Sometimes you just have to take the leap. When your heart says it’s time to make life changes, go for it.
That’s exactly what creative dynamo Michael Bendure will do starting in September. He’s leaving the security of a full-time career with Norman’s largest employer to devote his attention to a variety of artistic pursuits.
Bendure presently is a singer/songwriter and musician with both Heartbreak Rodeo and The Whiskey Gingers.
He’s Michael B, the on-air personality hosting Tonic: The Funky Groove Show on KGOU-FM. Bendure is one of the founding members of the Songwriters Association of Norman.
For years, he was the director of communications for the University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, then most recently director of communications and events for the Price College of Business.
From 7 to 9 p.m. today, Bendure will have his DJ hat on spinning platters at Scratch Kitchen and Cocktails, 132 E. Main St. The combination meet-and-great and dance party will be part of Art Walk festivities celebrating Season Two of Tonic: The Funky Groove Show.
“Season Two will launch on KGOU radio tonight at 9 p.m., and hopefully Second Friday art walkers will come by and say hi,” Bendure said. “I’ll be spinning some funk as I do, outside on their patio, meeting people and telling them about the show. We’ll have some first-ever Tonic-branded merchandise giveaways. Come by and take home a little piece of the show with you.”
One of Bendure’s new projects is launching a podcast titled “40 Minutes of Funk.” It will be an interview-based format zeroing in on the men and women who create funk and the credos behind their music.
“I love podcasts and listen to several of them regularly,” Bendure said. “It became readily apparent there’s no one producing a podcast dealing specifically with funk music. Since it’s such an important genre and philosophy to me, I started looking for anyone who could scratch that itch. There’s just not anybody doing that.”
“Why not me?” was Bendure’s conclusion. Hosting the first season of Tonic was a kind of creative reckoning in his life. Spouse Jennie Bendure, Ph.D and psychologist at Serenity Mental Health Group, encouraged her partner to spread his wings.
“What are other people doing that’s successful, and what can I do that’s my own?” he said. “I came up with the idea of a 49-minute or less podcast in which I’ll interview funk practitioners. They’ll talk about the history of where they came from, music they’re doing, funk philosophy, where they’re going and where people can listen to what they play.”
Bendure will also be including some of these funksters’ pre-recorded music on the show. Most interview podcasts don’t have a combination of talk and music.
“It will serve as a promotional tool for funk artists,” Bendure said. “My hope and plan is that there will be artists who are just on the cusp of becoming big, but also well-known ones who have been household names since the 1970s and everyone in between.”
Bendure wrote the score for 40 Minutes of Funk’s theme music.
“It took a bunch of people inside and outside of Oklahoma to make it happen,” he said. “Shout out to Banana Seat’s Eric Walschap, Daryl Nagode and Nick Paynter, along with Henna Roso’s Taylor Graham and Brian Dailey. Through Eric, I was also able to score Grammy Award winners, guitarist Mark Lettieri and keyboardist Shaun Martin.”
The theme music was recorded at Carl Amburn’s Mousetrap Studios with production assistance from Terry “Buffalo” Ware.
“My buddy Terry Ware helped me tighten the screws on the compositions,” Bendure said. “I had the time of my life bringing all these mostly Norman-based musicians together.”
Bendure will also begin providing podcast and production services to others through his MSB Creative organization. It’s important to Bendure that the 40 Minutes of Funk podcast will originate here in Norman.
“The great thing is that our arts community is big and diverse,” Bendure said. “I spent a solid 10 years with the Songwriters Association of Norman with Richard Love, who has kept it going. Every time SWAN has an open mic night, there’s 20 people in line to play their songs. I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the visual arts happening here.”
Which pops the cork on another of Bendure’s artistic interests. Less than a year ago, he started making abstract paintings in acrylics.
He’d never picked up a paint brush in his life, but began dreaming about putting colors on canvas. Bendure’s years working at OU’s art museum undoubtedly left an imprint.
Former co-worker, artist and museum preparator Brad Stevens and artist friend Jay Exon have encouraged him as he’s completed around 30 paintings so far.
“Funk music and painting both make me feel really good,” Bendure said. “Both are positive and encouraging. I don’t have room in my heart or head anymore for things that don’t make me feel like a good human.”