Five minutes late, I ran into the coffee shop to find a calm, cool, and collected young man dressed in faded jeans, a plain white dress shirt, and shades. Dylan Menzie is the very image of cool: a whispy young James Dean sitting at a windowed table for two, sipping on a latte as if he was right at home in the hustle and bustle of Fredericton during the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival.
“I grew up on Prince Edward Island about five minutes away from the Ferry. I had three brothers, one younger, two older, and they all played music…It was pretty much where my involvement in music started, just playing with my brothers.”
Dylan’s roots as a musician began to develop as a child and he truly came into his own at the impressive and impressionable age of sixteen, as a PEI-bred teen playing a song he wrote about a girl he had a crush on for a school talent show. “I started playing the fiddle and it’s just moved onto drums and then trumpet and then guitar and then whatever. You know I play like ten instruments now. It’s just always been something that’s there. I never thought to get serious until I played that show and then I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I could do this’.”
For someone who started to branch out professionally at the age of sixteen, now at the age of twenty-one, Dylan is already an accomplished Maritime artist with one CD out, another on the way, and several shows lined up across Canada. As an artist that nods to such greats as Joel Plaskett, Fleet Foxes, and Ron Sexsmith, Menzie is coming into his own and is certainly one Maritime Artist to watch for in the next five years. His sound is a melodic roller coaster of pure tones, deliberately designed guitar-driven undercurrents, and lyrics that draw listeners to their glory days – the days of true love, good times, and the even mixture of innocence and grit that is the frivolity of youth.
Menzie’s influences can be seen in the composure of his music. When asked about any inspirations, Dylan immediately exclaimed, “Actually, Will Smith, I got this from Will Smith. I saw an interview where he said, ‘Entertainment should be like an escape. No matter what you do, whether it’s music or movies, or tv, it’s an escape for the average person.’ When I heard that, I took that to mean, ‘Aw, well, I don’t want to write about things that are going to depress people, I want to write things that are going to really bring people up, so, for me, that’s parties, friends, drinking; that’s what I like to write about, at least for now anyways.”
Being a young artist certainly has its challenges. When asked about his experiences with writing music, Dylan exclaimed, “I really want to write about things that I’ve already experienced, and at twenty-one, how many experiences have I possibly had? It’s hard to write a really, really heart-wrenching heartbreak song.” Although Dylan is young, he is not without merit as a musician. He’s already been an opener on stage for and has been praised by world-renowned Canadian artist and song-writing legend, Ron Sexsmith.
His youthful energy and enthusiasm is what sets him apart from other musicians. “I’m kind of just starting to get out there, touring more, and am beginning to dip my toes in other places. I want to be on the road.” Menzie has certainly has been on the road, steadily touring throughout his career as a musician, and much of it by himself. When asked about his experiences as a musician just starting out and touring by himself, he shared about the realities of being a solo artist and how great it is when he is able to play with a band, “The more people you bring, the more expensive it gets, but it’s way more fun because say you are playing a show and the crowd’s not into it: If you are up there alone, it makes it a lot harder than if you have two or three guys behind you who are still into it… Like even just to look back and see them smiling and having fun is another thing that keeps the show going even if the crowd is not into it, Having that support there too almost sort of entices the crowd to get into it more. It’s not just you up on stage; it’s almost like the herd, like humans are a herd.”
Dylan’s solo career is booming, however. With a new album in the works, and his EP, Heather Avenue having done quite well, he has a lot to offer the world. Through spending a lot of time with his unique sound over the last while, I couldn’t help but ask about his favourite track on Heather Avenue, “It has always been ‘I Wanna Know’. I found that it was the one that really came out the closest to what I had imagined. That one has always been a favourite for me. I’ve haven’t heard a lot of love songs like that either. It’s written for a puppy love, like kids perspective, and I haven’t heard a lot of songs that were written like that. It was written about a girl that I went to school with. Basically, that’s it.”
Heather Avenue came out two years ago and, like any busy musician, Dylan has a new album in the mix that is set to come out early in the New Year. In terms of live performances, keeping new songs a secret is a task that is no small feat for a musician who has been playing the same song list over and over at shows. “You have these other songs that you are trying to keep secret, but at a certain point, you’re like screw it; I’m just gonna play them. I can’t keep it in any longer. I have to play these songs.”