for the 4th Annual Holiday Food Drive Concert to help the London Food Bank. Also performing are Tanya Chopp and organizer Tim Fraser a former Londoner, digital marketing specialist with True North Records and longtime friend of Yates.
Trained first on piano before picking up a guitar at 10 or 11, Yates knew he wanted to play guitar for a living, but never considered songwriting until being encouraged by his Berklee faculty, including Livingston Taylor, brother of folk icon James Taylor.
"Ken Yates' music is solid as stone and clear as mountain air . . . he proves the future is in very good shape," Taylor wrote on Yates' website.
The son of Peter, owner of Window Film Systems, and Bev, a teacher at Westmount public school, Yates is realistic about his music.
"In no way does (what Mayer wrote) mean stardom," said Yates. "But he helped get me started. Like most people coming out of Berklee, you don't really know what people think of your music, except what your teachers tell you."
His hopes for the future?
"I don't need to be selling out stadiums to be happy," said Yates. "I just want to make a living playing my music."
--- --- ---
"Want to hear a great song? (I mean a REALLY great song?) . . . Ken Yates wrote a tune called I Don't Wanna Fall in Love and posted a live video of it on YouTube. This song moved me when I first heard it in the room and it still does today . . . Enjoy, two years early."
-- John Mayer, songwriter, singer, producer and multi-Grammy Award winner for songs including Your Body is a Wonderland and Waiting for the World to Change.
IF YOU GO
What: 4th Annual Holiday Food Concert, featuring Ken Yates, Tanya Chopp and Tim Fraser.
When: 8 p.m. Friday.
Where: London Music Club, 470 Colborne St.
Tickets: Admission is free with a donation for the London Area Food Bank
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow JoeBatLFPress on Twitter.
Folk Singer-Songwriter Ken Yates
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A few years ago, Canadian songwriter Ken Yates came to Boston to work on his craft at world-renown B...A few years ago, Canadian songwriter Ken Yates came to Boston to work on his craft at world-renown Berklee College. Attending the school helped Yates perfect his songwriting skills, which ultimately led to the release of his first CD, The Backseat EP. Since, Yates has played a number of shows and is now also on heavy rotation on Sirius XM’s The Coffee House.
It was however a particular song entitled I Don’t Wanna Fall In Love that ended up being a turning point in Yates’ career as an artist. In fact, the piece marked a pivotal point in more ways than one.
“This was actually the quickest I’ve ever written a song,” said Yates. “Usually it takes me a week or even months to finish a song but this one was done in a few hours.”
“My teacher asked me to write the most honest song I could write,” he said. “And not think too much about the lyrics or get too ‘tricky’ with them, which was an issue I was having before that. It was the first time I tried to write a whole song with one single thought and not think too much about what I was writing.”
Yates also explains that the point of the song was to create something listeners could relate to and have a connection with. “I think everyone can interpret it in their own way. The lyrics do have a special meaning to me because it was the first time I felt that I captured a single honest idea in a song.”
Although the title could lead us to believe otherwise, the song actually expresses a sincere desire to fall in love, but facing an even greater fear of getting hurt. “It’s about a guy afraid of committing to a girl because he is scared of the girl being too good for him and breaking his heart later on in the relationship.”
While attending Berklee, Yates had a chance to perform the song for one his major influences, John Mayer. “He (Mayer) actually suggested a change to the song, which I have now made when I play it live. He suggested I cut the first chorus in half. Unfortunately this change isn’t on the Joren Van Der Voort-produced EP version of the song, but I am re-recording it on my full-length album with “The Mayer Change” in it.” Mayer didn’t stop there however: he went on to post the song on his own personal blog, which inevitably led to Yates’ piece being the focus of much positive online attention.
Although different songwriters have different methods, some can seem quite chaotic to those of us who aren’t submerged in the creative lifestyle; however, from the creator’s perspective, there’s often enough a method to madness. “I always start with a guitar part first” said Yates. “Then I write the melody by just singing random words “the songwriter’s howl” over the music. A lot of the times I will get my lyrical idea from some of the random words I am singing because they fit well in the melody. I wrote the guitar part at the end of each verse and already found myself singing “I Don’t Wanna Fall In Love” over it.”
Many songwriters feel the urge to write about their own personal experiences, but not Yates: he acknowledges that he would much rather live vicariously through others to get his inspiration. “I usually don’t write about exact experiences in my life (it’s too boring for that) but I have felt what it’s like to be afraid of falling in love for fear of not being good enough. I know so many people that have shared this feeling and I really try to write about interesting emotion situations that a lot of people might have been through before.”
What is your favorite part of the song?
I personally like the bridge the best. Mostly because the arrangement is really the high point in the song, where I start strumming and the drums come in with the piano part. It just always feels good to play after finger picking the first half of the song.
Did any other artist contribute to this song?
Joren Van Der Voort produced this song on my EP and did an amazing job with arranging the other instruments. Since I write my songs on an acoustic guitar sometimes it’s hard for me to visualize how it will sound on a record. That’s where Joren comes in. Brian Dunne, who plays guitar and sings backup vocals.
Was there a specific moment when the song finally came together for you?
There was one moment when I was going over the song with Joren after just writing it. In the first B section/chorus whatever you want to call it when I say “open door for you to go and break my heart”, on “heart” the chord used to be the 1 chord which was major. It sounded pretty happy so we tried playing the 6 minor chord instead. It made a huge difference and really changed the song. Playing the first minor chord in the song under “break my heart” added way more emotion to it. That was the moment that I really started to consider the song a “heartbreaker”
Any shouts outs to the guys and gals who might have made this song possible?
Definitely. Have to give a shout out to Joren who produced it. The band: Brian Dunne, Vince Delgado and Tyler LeVander. The teachers at Berklee who helped me with developing my songwriting: Scarlet Keys and Mark Simos. And definitely John Mayer for helping to make the song better and posting it on his blog, which has done so much for me at the start of my career.
Ken Yates is currently working on his first full-length album in New York City.
Introducing Singer/Songwriter Ken Yates
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-by Stephanie Oritz, Staff Writer; Image: Yates and Dunn onstage (Image Source: Molly C. Braswell) ...-by Stephanie Oritz, Staff Writer; Image: Yates and Dunn onstage (Image Source: Molly C. Braswell)
Last Thursday night, Ken Yates and Brian Dunne shared the stage in a stripped performance showcasing each of their music at The Living Room in the Lower East Side.
The two Berklee College of Music graduates played and sang together on each song; however, every other song was one the other wrote (in turn, also switching lead vocals). So are they a duo or solo act?
“It’s difficult to write a song with someone—we each have our own process of writing and stories we want to tell, so we are an individual act but sometimes perform together or help each other out to benefit each other’s career,” Dunne said after their performance.
To backtrack a little, Yates was born and raised in Ontario before meeting Dunne at Berklee College, who grew up in Monroe, New York. The two became friends and also hooked up with their producer and piano player, Jordan Van Der Root.
According to Dunne, “Jordan’s the ‘Big J!’ He runs the whole thing!”
Yates’ debut, The Backseat EP, is a great record telling stories of young love and heartache. Yates has the similar approach to music as John Mayer and Matt Nathanson, with mostly confessional songs and armed with an acoustic guitar.
Where Yates shines, however, are in his lyrics. His ability to portray specific situations but give just enough detail where it is relatable is remarkable. His word choice tugs at the heartstrings, and his voice is honest and shy, not over-the-top. The uncanny way he sings and expresses himself is hard to find in modern day music, good for someone who likes raw emotion and easy listening.
His most popular song, “I Don’t Want to Fall in Love,” tracks a boy who left a girl standing on her doorstep, “Cause falling in love is a brand new start / It’s an open door for you to go and break my heart,” and later reveals, “I’m scared you might find out you’re too good for me / Falling in love is just not for me.”
Inquiring if the song was based on a real-life experience, Yates exclaimed, “No, my life is boring! But I try to make songs where people can relate, and most people are fearful of getting their heart broken.”
It’s highly doubtful Yates’ life is “boring” considering several months ago he had the opportunity to play for John Mayer, who raved about that song and even blogged about it on his personal website.
Despite this, Yates remains humble and even bashful, but don’t let this fool you—he is an artist to keep an eye on. He creeps up on you when least expected in a genre where many fail. There is something about his apprehensive delivery which is refreshing, and in conversation, he is really no different.
Dunne, however, has a more abrasive approach to his music. His range seems larger, and he has a higher pitch, which goes well with the slight twang in his music. It also makes the two’s harmonies special; Yates has a softer, even eerie sound to his voice, which complements Dunne’s well, and their synchronized singing sounds reminiscent of older folk music. Something clicks when the two sing together, which is rare; it is probable they even realize the great sound they produce together.
Dunne’s music alone does not stand out as much as Yates. Something about it falls flat and more generic than the former; however, his inclusion of the harmonica at times is fun. The opening song “Fall (Sweet Maria)” on his self-titled debut EP is also catchy and infectious. Nevertheless, the sincerity Yates depicts grabs a stronger hold on the listener, although it should be noted a girl in audience, referring to Dunne’s boyish good looks, stated “I want him for my birthday.”
And girls, he will take hugs for his CD.
Whether solo or together, Yates and Dunne are upcoming singer-songwriters who are eager to impress a larger audience, and they deserve the attention. Both have only just moved to New York City and have tour dates booked throughout the upcoming weeks (together and separately) in the tri-state area.
Below, in what appears to be his bedroom, watch Yates perform “I Don’t Want to Fall in Love:”
There are no upcoming dates at this time.