Why He’s Top 40: Making a mark in two high-intensity careers – rock music and land development.
Key To Success: “A lot of people I trust are standing by. If I didn’t have as much support from them, I would probably second-guess myself a lot more.”
Warp speed. That’s the norm for Andrew Usenik, an up-and-comer in thecompetitive world of land development, who’s juggling another life as songwriter and vocalist for the proudly Edmonton alternative rock quintet Ten Second Epic.
His frenetic double life began at the University of Alberta, where Usenik’s pursuit of an engineering degree paralleled the band’s evolution from basements to continental touring. Even after missing nine weeks of classes his final term, he flew home after a show in Pittsburgh, wrote four exams, then hopped a plane to Philadelphia to headline the following night. Yet he squeaked through with passing grades. “Now that it’s done,” he says, “I fully appreciate how insane and irrational it all was.”
During one angst-inducing academic interruption, the band scraped together $25,000, including loans from “shady people you wouldn’t want to borrow from” to take advantage of a sudden chance to record with producer Garth Richardson (a.k.a. GGGarth), who has collaborated with Nickelback, Rage Against the Machine and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The resulting album, Count Yourself In, snagged the band a deal with Black Box Recordings and garnered it an international following as well as the first of several Juno and MuchMusic Video Awards nominations. “That was the catalyst for our success,” recalls Usenik, noting that Ten Second Epic gets widespread play even though it doesn’t fit any one radio format. “But it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life.”
Graduating in 2008, he sandwiched work as an engineering consultant between tours. In 2011 he joined sister, Courtney Jensen, in running Strata Development with father and founder, Blaine Usenik. Still seen as a youngster by the “old boys” in land development, hesays his rock-star persona is helping to bridge the age divide. “Having that extra little side story has made it a lot easier for me to network.” While keeping life in balance remainsa high-wire act, he has no regrets about staying with engineering. “Really, it’s the yin to my yang. Most people have one job; I have two jobs I love.”