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  • Writer's pictureWillow Raven

Rockstar

Updated: Oct 31, 2022

In another life, I was a rockstar.

Well, maybe that's a little bit of hyperbole, but I was in a band, we played some festivals, we had some songs in movies and TV shows, and one time a girl wearing my band's shirt propositioned me in a bathroom, so I feel like that all feels very rockstar-esque.


But more than that, I spent a decade working behind the scenes. I've done everything from working merch to booking a week-long festival to doing marketing and fundraising for a symphony. I've been a stage manager, an artist relations person, a ticket taker, an emcee, and everything in between.


Most people know my passion for wrestling, but music has always been my first love and will forever be the thing nearest and dearest to my heart.


I got my first guitar when I was 9 years old. My uncle, who used to own a music venue with my dad and grandpa, brought out this white guitar and played me happy birthday, before handing it over to me. I honestly thought he was just letting me touch his guitar, until he told me it was mine. I genuinely couldn't believe it; I was so excited to finally have a guitar and to learn how to play. I immediately signed up for lessons, and eventually also learned how to play bass, which I played in the school band.


I did the singer-songwriter thing for a while before finally deciding to start my own band when I was 20. We never got to any kind of impressive level, but it was fun doing small tours, performing in front of crowds, and having that kind of creative outlet. Though my anxiety kept creeping up - I'd get panic attacks before going on stage, which made show days really difficult for me. We had a hard time finding reliable bass players (our first one quit, the second was impossible to be in a band with - we nearly kicked him out of the car and left him on the side of the highway during one tour) and then by the time we finally found a great bass player to join, our guitarist moved to Ontario. All signs kind of led to us deciding it was time to pack things up.


I wish I could say that I decided to get back into the solo thing, or that I found another band, but outside of singing for some cover bands, I've never gone back to performing. In fact, I haven't really written a song at all in years. I've never thought of myself as a particularly strong songwriter - I can come up with catchy melodies and I sing well, but I've always thought that my lyrics sounded like they were ripped out of a 14 year old's diary; full of overused cliches and overly obvious rhymes. Any time I've started writing something, I'd get in my head and think about how there were so many better songwriters out there, that why would anyone bother listening to my shit? It's been difficult to get over that hurdle, and I can't say I've found any kind of solution.


But one thing I did learn, especially working behind the scenes, is that sometimes turning your passion into work isn't always the best idea. Going to shows stopped being fun for a while; I went to concerts and I thought about whether or not that artist should be getting booked for the festival I worked for, what people in the room I should be talking to, what kind of ticketing system they were using, etc. It wasn't about enjoying the music for what it is, it was about analyzing the business side of it all. Hell, even most of the time even if I tried to just enjoy the show, I'd get roped into a conversation about the business instead of getting to watch what was happening on stage.


Eventually the stress of the industry got to be too much. Dealing with the egos, the misogyny, the lack of boundaries for personal time, etc. all caught up to me and I realized I just wasn't happy anymore. I switched industries entirely and slowly started to be able to appreciate music and concerts for what they are again instead of analyzing every detail.


I can't say it wasn't difficult to step away, though. I worked for educational institutions for a few years before going full-time in sex work, but when people asked me what I did, I'd always reply by saying that "I work for a university, but I USED to work in the music industry for 10 years". It was such a huge part of my identity that even when I wasn't involved as much anymore, it still didn't feel right not to acknowledge in some capacity.


I still work in the music industry a bit here and there; I work merch and door for concerts (when they're actually happening...they've been few and far between because of the pandemic), I do voiceovers for awards shows and jury for showcasing festivals and music grants. But I do it on my own terms now and only when I want to.


I'm glad that I'm still able to showcase my love for music through my work now - by talking about my favourite albums on Music Monday and by creating playlists people (hopefully) enjoy. My dream job is still to be a music supervisor for a teen drama or mumblecore movie, but for now I'm happy for the opportunity to share moody playlists and pose with records instead.

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