Marketer and award-winning music producer, Jonathan is relatively new to Ottawa but busy building connections and feeling out the city’s music industry. He produces hip hop, R&B, and pop music as Menoza.
My name is Jonathan. I was born in Philadelphia, and my parents met in Montreal. My mom is Filipino-Canadian and my dad is American. He was doing his residency at the Montreal Jewish General Hospital, and my mom was a nurse. They met and got married and moved to Philadelphia – that’s where my dad’s from – and they had me. About a year later they moved to Florida, and that’s where I grew up. I lived there for 23 years of my life. I went to the University of Florida and graduated with a history degree. Shortly after graduating, I told my parents that I wanted to become a music producer, so they told me to use my Canadian citizenship, and they let me move to Montreal. I eventually decided to go back to school and do my MBA. I applied to the University of Ottawa because I wanted a change of scenery, and I was looking for something a little bit more stable than Montreal. It’s kind of a party town, and Ottawa seemed a little more stable. So, yeah, that’s kind of how I ended up here.
I like to do a lot of things. I’m not just the MBA guy, and I’m not just the marketing guy. I like to do a lot of different things. I have this whole past life in music, and I still do some of that. You know, I still produce music and I still put music in television and movies, as a side thing. I work for a really cool start-up company, but I also have a lot of creative things on the go. All of those things make me who I am.
Can you tell me about producing music?
Sure. When I moved to Montreal when I was 23, I moved because I wanted to be a music producer. When you’re 23, you think you’re going to make one song, it’s going to be a hit and then the next day you’re going to be on MTV. I’m naturally a shy person, so producing my own music changed me a lot. I moved to Montreal and didn’t even know anyone. I kind of got dropped off and was supposed to go to school in June for audio engineering, but the school didn’t have enough people enrolled, so I got deferred. It was hard to meet people.
I ended up working in music publishing, so I was able to get my music out that way. I also helped form a non-profit organization with a few other people where we’d help kids produce shows in school. We’d go to schools and produce a show from scratch – a high-class talent show is what I called it. Then I took a position with TouchTunes Music and got more into the business side of things. The company started changing very fast and a lot of executives we being hired to manage things, so that’s when I decided I wanted to do an MBA.
I write R&B, hip hop, and pop music, and I produce top-40 type of songs. I always wanted to make that kind of commercial music – I grew up listening to Timbaland, Usher… you know. I wanted to emulate that. And I had some success in Montreal after I found my sound – I got a couple of song writing grants from the government, which meant I was able to rent time at a professional studio to record some tracks. I was also one of five finalists in the national song of the year contest representing Montreal on Mix 96, a radio station. Some of my music has been in TV shows, and a couple of B-movies. I mean, not big stuff, but I get a little rush every time something get placed! I worked really hard to get to this point. I feel like it was really an accomplishment to move from making music in my parent’s study in Florida to having my songs play on the radio in a city where nobody knew me. I learned a lot during my time in Montreal, and I hope I can produce some more music now that I’m living in Ottawa.
For your photos, we did two shoots: one in your basement studio, and one at your workplace. Why are those places representative of your life here?
To me, I feel like I have two alternate personas. There’s the MBA guy where I like strategy and process, and making things better and faster. I’ve been lucky enough to have great bosses who have let me make improvements. But then I go home, there’s this creative side where I go down to the basement studio and create music.