Diverse skillset leading English to music success

Richie English says he is blessed with a lot of amazing performing opportunities. While some of The University of Western Ontario doctoral candidate’s success may be attributed to good luck, credit a lot to a good attitude and loads of talent.

English spent the past summer touring Brazil with super band The Reign of Kindo. He was filling in for the pianist in the Buffalo-based group and crafting string arrangements for their next recording.

University of Western Ontario doctoral candidate Richie English has opened for the Dalai Lama, dropped beats for hip-hop artist Billy Drease Williams and performed with international act The Reign of Kindo. But Western remains his passion.

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The band, which plays indie, jazz and progressive genres, was rated No. 3 worldwide on iTunes for their second album, Rhythm, Chord and Melody. Their first, a self-titled EP, was No. 5 on the Billboard Middle Atlantic Heatseekers chart. The YouTube video of their single “Just Wait” was one of the highest rated, an immediate hit within 24 hours.

“I didn’t realize they were so famous,” English says. “I could not believe the crowds in Brazil. It was a whole different level.”

English is no stranger to large audiences.

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As a 22-year-old student at the University of Buffalo, he was the opening act for the Dalai Lama. “I was petrified,” he says of the lead-up to the performance. “I worried about what would happen if I got sick or injured.”

The experience was so stressful, he switched his focus of his studies and activities.

“I decided I wanted to things for fun. I had let playing become too much of a job.”

He began making beats for hip-hop artist Billy Drease Williams who has garnered numerous awards over the past decade.

“The week I started with him, he had a video explode on YouTube. I was signed on as his producer and worked for three years on his debut album and three videos for it. Each one was bigger, with the third getting 1.6 million views. YouTube signed the label as a partner. We went to Google headquarters in Manhattan to perform.”

From there, English turned to working with The Reign of Kindo. “I’ve had a tremendous amount of blessings,” he says.

Behind the blessings is an ability to see the opportunities and work for them.

“My aunt prepared me to run with opportunities,” he said. His aunt would know.

Diane English is known for creating the television show Murphy Brown.

“I started moonlighting,” says her nephew. “I thought if you put in the effort, it can happen to anyone. I teach my undergraduates that. When you’re a performer it is easy to focus on one area honing your musicianship. It is far more important to learn the business. It’s hard work. You have to manage time.”

English has mastered the time-management issue. He juggles teaching and performing with arranging and producing.

“It’s a lot of fun. I see and do a lot of wonderful things. I love teaching. I love Western. I am writing projects for academic tenure and playing on the weekend. I am hopping between three different worlds,” he says.

Add four. He is also Chair of the Society of Graduate Students.

The ability to pursue such a combination of skills drew English to Western.

“It’s the only school I applied for,” he says.

Now in his third year of doctoral studies in music theory, English chose the Don Wright Faculty of Music because of Kevin Mooney. “He’s what I want to be. He has a rock background. He knows what it’s like touring. He is doing groundbreaking work in the field. He’s a fantastic instructor,” English says.

“It’s important to be as well-rounded as possible. In L.A. having a big skill set is very important. I’ve been advised to enter the business as a producer or arranger. The way of generating income in music is different now; it’s not in sales. The Reign of Kindo is on Letterman and their career is touring; they fly everywhere. Not everybody is rich. The dream is not to be signed by a huge label anymore because they would control you. Everything changed because of YouTube. The money is in licensing. You get 1.6 millions hits, with ads at the bottom of the videos, you start rolling in the money.”