Local singer and guitarist Cary Kanno brings rich history of music experience to the Chicago area


Photo courtesy of Cary Kanno

Local guitarist Cary Kanno. He performs gigs throughout the Midwest and also writes his own original music.

Pavan Acharya, Reporter

Cary Kanno was only a sophomore in high school when he decided to construct his very first guitar from scratch.

Kanno, a fan of hard rock and The Beatles, crafted the makeshift instrument from a shoe box, metal wires and improvised tuners. Now, he’s a full-time professional musician with two solo albums to his name and over 15 years of experience singing and playing the guitar. The Chicago artist spent much of this time between two bands in the area: the hip-hop oriented Abstract Giants and funk band Doko Benjo.

“(Abstract Giants) was the band that really convinced me that there was a future in music for me, and that it was possible to make money at being a musician,” Kanno said.

Kanno helped found the Abstract Giants after college, taking the lead of the group. Abstract Giants rapper Andrés Roldan, also known as RP, said Kanno played an integral organizational role with the group.

“He worked on the other end as far as booking the shows, promotion and doing the footwork that a lot of people ask managers to do,” Roldan said.

Throughout his time with the Abstract Giants, Kanno and the band performed at multiple locations around Chicago, including the House of Blues and Congress Theater.

Kanno was also a central figure for the band Doko Benjo. According to the band’s bassist Rus Bass Ehler, Kanno wrote most of the music tracks for the band and also took on manager duties like booking gigs.

“There are millions of people out there who do what Cary does as far as music and playing cover songs,” Bass Ehler said. “But there’s very few people who have his range of songs.”

In 2009, Kanno began to focus on solo work, culminating in two solo albums: “Cary Kanno One” and “Cary Kanno Two.” According to Kanno, his shift to solo work was related to the needs of his growing family, saying he had to “prioritize certain elements” of his music career.

The music industry, he said, has changed in recent years due to the emergence of streaming, as musicians can no longer rely on CDs to make money.

But Kanno adapted, instead focusing on music licensing and securing gigs. His music has appeared in a number of television shows and commercials in recent years, including “The Voice,” “The Discovery Channel” and in Nissan commercials.

During the summer months, Kanno said he performs between two to four gigs a week throughout the Midwest. He pulls from a library of around 700 songs he can perform at live performances, including both covers and original compositions.

When Kanno is not performing, he is writing and recording original music in his studio at his home in Elmhurst. He said he’s a lover of all music and will play almost any style, whether rock, hip-hop, funk, rap or other genres.

“(Sometimes) I’ll be in a creative drought or creative slump and I’ll hear something new that I haven’t heard, and I’ll be like, ‘Wow, that’s a really cool sound, that’s really inspiring,’” Kanno said. “I don’t try to emulate it as much as I try to use it as background inspiration.”

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Twitter: @PavanAcharya02

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