Ian Kenville talks Support, Branding, And Goals (Q&A)

Ian Kenville sits down to talk with NewH2o about his musical journey

Ian Kenville has been making waves with his music since a young age.  After his debut EP in January of 2018, Ian is set to release his full album 1997 in the coming weeks.  With a lot of exciting things on deck, there’s no better time than now to hear from Ian about his process in anticipation of his new music.

Luc @newh2o: Share a bit about how you got involved in hip-hop. Have you always been CHH?

Ian Kenville: I started rapping and pursuing music when I was 18-19. I released a mixtape called Raw Sessions in the fall of 2016 under the stage name Arson Child. When it released I was in a tough place. I had just recommitted my life to Christ and I was still trying to figure a bunch of stuff out.

I guess you could say I’ve been walking with the Lord since my musical journey began, but I’ve never really thought of myself as CHH. I’m a Christian, and I want everyone to know about Jesus. I don’t however typically use theology or talk about God in my songs. I talk about my faith journey and struggles, but it’s always been more of a picture of the journey vs. a sermon to me when writing.

I love CHH, so if people want to identify me as CHH, cool. I’m all for it. I just think CHH is more of a fan’s opinion of you vs. an artistic direction. Like I’m just Ian who makes rap music. But, to answer the question, ya. I’ve always kept my music relatively clean and under the CHH umbrella.

Luc @newh2o: What went into the decision to change from Arson Child to Ian Kenville? Did you find it tough to somewhat rebuild the brand?

IK: I changed my name to be more authentic with my listeners and because I felt like I wanted to change directions with my music. In order to do that, I decided to just start over.

To be honest, I think I sort of made a new fan base. A ton of people still message me and go, “wait… are you Arson Child?”

I laugh. I mean my Spotify streams went from 40/month in April under AC to 3,000 + the 4,000 YouTube average, so I’d say my fans moved over. Either that or I just made new ones. Either way, it worked.

Luc @newh2o: That’s great. So the name doesn’t really matter. What sticks with your listeners is the quality in what you’re bringing. What’s the toughest part for you in staying consistent in your art?

IK: The hardest part is the financial side and just finding ways to pay for it all. This stuff isn’t cheap and unfortunately, even at the level I’ve gotten to, I don’t get much return for what I put in financially.

Luc @newh2o: Yeah, you’ve got to really get some gigs in order for there to be financial implications. I understand you work 3 jobs? What are they? When do you sleep?  

IK: I work full time as a media and resource creator for a college organization. It’s pretty dope. I do a ton of video stuff and graphic design work.

I also work relief at a group home assisting individuals with developmental disabilities.

Finally, I DJ on the side a little bit. Mainly parties or events, weddings, and school dances.

I have a rule that I only work 5 days a week. Every now and then it’s 6, but I try to keep it to Monday-Friday in order to make time for my social life.

Zach @newh2o: You’re still at Uni? What’s it like balancing school and music?

IK: Correct, I’m wrapping up my business degree as well. I primarily do shows in the summer when I’m not in school. It’s actually easier than taking random shows here and there to book a bunch close together and tour with it.

Honestly, I’ve been in school the whole time I’ve done music. Time management is key to my life, so I just plan time to work on stuff or meet deadlines. I also make the majority of my music in bursts. I’ll go wild and make 6 songs in a week then pack it up and not work on music for 2 weeks.

I will say this – artists who can commit to a life outside of music can be the most successful. It forces you to sacrifice the small things that are unimportant and prioritize music.

It’s like this with us all though. Music is my passion, and I want to do it full time within the next 3-5 years. However, I have to also look beyond that and set myself up to be successful in the job market I’m called to now.

A lot of guys don’t finish school in order to pursue music. Personally, I’m a business major. I think understanding the business side of music while growing my artistic abilities only makes me more capable to do this full time someday.

It’s the same with parents or anyone else with side things. You gotta be able to do both.

Ruslan is a legend because he’s a businessman. A lot of guys don’t realize his knowledge of marketing and organization + media apart from music. The dude produces, engineers makes YouTube videos + edits music videos, does graphics, and runs a label. He’s a full out entrepreneur. That’s what I wanna be.

Luc @newh2o: Are your parents supportive of your music?

IK: Oh yea. They rock with what I do.

My dad has a huge impact on my music. He helps me with my finances so he’s the first to tell me I’m pouring too much in or I’m not really capitalizing on my earnings. Typically, it pissed me off, but he usually responds with:

“You made music with 0 budget for 18 months. Get creative. It got you this far.”

My parents are the first to admit they don’t understand the industry I’m in or rap culture, but they love to see me grow as an artist. The best support my parents can give is to just tell me they’re proud and do what they can, which they do. They’ve opened their house up to other artists while on tour and we’ve used their church for events before (my parents are both pastors at a church outside of Philly).

They order us pizza and talk to the group. They love it. I think seeing my world + meeting my artist friends helps them understand it more, which they want. They also love Shiwan.

Luc @newh2o: Ian, I dig your stance on “honest conversations on the mic.” Can you expand beyond those thoughts?

IK: Honestly, I’ve been talking a ton with my artist friends about what’s next for my career going forward after this album, and my whole team kinda agrees this is the best move for me at this time.

I’ve chosen to no longer make music with a filter. While many don’t agree with his method, I’ve decided to start talking more about my past and struggles without leaving out certain parts or saying things in a way that can still get posted on a Christian blog.

For me, I’ve always feared releasing an explicit song or a track that talks about sex and drugs from a negative perspective because of shame or something. I’m no longer going to avoid these topics. My journey is sadly one that many have traveled, and I’m glad I was able to escape that lifestyle in order to have a walk with Jesus.

But we’ve gotta talk about it. We live in a Christian culture that idolized the idea of perfection as if someone’s struggles or shortcomings made them any less of a candidate for God to work through them.

I went from living off the rails to working full time for a Christian college ministry, which was a long road. At this point, I plan to do ministry for the rest of my life, along with music.

It’s been a long road. But I got there. Now I wanna talk about it.

Read Part Two Here