20 questions (pandemic edition) with Mike Campbell

During this time of social distancing and dark theatres, Halifax Presents is checking in with members of our arts community. Today we check in with music industry professional and current programming director for The Carleton, Mike Campbell.

Mike Campbell
Mike Campbell

During this time of social distancing and dark venues, Halifax Presents continues to check-in with members of our arts community to find out how they are staying creative and managing during the pandemic.

This week we check in with music industry professional and current programming director for The Carleton, Mike Campbell.

1. How are you staying creative during the pandemic?

At the behest of The Carleton owner, Karen Spaulding, I’ve been writing long-form editorial pieces in The Carleton newsletter each week, based on my lifelong experience in the Canadian music business. The reminiscences are all over the map, sometimes inspired by readers asking me about something specific, but it allows me to revisit a lot of things that I’d previously not taken time to appreciate.

2. What’s the one thing getting you through?

My office in my garage. It’s affectionately known in Canadian music circles as The Tiki Lounge, probably because there’s a bar in it. As places to hunker down in times like these, it’s pretty hard to beat. So, unlike most people, I can get up in the morning (or early afternoon as the case may be) and head somewhere to work, even if it’s only across the back yard.

3. How are you staying in contact with family and friends who are not in your bubble?

Like everyone else, I’ve become more than passingly familiar with Zoom, and FaceTime calls. In fact, that’s something I think will outlast the pandemic. Hard to believe we weren’t doing more of that when it wasn’t an absolute necessity.

4. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far during the pandemic?

Don’t take anything for granted. As the pandemic should have taught us, anything can happen at any time, and while it’s impossible to prepare for every eventuality, it helps to be quick to adapt to weird circumstances.

5. What do you feel the most grateful for right now?

All things considered, I think it’s important to give credit where credit’s due: I’m grateful to our health care workers and (gulp) to the province and city leadership for clear instructions and the financial help to get us all through this emergency.

6. What is something you are doing now that you don’t normally?

Reflecting on life in general and my own specifically.

7. What skill have you developed since the pandemic started?

Relaxing. I’m usually freaking out or worrying about dozens of things that might or could go wrong, or sideways. The past few months have been a respite from that kind of thing.

8. What have you missed the most?

Not being able just to pick up and travel somewhere. During the lockdown, I missed South By Southwest in Austin, the East Coast Music Awards in St. John’s and a Music Nova Scotia
showcase event I run annually in Toronto. Those are all things I look forward to every year, and it sucked to have them taken away.

9. Your #1 pandemic survival tip.

Stay informed. Trust actual science and scientists. Keep your head screwed on without a tinfoil hat.

10. Your biggest indulgence since the pandemic started.

For some reason, I was craving lobster, which I almost never do, so I indulged myself three weekends in a row. Yum. I’m now thinking about ice cream.

11. What have you stockpiled?

I’m one of those guys who generally have plenty of the basics, like toilet paper, paper towels, garbage bags, laundry and dishwashing detergents on hand. Thanks to my Costco obsession, there was never any need to panic buy anything at my house.

12. What have you been reading?

Mostly my online magazine and newspaper subscriptions: The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, The Guardian, etc. I’m pretty sure I’ve read everything written on the subject of COVID-19, pretty much in real-time. I look forward to being able to concentrate on entertainment news and other things that affect me professionally once this is over – if it ever is.

13. What have you been watching?

Late-night talk show clips on YouTube with Colbert, Meyers, Kimmel; Sam Bee, John Oliver and Bill Maher; lots of Netflix – Scandinavian crime shows, Russian crime shows; French crime shows, Polish crimes shows… See a pattern there?

14. What have you been listening to?

Tons of stuff, which is usual for me in the job I’m in. I’ve been rediscovering old favourites of mine like Jackie Leven, Aimee Mann, Alejandro Escovedo, Chuck Prophet, and Willie Nile. Along with new artists like Bones UK, especially their collaboration with legend Jeff Beck on this latest album, Loud Hailer, it’s KILLER!

15. What are you doing for exercise?

Not enough, that’s for sure!

16. The one thing you haven’t been able to live without?

Chocolate milk. Cannot, will not, do without that. Ever.

17. Do-it-yourself haircut or the natural look?

Natural look, although I was toying with the idea of just buzz-cutting the lid to see how that would like. Might still do that, come to think of it.

18. Night owl or early riser?

I’ve always been a night owl but occasionally force myself to get up early and am astonished at how much I get accomplished before noon when I do. Not enough to do it regularly, mind you, but it does make for a nice change of pace.

19. Will you be the first out as restrictions are gradually lifted or taking a wait-and-see attitude?

As an old dude, I haven’t been the first out, but thanks to the province’s approach to the outbreak, I feel pretty safe, and I won’t deny myself things I’d like to do out in the immediate world because I’m afraid.

20. What’s the first thing you will do when this is all over?

I’ll try to visit my parents in northern Ontario. They’re not getting any younger, and neither am I.

Meet Mike Campbell

Mike has been in the music industry his entire working life in record retail, record companies, independent promotion, television, talent booking, artist management, event production. He is now the programming director of The Carleton, Music Nova Scotia and the ECMA’s multi-year venue of the year winner. He is also the music curator of the Halifax Urban Folk Festival (HUFF), which runs annually in the last week of August through the Labour Day weekend. 2019 marked the festival’s tenth year.

Mike worked for MuchMusic for 18 years as host of Mike & Mike’s Excellent X Canada Adventures, MuchEast and Going Coastal. He’s lived in Halifax for 26 years. Since leaving MuchMusic in 2002, he has continued to remain close to the action on the East Coast. Some highlights include programming the pop/rock talent for the National Arts Centre’s Atlantic Scene festival in 2003, booking the Marquee Club, Halifax’s largest venue at the time, in 2004/2005 and producing JunoFest in Halifax in 2006. Until he opened The Carleton, he was also a member of Joel Plaskett’s management team.

Mike has done work over the years in many capacities with the ECMAs, CARAS, FACTOR and has been a director on the board of Music Nova Scotia for almost two decades and is responsible for its annual “Tiki” showcase event during Canada Music Week in Toronto. He also served on the original board of the Unison Benevolent Fund, a charitable organization founded to help musicians and music industry professionals in times of need.

Mike has won several personal awards from Music Nova Scotia and the East Coast Music Awards, including a special Industry Builder honour at the 25th anniversary ECMAs, as well as receiving the second annual Scene Builder award from the Halifax Pop Explosion.