Mike Boguski – Biography

As keyboardist in Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees Blue Rodeo, Mike Boguski is regarded as one of the country’s finest instrumentalists. Having appeared on each of the band’s albums since 2009’s The Things We Left Behind, Boguski has contributed to Blue Rodeo’s evolution while staying true to its core sound that carries on the tradition of Canadian roots rock.

However, Boguski’s own musical range and ambitions extend far beyond his work with Blue Rodeo. Born and raised in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke, Boguski started playing keyboards professionally in his teens, doing all manner of hired jobs before landing a spot in the band Revival Dear. This led him to frequent Toronto’s newly opened Dakota Tavern, where he found a place in its unofficial house band The Beauties. Their Sunday night residency quickly began drawing large crowds and led to further offers to play with other bands and singer/songwriters. When Blue Rodeo’s keyboard seat became vacant in 2008, Boguski got a call and within days he was on tour with them in the U.S. after learning a 30-song repertoire. 

For anyone familiar with Blue Rodeo, it’s easy to hear the influence of keyboardists such as Garth Hudson, Ray Manzarek and NRBQ’s Terry Adams in Boguski’s approach. Yet, a big part of his musical education was also studying improvisation at York University with renowned instructor Casey Sokol. In 2017, after hearing that Sokol was about to retire, Boguski took his course again, the first step in an extended period of exploring improvised piano pieces that resulted in Boguski’s first solo album, Blues For The Penitent, recorded with Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies. The pair would go on to collaborate on two further instrumental singles, “December” and “Message From Mars,” that incorporated more electric elements. 

All of this pushed Boguski further into the jazz scene, and in 2019 he reached out to bassist Roberto Occhipinti who in turn contacted drummer Davide Direnzo. In short order, the Mike Boguski Trio was in the studio recording Detour, an album made in the classic Blue Note Records style, featuring interpretations of Miles Davis, Horace Silver, Ray Charles and Ramsey Lewis—who also inspired the album’s lone original composition, “King Ramsey.” Most interestingly, Detour also contained several re-imaginings of Blue Rodeo favourites that displayed the full range of Boguski’s skills. 

There’s never any question that Boguski’s focus is always on broadening his musical horizons, but over the years he has also shown a deep commitment to charitable causes. In 2018—motivated by the words of The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie—Boguski launched the Cold Manitoba Project, a series of recordings made in collaboration with other notable Canadian artists, with all proceeds donated to the Native Addictions Council of Manitoba, an organization providing traditional healing services to First Peoples.

In 2022, Boguski embraced a new cause after learning of a fundraising effort to help British music industry figure John Brandham recover from a debilitating stroke. Boguski chose to help by recording a jazz version of the album A New Morning by Suede (one of the band’s Brandham worked closely with), with proceeds donated to Stroke Association UK. Needless to say, the Suede community warmly acknowledged Boguski’s effort, with a side benefit being more doors opening for him in the U.K.

As Blue Rodeo continues to be a musical force after four decades, Mike Boguski remains a cornerstone of its sound. At the same time, he has built the foundation for a dynamic solo career that is sure to keep producing innovative music for years to come.