Whether it’s on stage, in the studio or behind the soundboard, Dylan Ward has his fingerprints all over Fredericton’s music community and has now laid the groundwork to pursue his craft full-time.
Thanks to the JEDI Business Incubator Program, which helps Indigenous entrepreneurs get their projects off the ground, Ward, who is from Eel Ground First Nation but moved to Fredericton in 2011, recently launched Shiftwork Recording, a new studio that will occupy the historic Shiftwork Studio in downtown Fredericton.
“I’ve been recording out of here for a while on and off. But then, last year, I decided that it was time to really take it to the next level,” said Ward.
Solving the puzzle of sound
Ward has a unique knowledge of the musicians that call Fredericton home. He has worked as the main sound technician for local music venue The Capital Complex for the past six years, a stage that most Fredericton artists have graced at least once.
When Ward hears a live band play well, he imagines it would translate easily into a recording. He said it inspires him.
“What really matters is the band, the music and their performance. So I try to keep that in mind when I’m recording somebody, or if it’s a new band, I try to work with them and try to instill that.”
Ward said he loves solving the puzzle of what makes a song sound good.
“I’ve always loved how a band can write a song that I cannot get out of my head. When I was so fascinated in that, that’s when I started playing music. Then when I started playing music, I couldn’t understand why my guitar didn’t sound like the guitar on the recording and wondered what are they doing differently.”
With Shiftwork Recording, Ward will continue to work on bringing out the unique acoustics of the space, which he has already captured for local acts such as Quinn Bonnell, Evan LeBlanc and Aftersurf.
“I love getting the whole band in here and having everybody play together … not [only] capturing the direct sound, but also kept catching the sound of the room. I find that it gives off more of an energy in the recording.”
A legacy of artistic creation
Ward has been recording bands at Shiftwork, using the space whenever no one else was using it, since he graduated from the Centre for Arts and Technology in Fredericton, formerly known as Divinci College, in 2013. Stefan Westner, who has owned the space for several years and has been Ward’s longtime friend and a bandmate, allowed Ward to access the space intermittently.
Westner, a local musician and artist, uses the space for woodworking and screenprinting.
When Westner needed a new tenant to help him cover the expenses of the space last year, Ward decided to make the studio his permanent home for recording.
“It just made everything in my recording life more consistent … and people [bands] love working out of here,” said Ward.
Ward’s new recording venture is the latest of many projects to develop out of the Shiftwork space, succeeding countless art installations and projects that have become pillars in the community, such as Flourish Festival, a festival co-directed by Westner.
Ward said that Westner and Shiftwork have helped push his passions forward.
“[Westner] and I have a lot of the same aspirations, we both just want to be making art in different ways … It’s all we both ever really wanted to do and now we’re just trying to do it in as many ways as possible,” said Ward.
Ward added that he and Westner will be putting together some professional development opportunities to share their knowledge with the rest of the arts community. Ward will share his knowledge of recording and Westner will share his in screen printing and woodworking.
“We have this cool space and there’s a lot of opportunity that comes with it … We just want to be making the most out of this space and help everybody out,” said Ward.
Now having completed the 11-week JEDI program, Ward has a better plan of how to tackle the business side of his ambitions with new skills in business plan writing and pitching.
“The JEDI program really put me on a great path … It helps you think about it realistically,” said Ward.
“When you have a better idea of what you have and what you want, then you can really start to take the right steps to making that thing happen. So the program really set me on a good path and I learned a lot of really great things.”
Some work remains before Shiftwork Recording is fully functional, but Ward plans to be ready in the next two months and is planning a relaunch event in March.
“I really want the space to be a place where people can can keep their momentum going.”