#BehindTheScenes takes a look at the women working offstage in the Canadian music industry – the movers and shakers that fuel the biz. It’s a realm that was once thought to be the domain of men, but now, more and more females are running the show.
Miranda Mulholland is a seasoned performer who serves on various boards in the music scene, started a label called Roaring Girl Records, and is launching her own festival, Sawdust City Music Festival, coming up in Gravenhurst from August 4-6th.
SDTC: Describe your education/career trajectory to this point.
MM: I studied classical violin and opera singing all through school. I went to Western and then McGill. While I was in school, I played fiddle in the Irish pubs of Montreal to pay my rent. I discovered folk music and fell in love with that tradition. From there I joined many bands, using the collision of my musical influences to add to each one. I love collaboration and that led to starting the label and now to launching my own festival.
Walk us through a typical workday in your life, from getting up until going to bed.
Every day is so different! A recent week of mine was hilarious, so I’ll give you a little Coles Notes.
Saturday: Wake up in bunk of tour bus in Boston outside venue, load in, go to Goodwill shop next to venue and buy fancy poncho for $5, soundcheck, play sold-out show with Stephen Kellogg, sleep in hotel.
Sunday: Wake up in Boston hotel, make way to airport. Answer emails that didn’t make the on-tour-email-triage. Night off!
Monday: Wake up in own bed! Rehearsal at Soulpepper Theatre company.
Tuesday: Early up. To NYC with Soulpepper to perform at the Consulate Residence. Post-show night out at 54 Below Cabaret.
Wednesday: Fly back to Toronto. Clean apartment. Very messy. EMAIL for festival, booking Harrow Fair UK tour in May.
Thursday: Lunch with another member of Board of Governors of Massey/Roy Thomson Hall, meeting at Queens Park for another board I am on, phone interview for upcoming Harrow Fair show at Blacksheep Inn, drinks with fancy scotch brand rep to discuss collaborations. BED!
Friday: Early morning sorting out offers for festival, getting ready for festival announcement, preparing a guest lecture for U of T class, dealing with FACTOR reporting. Buying wine for dinner party.
Saturday: Go to SLEEP! Then go to a classical music concert at the Music Gallery.
What are challenges you’ve faced in putting your own label together?
My friend Eric Brace, who is a label owner as well, told me the two challenges of a new label are 1) being taken seriously and 2) money. I completely agree. I have lots of ideas and initiatives that could work, but cash flow is always a challenge. Unless you are a more mainstream artist, streaming is a very difficult model to make any income at all and physical records are not selling the way they did – even offstage – which remains one of the only ways for an artist to make money.
We are very lucky in Canada to have funding options such as FACTOR and OMF and now that my company is over two years old, I will be applying for FACTOR to support some of my initiatives. I also believe we have to be innovative and come up with sustainable income models. I’ve made an investment in hiring a company in Los Angeles to pitch my catalogue for TV and film. It’s a stretch, but even a few placements will pay for the service and get some money in my artists’ pockets.
What was the best advice given to you in relation to your career?
I was told to “pick a lane” and just focus on one thing. I completely disagreed. I really see that all the things I do support and nurture each other. The recording and touring I’ve done as a sideperson and solo; the label helps my relationships with other collaborators and allows me another vehicle to create opportunities for musicians I believe in. The theatre work keeps my storytelling perspective intact. The festival allows me to express my three beliefs of the label: collaboration, cross genre and musical excellence.
What are you excited about in 2017?
I am most excited about showcasing so many of my artists at my festival this summer. Sawdust City Music Festival is happening over the August long weekend (4-6) in Gravenhurst, Ontario. I have a long family history with that town and it is my favourite spot on earth.
Describe Canada’s music scene at the moment:
The music scene in Canada, artistically speaking, is excellent. There is a lot of collaboration and network building. I am trying to reflect that in the lineup of my festival; although admittedly, my taste skews to Roots Music. I was recently on the jury of the Toronto Arts Council for a cross-genre music creation and recording grant and I was blown away by the talent and diversity shown in the applications. It was literally a life-changing experience.
I would like to see more collaboration from a business perspective. I find there is a tendency to get a bit cliquey and secretive with contacts and I think that benefits no one. Perhaps it is because although we are a large country, we are a very small community that people feel more like gatekeepers, but I believe power lies in being a connector. All the boats rise when the tide comes in.