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Daily Inspiration: Meet Michael Bendure

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Bendure.

Hi Michael, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
In 2018, after changing jobs and moving to a new home, I decided to change the soundtrack to my life as well. I had previously listened almost exclusively to alt. country/singer/songwriter music for the prior 10 years. As an extremely creative person, I found that the music and lyrics had been negatively influencing my emotional well-being for a long time.

A good friend introduced me to some funk/jazz outfits like Snarky Puppy and Vulfpeck, and I started down a Spotify rabbit hole of funky music. I started discovering artists I’d never heard of, as well as rare, deep-cut tracks by bands I’d heard my whole life. As my own outlook began to improve, I wondered why I’d never heard this kind of music on the radio, and if others could be as positively influenced by this “feel-good” music as I was.

In early 2019, I approached my friend “Hardluck” Jim Johnson, who’d been hosting a weekly blues program called The Weekend Blues on metro Oklahoma City’s KGOU radio station for the past 20 years. I asked for his advice on possibly starting a funk music podcast in order to help share this great music I’d discovered. He actually countered with an offer: What if I started a new program for funky music on KGOU instead? He’d been looking for some new program ideas, and he both knew my work ethic and loved the artists and songs I had in mind. I took some time to consider how I’d make time in my life for such a new endeavor but eventually decided to give it a shot.

Over the course of the next year, we met with numerous radio staff and graphic designers, and I conducted as much research into funk music as I could. In fall 2020, we launched Tonic: The Funky Groove Show, a weekly two-hour music program that features instrumental funk, groove, soul, disco, jazz, hip-hop, and more, from the 1960s to the 2020s. The show has been a huge hit and opened up doors for many new opportunities and explorations into funk music.

As the challenges and fears of 2020’s global pandemic blossomed into early 2021, I found myself hungry for several new creative outlets. After waking up in the middle of the night, with dreams about original artwork, I started painting abstract-expressionist works. I’d worked in an art museum for 10 years prior and had developed an immense love for enjoying art. For the first time in my life, I began painting what I was dreaming about. I also became a huge podcast enthusiast, and I binge-listened to anything related to funk music I could find.

The problem was that there simply wasn’t much of it out there. As much as I loved researching and coordinating my weekly funk radio show, I felt like something was missing on the podcast spectrum. I’d made connections to numerous funk fanatics (self-proclaimed “funkateers”) like myself, so I knew there were many more out there who loved this music I was so passionate about. But again, why were there no quality funk podcasts out there who were introducing folks like me to the best funk artists alive?

I realized that, if I wanted such a podcast to enjoy and share with others, like my radio show, I was going to have to make it happen myself. Over the next several months, I began researching and developing a plan to launch a unique podcast unlike anything out there. As with the radio show, how was I going to possibly find time to launch such an endeavor?

In the spring of 2021, the stress of my “day job” built to a point where I developed painful shingles. As someone in their early 40s, I felt like this was a bad sign, and possibly the final straw for a career that no longer fulfilled me. Although I had hit several benchmarks of typical “success,” I was often angry, frustrated, and overburdened by stress. With the immense support of my partner of more than 20 years, we developed a plan for me to step down from full-time employment in order to support the new ventures I’d taken on over the past few years.

In mid-August, I premiered the first episode of 40 Minutes of Funk, a podcast focused on funk practitioners, their philosophies, and their music. The weekly series features funk artists from numerous generations and backgrounds across the globe in an effort to educate and elevate listeners. Each episode includes interviews and original recordings so listeners can get to know funk artists a little better and hear their own contributions to the funk scene.

The podcast has been a great success, in terms of new growth each week, and the quality of artists I’ve been able to interview, including Colemine Records’ Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, Shaun Martin of Snarky Puppy, Alan Evans of Soulive, and musicians from Australia, the U.K., Israel, Italy, and more. I’ve also expanded my artwork into a business, and I’m slowly building my popularity and opportunities in the Norman and Oklahoma City areas, with paintings included in local art walks and festivals.

My measures of success are now completely different than before. I am happier, more content, and more creative than I’ve ever been. I’m having a blast sharing funk music with strangers, making friends and new connections, and exploring painting as both a creative endeavor and a side business. And I’ve only just begun!

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Each of my new endeavors has required learning new skills and seeking out help, and lots of research.

I’ve been a singer/songwriter since my early teenage years, so I’ve developed myself as a musician over the years, a process that has brought about numerous accolades, new friendships, and plenty of opportunities to learn new skills. As such, I’ve developed live and studio audio capabilities, so I’m no stranger to recording and editing audio.

This was helpful with developing a radio show, but it was an entirely new experience for me to take on from scratch. With the encouragement and feedback I received from my supervisor at KGOU, I’ve created my own path for a unique radio program that both has its own style and voice, and has the potential for eventual syndication for other NPR stations in the U.S.

The audio skills I’ve developed for the radio show meant I didn’t have to learn the physical aspects of recording and editing a podcast, but there were plenty of other challenges along the way. I had to brush off my journalism interview skills and research podcasting as an entirely new communication outlet, and all the tips and tricks (and pitfalls) that come with that. Fortunately, the podcasting community is super helpful and there are many resources out there for launching (and sustaining) a successful show.

I’ve always loved and appreciated visual art from afar. I love visiting museums and inspecting paintings up close. My career in an art museum helped me especially fine-tune a love for abstract and abstract-expressionist artwork, particularly, but I never imagined I’d become a painter myself. I’m fortunate to have made many friends in the local art scene who have been extremely supportive with feedback and education to help me learn many of the ins-and-outs of the industry of art.

I’m a lifelong learner, a determined worker, and I’m not afraid to pay my dues or do my due diligence, so those characteristics have been particularly helpful as I’ve tackled these new endeavors!

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
As an artist, I specialize in colorful abstract/abstract-expressionist paintings of all sizes. I explore the intersections of color upon color and color upon texture. My works reflect emotional topographies and landscapes of feeling, and viewers are encouraged to imagine being placed within these geological portrayals.

Focused on developing a consistent method rather than a prescribed meaning, my colorful works are designed to inspire joy, energy, and life. Most recently, I’ve been pursuing something I call “Funk Art,” which explores the visual interpretation of the “feeling” of funk music by incorporating lyrical content and ideas behind funk musicians into the artwork titles.

My paintings have numerous layers, and the final moment of physically dragging paint across the canvas (something I often record for social media) reveals a mysterious landscape that is impossible to plan ahead of time.

What’s next?
I’m excited about what the future holds as I continue expanding each of these creative ventures into funk and creativity. We’re working on ways to potentially share my radio show with more U.S. audiences through a form of syndication.

I’m constantly working on coordinating more funk artists from around the globe for my podcast and seeking out potential podcast sponsors as the number of listeners continues increasing. The connections I’ve made so far with funk artists, and the connections I’m facilitating between artists, have been fun and are yielding opportunities for additional future collaborations.

And in 2022, I have several goals for developing my painting outlets, some of which I’ve already achieved, including showing in numerous art walks and festivals in the area, as well as earning numerous custom commissions for clients.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Heather Hanson and Michael Bendure

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