Travel Diary: New Zealand songstress Lisa Crawley takes us to Toronto, Canada

For songstress Lisa Crawley, Canadian Music Week represented a week full of music discovery and education (as it does for many delegates); as a performer, she was able to perform for some great crowds, learn from some brilliant industry minds and even come away from the experience with an Uber story like most of us have! She kept a tour diary for us over the journey and lets us in on how her time in Toronto treated her.

Thursday, April 30th

I’ve come from a series of gigs and attending ‘MUSEXPO2015’ in Los Angeles. I didn’t do my gig homework and arrived in Toronto perhaps a tad too early, right at the beginning of the festival. The music begins tonight, but I’m super exhausted as was fighting a virus I picked up in LA (the sickness kind, not the type the Norton-Anti Virus or MacKeeper tries to prevent us from.) The taxi driver driving me from the airport is friendly and tells me all about his view on Toronto. I check into my AirBnB and get dinner from Queen Mothers Café (quite iconic, I hear), do an online interview with a blog, then crash.

Friday, May 1st

CMW have what they call ‘concert lotteries’ – you submit your details with the hope of getting a ticket to one of the bigger shows that have teamed up with CMW. I missed out, but buy a ticket to Ron Sexsmith, who’s performing tonight at Massey Hall. He’s one of my all time favourite songwriters who’s co-written with another favourite, Leslie Feist. He’s been called ‘half man, half melody’ and this concert reinforced why. Massey Hall is an incredible venue, I recommend checking something out there if possible. I congratulate Ron on a top show via Twitter and he tweets back asking if I’m playing CMW. Swoon!

Saturday, May 2nd

Sleep. Eat. Sleep.

Sunday, May 3rd

It’s a beautiful day in Toronto. I’m still catching up on sleep from Los Angeles and am enjoying my sleep ins in my little apartment! Today, I’m catching up with the only person I know who lives in Toronto, Brian Borcherdt, who’s a bit of a legend in the Canadian music scene, being part of bands Holy Fuck and By Devine Right.

It’s a beautiful afternoon and Brian shows me round the park full of cherry blossoms with hundreds of people up to all sorts of festivities, and a highlight for me, the dog park! We have dinner and drinks and head to venue The Garrison to seeThe Blow, an electro pop band originally from Olympia, Washington. Little did I know how much time I’d spend at the Garrison. The night ends with whiskey and pizza at the dive bar next door, Get Well. I go halves with a stranger on the last piece.

Monday, May 4th

I spend the day wandering Queen Street, drinking coffee and catching up on much needed sleep. There’s not a whole lot of bands on tonight, but I’m staying right next to The Rex, one of Toronto’s most popular jazz bars and the Toronto Jazz Orchestra are performing. I’m in awe of the 19 piece band who are playing a 100% Canadian music set. Their arrangement of “Oh Canada” was particularly impressive.

Tuesday, May 5th

There’s lots of music on tonight and I go on a ‘pub crawl for one’. I check out Reenie at Cameron House followed by Bride and Groom at the Painted Lady, then head to The Garrison, where it’s celebrating ‘Toronto Women In Music’ – I catch the end of R&B/Soul band WAYO, who have packed out the house. I stay for shoegaze/psychedelic band PROGRAMM then head to Get Well for late night pizza.

Wednesday, May 6th

Today I took part in two vocal workshops that were intertwined with CMW. One workshop was focusing on technicalities on the voice, and the others on performance skills. Vocal coach Tamara Beatty, who has worked as a vocal coach on The Voice, took these workshops. I found these interesting, but it was hard to get individual attention, as there were numerous participants and the second seemed to be aimed at people with little experience performing. Instead of singing my own song, I ended up playing piano for another singer…it was like my piano karaoke night I play at Some Velvet Morning. I met some great people and fellow songwriters, so that was a great part of it, as I felt like I’d been wandering around by myself most of CMW to date!

Thursday, May 7th

The CMW conference started today. There’s a focus on Australian and New Zealand music theme at this year’s CMW. I went to the ‘Spotlight on Australia’ talk and then the keynote talk with Michael Gudinski. There was a really great turn out with folks from all round the globe keen to hear more about the Australian market. After the ‘Spotlight on New Zealand Panel’, featuring some familiar faces, I got my frock on for my gig and headed to the Painted Lady for the AU Review/Footstomp party. I was excited to finally be playing after a week or so since my last show in LA. I was on first and was a tad worried people wouldn’t get there early but I ended up having an amazing crowd, the best part being people who had looked up my music from the CMW program and come along especially to watch.

After my set, I enjoyed a few wines and watched the rest of the line up. I popped out briefly and seemed to have picked up an Uber driver who joined me at the gig without my permission and wanted to ‘take me for a drive or a meal’. Asho from Footstomp saved me, thankfully. A big night with such an impressive, eclectic line up. Well done to all the bands!

Photo Credit: Ryan Ayukawa

Friday, May 8th

I attended the Festival Summit today, which is where you sign up to have a place at the table and chat to various festival bookers. They explain what they do, then each person at the table has about a minute to talk about themselves or ask a question. Then the buzzer goes and the promoters switch tables. It’s like musical speed dating. It was pretty eclectic, everything from jazz festivals in Japan (finally, my Japanese came in handy), to bookers from Glastonbury, The Great Escape etc. I then raced off to my gig at The Paddock, where I performed alongside the talented Caitlin Harnett, a few performers from the UK and the night was topped off with the amazing Pinholes, a 60’s influenced rock n roll band from Singapore. They were so fun, reminded me of Kiwi band The Mint Chicks, who always put on an entertaining show. We went dancing with them at The Garrison after the show and the singer Famie Singapura promised to collaborate with me. To my dismay, the pizza place was closed.

Caitlin Harnett and I.
The Pinholes.
Famie Singapura and I.

Saturday, May 9th

After spending a few hours at the Sounds Australia Australian BBQ, I attended the Sync Summit, much like the festival one, but with Music Supervisors, publishing representatives and other people in the film/advertising business. I knew what to expect, as I’d been to a similar one a few weeks back in LA. It’s great to hear how people prefer to receive music/emails etc and what they’re looking for at the moment. I found this really worthwhile, having just come out of a publishing contract and representing myself.

I went for dinner then along to the Indie Awards, which was pretty awesome – a highlight was seeing band ALVVAYSperform, who picked up an award for Best New Act. I checked out a few other bands that night, everything from David Grice – a lively acoustic singer/songwriter who wears a headset so he can dance – to the incredibly awesome Lady Lamb, who packed out the Garrison. Swedish band Akaba were a great finish to the night.

Sunday, May 10th

The last day of CMW! Today was an exciting one despite being super tired. My alarm went off 10 minutes before we were to meet for Sounds Australia Niagra Falls/Winery bus trip. Shit! I just made it and we set off to visit the falls. It was wonderful to visit such an amazing wonder of nature/do some touristy stuff after being in a crazy band bubble. The falls were incredible, like nothing I’d seen before, particularly seeing America on the other side of the falls added to the madness of the attraction. The winery we visited for lunch was divine. On return to the city, we had an interesting bus tour guide who may have thought they were funnier than they were, but it made it all the more of an experience!

I finished the night off with dinner with the Kiwi speakers/panelists (unfortunately I was the token Kiwi artist at CMW) and then back to pack to say goodbye to Toronto, until next year!

This article was originally published in June 2015. For more details on the Canadian Music Week conference and festival, which will return in May 2017, head to cmw.net