Greg Smith Can Learn From Lauren Mann

Lauren Mann at Heartwood Hall

Young local musician Greg Smith has made the decision that he will make a career from his music.
Undoubtedly he has been warned how tenuous a living that can be.  But this weekend, when he opens for Lauren Mann at Heartwood Hall on Sunday, he has an opportunity to get a real lesson on the reality of being an original musician in Canada.

Lauren Mann won CBC’s Searchlight contest in 2014, named Canada’s best emerging act out of 4600 contenders for the prize.  Critics have praised her music with comments like “saturated with sunlight” and “joyous, breezy instrumentation”, with Fortitude magazine in the UK saying “Lauren Mann and The Fairly Odd Folk write and play their music is similar to falling into your warm, comfortable bed at the end of a long, tiring day.”  Fairly Odd Folk was the band she put together with friends from her early days in Calgary to release “Stories From Home”, her 2010 CD that was a collection of songs recorded over the previous four years.

lauren-mann-cover-final-gold1400Lauren is now touring her new album “Dearestly”, which is the culmination of a roller coaster ride compellingly related by her husband and bandmate Zoltan in a long note on her website. They decided shortly after their marriage to dedicate their lives to music, like Greg has said he will do, and they took off on the road to live like gypsies while taking their music to the world.  They played over 200 shows the first year, found additional band members, did some more recording and tackled the music industry head on.  They had two booking agents, one in Canada and one in the USA, distribution across North America and two publicists, one for each country, to promote the record to blogs, magazines, and other media outlets.  As they slogged from town to town, living off the kindness of friends and supporters, it was fun but ultimately discouraging because, as all struggling musicians learn, the income didn’t match the quality of their efforts.

Lauren Mann

Lauren and Zoltan

Eventually after a lot of ups and downs they found their way to Pender Island on the west coast and, lulled into the laid-back lifestyle of the Gulf Islands, they set aside music to take on day jobs.  But the muse wouldn’t leave Lauren alone and before long she had the makings of this latest album.

With Dearestly they decided to offer free downloads on the basis of “pay what you feel”.  That decision didn’t sit well with distributors and publicists and they lost their music business support, finding themselves on their own for a 50-date tour.  The traditional paradigm of the music business has been selling pieces of plastic and it is a daring thing to break that mould.  But, from an artist’s point of view, the income stream is not dramatically affected because the system has always been set up to allow everybody else to get their cut before the music’s creator does (see The Music Biz Is Dead, Long Live Music).  To Lauren and Zoltan this feels right and they believe that it will help them reach a wider audience in this day of Internet downloads and streaming.

With all of the struggles she has gone through you might be surprised how light and sunny her music is.  It’s a testament to her talent.

When we go out for an evening to take in some original music we are hoping to be lifted out of our everyday existence by something that transcends our little reality, and often we are.  It’s easy to forget that the people who provide this experience have sacrificed a lot to do it.  And usually, it’s not because they are altruistic, or that they are driven by a taste of fame; more likely its because they are compelled to follow their muse.  We can be thankful that they are.

On Sunday evening at Heartwood you’ll have a chance to hear someone who is just starting out on that special journey followed by someone who has lived it and carries on.  Chances are you will be freed for a time from those niggling cares that you carry on your back.  And your soul will soar.

Lauren Mann, with guest Greg Smith, Heartwood Hall, Sun., Oct. 30, doors open at 7, music starts at 8, $20 cover.  You can buy CDs from each of these artists to enjoy the beautiful cover art and have something to caress while you listen.

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One Response to Greg Smith Can Learn From Lauren Mann

  1. Gillian says:

    Bill, this post had me nodding vigorously (“no plan B”) and gulping with Boomer fear (everything’s free now, oh me, oh my). I love hearing about the realities and dreams of these young artists. Thank you.

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