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Richard Mills Takes A Bow, But Expect An Encore!

Richard Mills signs off from The Feldman Agency this week after two-plus decades of travelling the world and doing what many peer agents might think the impossible, namely developing careers and generating income for a genre of artists that don’t often fit the mold of today`s hits.

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Born in Trinidad, and raised in the prairies, Mills is a formidable figure in person. One might guess him as an IT executive, or perhaps a linebacker from a CFL team, when, in fact, he’s one of the original agents to have joined Feldman Agency when it first opened its Toronto office in 1993.

Before, he was the first agent to join Paquin Agency, when Gilles Paquin expanded his Winnipeg-based management firm and created Paquin Entertainment Agency.

His first charge was a young buck from the ‘Peg born Frederick Ralph Cornelius who smartly chose to change his name to Fred Penner.

The rest is history. Fred went on to become a kids’ TV star with his syndicated Fred Penner’s Place CBC TV show earning exposure on Nickelodeon in the US. Penner subsequently released a dozen albums that sold by the tonne and he continues to sell out concerts for impressionable kids and their adoring parents.

By accident or design, Fred set a template for Mills as he gathered momentum, contacts and a vision for a career roadmap that embraced an understanding of the theatre industry and how to attract audiences.

Actually, there’s a bit of history that precedes his joining Paquin.

Mills worked his way through the U of Manitoba as the student entertainment buyer for two years, producing over 400 shows—among them the first Winnipeg show for the Tragically Hip that he bought for all of $400.

Ironically, it was back then, booking campus shows, when he connected with Ralph James who was with the Hungry I Agency at the time. They became fast friends and have remained so, even as competitors, 30 years on.

Mills moved on to stage managing the Red River Exhibition in the city sometimes known as Winterpeg and, kindlier, the City of Rivers.

He recalls it “a great experience” and went on from there, learning the intricacies of booking and staging a series of shows at Winnipeg Stadium before joining West Sun, a production and lighting firm that taught him the technical side to show production.

“It was practical stuff that gave me a wealth of knowledge and expertise about the backbone to every show,” he recalls.

The graduation from student to professional also afforded him the opportunity to work first-hand with the likes of Kim Mitchell and Colin James, and a hand-shake relationship with Gladys Knight, Johnny Cash and a wealth of other stars headlining summer seasons at Red River and Winnipeg Stadium.

Up to this point, Canada’s agency business had been largely populated by rogues, renegades and rascals.

Agency putsches were commonplace, poaching agents and artist rosters common practice.

It was a business that at times rang reminiscent of Fagin’s den in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist.

But times were changing with more orthodoxy brought to the business by the likes of Sam Feldman and the aforementioned Paquin.

The business became less about grabbing fees and screwing the competition and more reasoned, with a view to building solid companies and developing careers.

Mills arrived at the gates of a new dawn in the history of booking agencies in Canada.

On the surface, Mills appears to be a top-down kind of guy.

The business is a magnet for larger-than-life doers. Predominantly a male enclave, braggadocio is a mask for these super-sales people who handle a file full of talent expecting varying amounts of baby-sitting services. The modern era, of which Mills was born into, required hard-nosed strategy sessions to help the acts sway away from the first available gig to selecting those that could actually move them from rowdy barrooms to stages where people paid to see them perform.

Mills doesn’t exude braggadocio. He’s a quiet man who understates his importance in painting the big picture but behind the mask is a thinker, a strategist, a person who takes a real pride in what he does, and projects the kind of calmness one finds in business professionals who eschew the din and spot the advantage amid the clamour.

On how times have changed, Mills is all understatement.

“I think the role of ‘live’ has evolved tremendously.

“On the evolutionary scale, I think back then we (agents) were viewed as cockroaches because we were getting the 10 percent of the 10 percent the record companies couldn’t get their hands on.

“That’s the way I saw it, and that’s the way I felt.

“The paradigm has now shifted to where the ‘live’ experience is the driver of artist careers. It’s where the money is today.

“Live has become the revenue model for artists, and a lot of the A&R today is coming from the live side. It’s a fact now that there are a lot of artists we sign that don’t have record deals. Before it was the record companies that came to us with artists. The reverse is more commonly the case today,” he explains.

Further, he adds: “It’s a fact agents are doing a lot of the heavy lifting now. A lot of artists that are getting discovered now, and new artists that are growing and achieving, are coming to us from various places.

“Sometimes it is a manager who comes to us because they see the value in having an early relationship with an agent to expand into international territories.

“The advent of social media has changed the entire dynamic in developing cross-border fans.

“Before it was all about getting on the radio. Now it’s not solely about that. It’s all about being connected to the marketplace.”

He continues explaining the new paradigm, and the importance of social media in driving careers.

“I have one client (Richard likes to refer to his acts this way) that is not that well known in this country.

“(American a cappella quintet) Home Free has about 150 million YouTube views and that platform has given them a democratic push in places like Halifax and Sherbrooke and Burlington. We did very well in Calgary for the first time recently.

“People see them and they become fans. This is happening outside radio. Outside of television. The fact is, YouTube has put them in front of audiences with an immediacy that one can analyse and act on. They can now perform in Dublin, London, Austria and Denmark… “

In his inimitable style, he adds, “I have been fortunate to have been a contributing member to a big team.”

Artist development is a term bandied about in the trade like confetti at a wedding party. Mills isn’t one to explain much in this area, although he is a masterful conjurer with a keen eye for off-beat and adult oriented entertainers.

Call him smart that way, but he’s been on the ground floor with enough acts, Penner included, that many others would politely have applauded… and passed on.

Among them, a young Maritimer brimming in joie de vivre that was unmistakable, but also as prickly to handle as a sea urchin.

My words, not Richard’s.

If you haven’t guessed, his name is Ashley MacIsaac.

A more unlikely pairing one would be hard pressed to find.

Reminiscing, “I was early in my career,” Mills remembers. “I signed Ashley when he was 16, before he had a record deal.

“I saw him perform at the East Coast Music Awards in St. John’s and I was taken by his command of the audience and what he was doing was innovative. I sparked up immediately.

“I didn’t know exactly what it was that had my attention, but I knew he was someone that I wanted to work with. I connected him with Sheri Jones (who became his manager) and she agreed that I would be his agent and we worked together through the rise of an artist who was redefining what music was all about in this country at the time.

“It was an exciting and challenging journey. Ashley had his own challenges. He was a virtuosic fiddler (embarking) on a meandering journey.

“It was a very special time watching him traverse from a traditional artist to pop star.”

It should be added that Mills’ hunch that MacIsaac was extraordinary was extraordinary in itself given a geography that has spawned a reel of accomplished fiddlers, very few who have figured out the steps to bridge the gap from barn dances and local hoedowns to the world stage.

Another chapter was in working with the Canadian Tenors.

Understand that after the Three Tenors hit, a chorus of tenors emerged however, finding an audience for seemingly endless dramatic remakes of well-known arias by Puccini and Rogers & Hammerstein was about as easy as selling newspaper subscriptions.

Mills’ introduction to Canada’s tenors was hearing the three of then four “perform in someone’s living room” and then working with them in developing a strategy that resulted in a Decca Records contract, and a successful US tour that had the backing support of PBS.

Mills was a big part of the equation that led the quartet to the Under One Sky tour that culminated with headlining Air Canada Centre in 2015, after which he and the singers went their separate ways.

It`s worth noting that The Tenors` careers before and since have included performing for the pontiff, in Vatican City, the Queen—and, most famously, singing “O Canada” at Petco Park in San Diego.

He may not say it, but his pride and joy is his longstanding relationship with nuevo flamenco guitarist Jesse Cook.

It started out with attending a festival in Quebec City where someone gave him a CD of Cook’s first album, Tempest.

It landed Cook a deal with (then independent) US new-age imprint Narada.

“I was in my room the next day (following the festival) at one of those boutique hotels that had CD players. I put Jesse’s album on while I was doing some work,” he recalls.

The album then was independently distributed, but the buzz was so hot that it was quickly signed by Narada, leading to distribution with Universal in Canada. With Narada on board in the US, Cook and company were able to get billing on the 1995 Catalina Jazz Festival in California.

It was a turning point in Cook’s career.

Booked to perform during the twenty-minute intermissions in a little bar downstairs from the main stage, his performance was well appreciated that he was invited to give a performance on the main stage, where he received a ten-minute standing ovation before the audience would allow him to play, according to one report.

Shortly after, Tempest entered the American Billboard chart and quickly went on to become a certified Gold-selling album in Canada.

“We’ve been working together ever since,” Mills says with a ring of a father talking about the graduation of his first-born son. “It’s been a privilege working with Jesse all these years. He’s had a number of managers and I’ve been proud to have been his agent over all that time.

“He’s gone from that first record to sell somewhere in the region of 1.6 million around the world, and they continue to sell. He has a new one coming out (Beyond Borders) in August.”

At the outset, we stated that Richard Mills is signing off this week from The Feldman Agency. He tells me he plans to continue in showbiz, but he isn’t saying when or what it is his next adventure will be.

“I plant to continue in the live industry. Yes!

“It’s one of these things where, for me, I love the relationships, the business and I’ve gone from one opportunity to the next and they’ve all been connected so far.

“And in this one (at Feldman), I’ve been afforded some very unique experiences. You know, I really enjoy the opportunity to take people’s dreams and turn them into realities. That’s the part of the job I really enjoy.”

He tells me that he’s taking some time out.

“I’m going to take a break and come back from a different direction… where I can choose the people I want to work with and add value in another way.”

One thing he wants to be made clear is that he’s not leaving to work for another agency.

“I’m completing my chapter as an agent. I’ve been part of a great company and I look forward to building projects and working with my former colleagues on future projects of mutual interest.”

Over the course of his career, Mills has been a familiar face at airports around the world. It seemed like a good idea to ask what he takes for him to ease life on the run.

“I have two cell phones. Always!

“Trying to replace one on the road is always difficult. Each (of the two phones) mirror’s the others info. I always carry two phone chargers, as it easy to lose one on the road. I pack them in separate places in my bag. I also have a journal book to write down notes and observations.

“I carry a pair of Oakley sunglasses, and Sony noise reduction headphones—and I always have a soft carry-on bag with a light change of clothing in case my luggage gets lost, as invariably it may do.

“This way I can hit the ground running with a fresh set of clothes and not be delayed. I can always buy whatever is needed on the road.”

And with that, Richard Mills is hitting the road, but for the next indeterminate period of time, we can assume he is taking it easy, and not running... to the next carousel.

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It’s almost impossible to recall how barren the Canadian R&B landscape was in 1994 when The Philosopher Kings released their self-titled debut album. But that quickly changed as the heavily talented Toronto band quickly went gold at home and scored a U.S. hit with the album’s first single, “Charms.” more
@la Tribune
Jonathan Roy : l`élan d`un nouveau départ
(SHERBROOKE) En janvier dernier, Jonathan Roy proposait son album Mr Optimist Blues comme un nouveau départ dans sa carrière musicale. Six mois plus tard, le chanteur flotte sur un nuage. Après un début d`année chargé et plusieurs festivals au cours de l`été, il partira officiellement en tournée à l`automne.
@Goldstream News
WATCH: Jesse Roper kicks off Canada Day celebrations in Langford
Metchosin’s own Jesse Roper rocked the stage this morning, kicking off Canada Day celebrations for the roughly 300 community members in attendance at Westshore Town Centre in Langford.
Fun under the sun at the Tall Tree Festival
Marshall makes most of main stage jazz fest show
Amanda Marshall hasn’t released album since 2001. She doesn’t have a Twitter account, a Facebook page or a website. But based on her performance Friday night at the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, the only reasonable explanation for her absence is that she’s been cryogenically frozen for the last 16 years. She looks and sounds exactly the same. Her concert was a 1995 dream come true. And damn, did those songs hold up.

Accompanied by a seven-piece band, the Canadian singer-songwr... more
CMAO Wins Boost Meghan Patrick`s Soaring Career
Meghan Patrick`s newfound status as the leading trophy-winner at Sunday`s Country Music Association of Ontario (CMAO) Awards show is a serious career boost for the singer/songwriter from Bowmanville. She won in the Album, Female Artist, Music Video, and Rising Star of the Year categories. more
Brampton`s Alessia Cara adds charm to MMVAs
TORONTO — Canadian pop singer Alessia Cara offered a dash of charm to an otherwise predictable night of celebrity sightings at the iHeartRadio Much Music Video Awards.

The Brampton, Ont.-raised singer joined co-host Joe Jonas to set the Toronto event in motion, but everything that followed seemed especially scripted.

Even though the MMVAs built their reputation on crazy antics over flashy accolades, this year lacked any sort of iconic moments that would rival Lady Gaga’s ... more
Meghan Patrick Takes The Crown At CMAO Awards
Meghan Patrick was the big winner at the 5th annual Country Music Association of Ontario (CMAO) Awards, held at Centennial Hall in London last night.
The singer from Bowmanville, ON, took home four trophies, Album, Female Artist, Music Video, and Rising Star of the Year. more
Headstones’ Hugh Dillon Has Seen Some Shit
The Canadian punk rock icon talks about overcoming his heroin addiction, finding a work ethic in acting, and how Toronto bands have a bad attitude. more
Classified, Ria Mae, Lennie Gallant Big Winners At ECMAs
Held over four days this year, The East Coast Music Awards (ECMAs) in Saint John, NB, closed out yesterday with the Music Industry Awards reception at Delta Hotels by Marriott Saint John. more
Nominees announced for 2017 CMAO Awards hosted in London
The Country Music Association of Ontario has announced the nominees for the fifth annual CMAO Awards, to be held in London in June.

The awards recognize talents and achievements of Ontario’s country music industry across 16 categories, with Meghan Patrick leading the pack this year with seven nods. James Barker Band, River Town Saints, Jessica Mitchell, Cold Creek County, Jason Blaine, Tim Hicks, and The Abrams each have multiple nominations. more
10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: April 2017
Delta Rae

Sounds Like: Harmony-drenched Southern pop-rock with slick production and giant hooks

For Fans of: Little Big Town, the Lumineers, Grace Potter

Why You Should Pay Attention: Durham, North Carolina six-piece Delta Rae have been regional favorites for years, drawing enthusiastic crowds at major festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. Now the band is signed to the Valory Music Co. (under Big Machine Label Group), having just released a four-song EP titled ... more
Fake Shark Brings New Single "Heart 2 Heart" to Life in Colorful Video Premiere
Fake Shark unveiled its latest single "Heart 2 Heart" on March 24, a groovy electronic indie-pop track that`s almost irresistible to dance to. The groovy song now has a video to bring it to life, premiering on Billboard today (April 11).

The visual sees the band (frontman Kevvy Mental, guitarist Louis Wu and bassist Tony Dallas) playing their new tune against a bright pink backdrop -- similar to the neon hue of Kevvy`s hair -- that changes colors throughout the video. On top o... more
Johnny to Perform at the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge
The Government of Canada will mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge with commemorative ceremonies at the National War Memorial in Ottawa and at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France. Veterans Affairs Canada will lead these commemorations, with support from various partners, including the Department of National Defense, Global Affairs Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and others. Some people of note who are expected to be in attendance will include the C... more
CANADIAN EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with Midnight Oil Frontman Peter Garrett .
Legendary Australian rock band Midnight Oil has reformed for its first global tour in more than 20 years after frontman Peter Garrett left his music career for politics and a good decade in the Labor Party as a cabinet minister. The man who sang fiercely about protecting the environment, Aboriginal rights, anti-jingoism and more — and served as president of the Australian Conservation Foundation for 10 years combined — infiltrated the policy makers and became one of them. more
How Working in a Record Store Saved Nelly Furtado`s Career
Where has the Canadian singer-songwriter been the last five years? Stocking music-shop shelves and rebooting herself. But now she`s back—with her sixth album, The Ride. more
Bryan Adams will perform first concert at new Mosaic Stadium
Canadian rock superstar Bryan Adams will break in Regina`s new Mosaic Stadium at a special concert in May.

Alt-rockers Our Lady Peace and country music star Johnny Reid will join Adams at the inaugural concert.

"Bryan Adams has played some of the biggest and best stadiums in the world," said Mayor Michael Fougere in a news release.

"We are thrilled that he will give us an amazing show and play a big role in helping us tune up our concert stage before we officially ... more
Junos honour music vets as Gord Downie, Leonard Cohen pick up top prizes
Gord Downie was not in Ottawa for the Juno Awards Sunday evening but his music was the talk of the show.

That`s because Downie took home two of the night`s seven prizes: songwriter of the year for his solo Secret Path project along with group of the year for fronting the Tragically Hip.

Downie did appear over video however, thanking the crowd for embracing Secret Path and "recognizing our friends who were here before us." more
2017 Juno Awards` Red Carpet Was Filled With Canadian Pride
The 2017 Juno Awards red carpet was not only packed with Canadian talent, but Canadian pride.

Russell Peters, Shawn Mendes, Sarah McLachlan and A Tribe Called Red were just a few of the homegrown talents that graced the awards` show this year. While none wore Canadian tuxedos (to our disappointment), many did take the opportunity to pose with Mounties who were on hand for the occasion. more
@CBC Radio
From Feist to the Tragically Hip: a look at the best moments from the 2017 Junos
The Juno Awards were handed out last night in Ottawa. Two of the night`s biggest winners were the Tragically Hip and its lead singer Gord Downie, who won for his solo project Secret Path, as well as the late Leonard Cohen. The latter also received a beautiful tribute performance by singer-songwriter Feist.

If you didn`t get a chance to watch the big ceremony, we will fill you in on everything that happened on today`s show.

The JunoFest schedule is out, and it’s massive.
The artists are booked and JunoFest is about to go off. More than 100 acts will be blowing up the Ottawa-Gatineau area over the weekend leading up to the Juno’s, including these incredible acts represented by The Feldman Agency.
Zedd discusses `Stay` Collaborator Alessia Cara`s `Incredible Vocal Ability` and ACLU benefit show
With the help of vocal powerhouse (and Feldman Agency client) Alessia Cara, hit-producer Zedd is back climbing the charts with his new single “Stay”. And now he’s taking things beyond the studio and organizing an ACLU benefit event at the Staples Centre that’s a virtual who’s who of EDM. Zedd sits down with Billboard to discuss details of the ACLU benefit event and his creative collaboration process with Alessia. more
Discover New Twitter Features Just for Event Organizers
“Through Twitter event targeting, brands can effectively reach these consumers who are not only clicking into content but actively listening.” — Twitter more
K.I.D: Voices For a Generation of Self-Medicated Suburban Misfits
There are tons of contemporary indie-pop duos, but few are as dynamic as K.I.D. The Canadian electro group, comprised of songwriter Bobby Lo and vocalist Kara Lane, has yet to release a debut album, but their two EPs, K.I.D (2015) and Poster Child (2017), have set them up to become voices for a generation of sexually frustrated and self-medicated suburban misfits. more