Backstage with the May Run Music Festival Family
Hello there! My name is Carolyn Chaisson and I am the assistant to Music PEI’s ED, Rob Oakie. Along with Kate Gracey-Stewart, I am overseeing the marketing and communications of the first-ever Credit Union May Run Music Festival, taking place May 14th – May 17th, as well as the Bell Aliant Canadian Song Conference, May 13th and 14th.
When I was first asked to be a guest blogger and write about the Festival, I was nervous. I was unsure of how to best share what we’re doing here at Music PEI to bring this new Festival to life, then realized I was surround by all the inspiration I needed in the form of my May Run family. Who better to share the behind-the-scenes story of the May Run Music Festival, than my co-workers at MusicPEI? Despite their heavy workloads in the lead-up to the Festival, they were all willing to lend me their time (Mike, however, did need assurance there was no need for lawyer accompaniment).
Tian Wigmore, as usual, was efficient and quick to the task – one of his best qualities, which he applies to his position as Special Projects Coordinator and Technical Director for the Festival. Responsible for recruiting many of the cross-Canadian and Island acts, Tian shared his thoughts on the Festival and friendships he’s formed over his years in music.
CAROLYN: How much effort goes into creating a new festival?
TIAN: A ton! Everyone involved needs to wear a closet full of hats to pull it off properly.
C: What act were you most excited to book?
T: From out of town, I was most excited to book The Novaks, who will be playing at the PEI Brewing Company’s House of Rock on Friday, May 15th. They have been my favorite rock band in North America forever. The best part of this job is getting to book local acts for awesome shows, it feels good to see local talent get work.
C: You are close friends with Island favorite Tim Chaisson, true?
T: Very true – he is one of the groomsmen at my wedding. I would say at first we became friends was just because we were young musicians who could play our instruments. But, after touring for 11 years, you get to know each other really well. Sometimes I actually think Tim hangs out with me for the publicity!
Mike Mooney, class clown, was next up on my tour of the office. Along with the rest of the boys, Mike is a musician who spends his time performing alongside his band or his own solo work. Mike is also the Volunteer Coordinator for the May Run Music Festival.
CAROLYN: How important is recruiting volunteers for the May Run Music Festival?
MIKE: The festival can’t happen without the volunteers. Plus, it’s great for my career, which is good for my fans.
C: Throughout this experience, what have you found the most difficult?
M: Knowing how all the tiny pieces fit together.
Dylan Menzie is a regular on several PEI stages and the Ticketing Coordinator of Music PEI. Dylan, though reluctant, took the time to meet with me, proving that persistence pays off!
CAROLYN: Describe the importance of Music PEI in your musical career.
DYLAN: As an artist I’ve always felt like Music PEI was in my corner. I think I’ve played almost every showcase they’ve had at different conferences in the past 2 years. They’ve helped me countless times when I’ve needed advice, I’ve gotten funding in the past, and they’re always there when things get tough and I need a shoulder to cry on. Honestly I feel like the music community on PEI is like that as a whole – helpful, friendly, supportive – but Music PEI feels like the whirlpool that pulls new people into the scene and keeps us unified in the process.
C: You’ve worked for East Coast Music Week (ECMW) 2014 as a ticketing coordinator as well. Are you a ticketing master?
D: I did work for the ECMA last year, but I’m far from a ticketing expert. It’s been over a year since I’ve done an event like this, so it’s a bit like being a kid coming back from summer vacation. You may have felt like an expert on Pythagoras’s theorem in June, but coming back in September it’s a whole other ballgame.
C: That’s quite the analogy. Who are you most excited to see perform?
D: In terms of an artist from away I’m definitely most excited about Plants and Animals, who are in the line-up for the Closing Pop Show on May 17th at the Delta Prince Edward. I distinctly remember being on a school trip to Quebec and our tour guide put on music from Montreal to give us an idea of the culture of the city. It’s not that the music he put on wasn’t good, it just wasn’t the music from Montreal I was familiar with. The music he put on was more francophone. Which made sense because he was French and we were in a French city, but I wanted to show everyone the Montreal I knew – Arcade Fire, Plants and Animals, Sam Roberts – the list goes on, so I just bugged him until he let up and let me put my music on.
Next I checked in with Nathan Gill, a local singer-songwriter and current North Lakes frontman. As conference coordinator, he is responsible for developing the Bell Aliant Canadian Song Conference taking place at the beginning of the week, May 11th-13th. One element of the Conference is the Canadian Songwriter Challenge, which will pair one artist from each of the 5 provinces of Ontario, BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba with 5 artists from PEI. The 5 pairs will collaborate together for 2 days to co-write and record demos of one song each day.
CAROLYN: Which of the five pairs of artists are you most excited to see collaborate?
NATHAN: I think Dan Mangan and Coyote will be very interesting. Both seem to have the ability to take a simple, memorable song into new sonic territory. I think they’ll come out with something very unique. They’re also both performing at the Closing Pop Show on May 17th.
C: Who would you want to collaborate with most and why?
N: Death Valley Driver on a record more obtuse than “Lulu” by Lou Reed and Metallica.
C: Which panel, in your opinion, should draw the biggest crowd at the conference?
N: “Sound and Vision: A Film & TV Masterclass” should be very cool. Island artists will try to place their songs into popular films and TV shows and our panel will discuss what works and what doesn’t.
It was time for a visit with Kate Gracey-Stewart, the mother/wife/sister of Music PEI. Kate is arguably one of the most powerful women in the biz.
CAROLYN: Why have you chosen to work for the festival?
KATE: I used to work full time for Music PEI before owning my own business. When the opportunity came up to work with Music PEI again, I knew it wasn’t one I could turn down. The members of Music PEI have, and always will, hold a special place in my heart. I look forward to seeing them shine during Credit Union May Run Music Festival!
C: Which artist are you most excited to see perform and why?
K: I am not as much focused on seeing one particular artist, although The Novaks are definitely one of my favorites. What I am looking forward to most is witnessing the magic and collaboration that will take place on stage when you put all of these talented artists together
Last but not least, I sit down with the one and only, the brains behind it all, Rob Oakie.
CAROLYN: What act were you most excited to book?
ROB: Being the ED of Music PEI it would probably be unseemly for me to put one PEI artist over another so let’s just stick to the off-Island artists. I am super proud of the line-up we have been able to pull together. I will be giving my age away here, but I can remember when Murray McLauchlan first broke and listening to him on AM radio! I’ve always been a fan. Getting Dan Mangan was a coup for me, I can’t wait to see Jay Semko of the Northern Pikes, but I think I’m most looking forward to seeing The Small Glories from Winnipeg, performing at the Olde Dublin Pub on Saturday, May 16th. The duo is made up of Cara Luft from the Wailin Jennys and JD Edwards. Together with a guitar and banjo they create this huge sound. They will be working with Ashley Condon to co-write as part of the Canadian Song Challenge. She’ll also be performing at The Guild on Saturday, May 16th alongside Jay Semko and Liam Corcoran.
C: Why rebrand PEI Music Week?
R: We had great success with it in January, but we knew it wouldn’t grow much bigger than it was and we really wanted an event that would attract audiences from beyond PEI so we could shine a brighter light on our artists. Moving the date was the first step so it would be at a time of year when, shall we say PEI is more inviting! Bringing in artists and significant names from across Canada will also attract a wider audience, all with the goal of exposing our artists to as many ears as we can.
C: What will you find most rewarding from your May Run experience?
R: Seeing the smiles from the audience when they see a killer show. Some of these lineups for individual showcases and concerts are amazing in their own right, so putting them all together in a 4 day festival is a huge, but rewarding task. I know I will take great joy in seeing that closing number, putting a nice cap on what will be a great and unique event
C: And finally, who is your favorite staff member?
R: Oh… there’s only one safe answer to this one… I love everyone for what they have brought to Music PEI. I can honestly say this is easily one of the best teams I have worked with in my ten plus years of producing Music PEI Weeks. Tian has worked with me for a while now on various events and he is a rock star! Always able to make the best of any situation. Mike is funny, honest, and easy to get along with and has great experience in many areas. Dylan is young, energetic, has great ideas and really efficient. Nathan just seems to put his head down a get things done. His experience in the music industry has been a huge asset putting together the Canadian Song Conference. Kate… well I really don’t know where we would be without Kate. She is my rock. And, of course, I have a deep affection for quirky (meant in the nicest of ways) Carolyn. I am always curious to see what colour the hair will be each morning. She brightens up the place and is way more talented than she gives herself credit for!!
And then there is me, Carolyn Chaisson. Though I have no musical credit to my name other than a third grade recorder solo, working in the music industry is one of the most rewarding jobs. I recently tried to explain to someone, I believe my mother (bless her heart), the feeling I get when I fall in love with a song, or a band, or this apple pie crust right here in front of me. I look forward to each and every day I work alongside my May Run Music family and am excited to be a part of what will, no doubt, be an amazing weekend of music in PEI.