Three musicians sound off on how moving here has affected them as artists
Whether artists in other cities want to admit it or not, Toronto is the centre of Canada’s musical universe, with a gravitational pull that attracts bands from across the country. But do many of the musicians who move here, either for business or pleasure, actually benefit from the city’s plentiful industry connections? We spoke to three Toronto transplants about how living here has impacted their careers.
Since founding members (and husband/wife) Jarrett Samson and Penny Clark relocated from Vancouver in 2015, garage rockers Tough Age have undergone a transformation: they have a new three-piece lineup with local drummer Jesse Locke and a spiky, streamlined album called Shame, out October 20 on Mint.
Samson: “I think a lot of people move to Toronto because it’s going to help their band, with the idea that it’s the industry hotbed in Canada. Music industry stuff wasn’t what drew me. It’s maybe the thing I hate most in the world, and I regret having to be part of it every day.
“We picked Toronto because we knew people here. I wanted a change. And also, where else are you going to go?
“I moved being totally bitter, and then once I opened my mind, I realized there are a lot of people here who are also bitter and using that to channel what they’re doing for the best. There’s stuff like Faith/Void and the people running Not Dead Yet, and bands I’ve found super-inspiring: Hooded Fang, New Fries, U.S. Girls, the Highest Order and Fiver. Lido Pimienta winning Polaris is amazing.
“So once I embraced the idea of this band being in Toronto, [I realized] the reason I moved to Toronto is because Toronto rules.”
Singer/songwriter Hannah Georgas got her break in Vancouver, but she originally hails from Newmarket. She moved to Toronto in 2015 and released her For Evelyn album the following year. She’s currently writing her fourth full-length and plays Dream Serenade at Massey Hall on November 11.
Georgas: “I was out West for almost 12 years. The music scene at the time was really great, and it felt like I had a lot of support. I started working on records with Graham Walsh [from Holy Fuck] and making big trips out to Toronto and spending a couple months here and there.
“I’m also originally from just outside of Toronto – Newmarket – and I was missing my mom a lot. Every time I came out here, I felt really inspired and I was meeting lots of people in the industry. My team was out here, and I felt like I was really active and out a lot. I got a taste of the city in a different way and felt there was an energy that was happening – something I wanted to be a part of more.”
Cadence Weapon was named Edmonton’s poet laureate in 2009, but the rapper born Roland Pemberton also spent several years living in Montreal before moving to Toronto two years ago. His self-titled album is out in November and includes a Toronto-inspired song about the condo boom.
Pemberton: “The reason I moved to Toronto wasn’t for my music or anything business-related – it was because my girlfriend got a job here. I didn’t really think about how it would affect me until I got here and started experiencing things.
“Montreal is this amazing creative haven. The cost of living is so low, it’s amazing. But when it comes to working on music and finishing projects – and also knowing about what’s going on in the rest of Canada and having people be aware of you – I was having some issues.
“Since I’ve lived here, it’s been exponential growth for me in so many different ways. I’ve got a new record deal with eOne and I’ve gotten all these great opportunities for things that aren’t even just music. The little accidents that can happen just from walking into the right room – that only happens if you’re where the industry is, and for me, being a rapper, that’s Toronto.”
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