Last year was such a train wreck losing Matt Suhar and Sam Larkin, part of my brain departed with them. Reading this account in the news, one year later, that his death was probably a hit and run is a small consolation in understanding the mystery and tragedy around his death.
Matt, was my USA manager in waiting, if anything ever broke in America the way we musicians pursuing the music business imagine or wish it could, Matt would have been steering the ship and I would live below deck composing/ writing/ performing.
Over the years all I needed was a break and we almost had one with Ani Di Franco after she saw me at SXSW in 1991. Matt coincidentally was at the same show and introduced himself after Ani gave me a bear hug and said she was blown away. Her words echoed in my head and I hoped maybe one day she might take me on the road.
The biggest act of generosity an established artist could do for a smaller one is to share their audience: take them on the road for a tour or two. Elvis Costello did that for Ron Sexsmith in the 90s and it’s more than 50% of the reason people discovered and praised Ron and things snowballed from there. Natalie Merchant did it for Tracy Chapman and then Fast Car was added to the radio.
Usually managers and agents control who is the opening act and often it misses the mark because they’re business people doing favours for each other. There is nothing as powerful as the headliner choosing someone to open the show and supporting them. Even walking out and doing a song with them.
After SXSW in 1991 Matt started bringing me to Chicago. I bet I played 30 shows there. The first time he set up 5 performances in a week at different venues each night. He was a anyone-can-do-anything-if-they’re-determined type of guy.
I got to know Ani a wee bit too through telephone messages and one night at Metalworks Recording Studio in 1994 or so. But things went sour after I drove to Milwaukee to do a show Matt set up. I tried to honour all the gigs Matt generated because that’s sorta the name of the game. But sometimes some destinations are pointless and it feels humiliating and that particular Milwaukee show should be the Wikepedia entry for pointless stupid shows. I drove 13 hours from Toronto, got to the gig, no posters advertising who was playing, the piano missing three notes, the bartender told me he didn’t know who was playing that night, three 40 ish women sitting at the bar celebrating a birthday who were more interested Phil Collins than Wrench Tuttle.
I was familiar with bad luck but thought by now I had become smarter at how not to end up in such rotten situations. I wanted to cry on someone’s shoulder and looking at my address book “A” for Ani jumped out at me in my downer Milwaukee world. I left her a message about this fabulous gig and asked her to consider taking me on the road someday. I knew naturally a million people ask you for favours when your career has taken off, and I never asked before but based on our previous exchanges (which were funny and enjoyable) I thought she would commiserate and even laugh about it with me/ at me. Bad move Bob.
The next day she left three messages on my answering machine making it clear we were no longer friends, it was hard to listen to. Thanks be to the gods of music management that Matt listened to it as well later when I got to his coach house in Chicago. With his eye brows raised to the roof and then laughing about it and making fun of me and her and him until we fell off the couch.
An artist needs a business partner that believes in their writing (and who sends occasional emails of confidence).
…not sure but get this my little canadian hero
i was playing IF I KNEW on guitar and susan was on the computer
and said, WHAT IS THAT SONG
i said, Bobby Wiseman and she just said, WOW uh huh
you got the goods mang
Sign Of The Fox *Javelinas * Divebar * The Siderunners
Kevin Tihista *Red Pop Fury * Frisbie * Colin Gilmore
Kevin Flynn & The Avondale Ramblers * Bob Wiseman
Musikanto * Fitz & The Celts * Flame Shark