How’d You Get That Awesome Gig, James Boyle?

Aug 21, 2014

Name: James Boyle

Occupation: Executive Director

Location: Halifax Pop Explosion

How did you end up working with Halifax Pop Explosion?
I was working at a concert promotion company at the time, and I heard that Jonny Stevens, the previous executive director was stepping down and moving on to other opportunities—that was February of this year. I applied and met with everyone, and ended up with the job.

What was your first job in the industry?
I guess it depends on what you consider part of the industry. I guess one of my first jobs was a guitar teacher, my second one would have been at a music store selling instruments, and then I guess doing technician work. I worked at a theatre as a sound technician. That’s where I started, and I played in bands, as well. This all kind of happened around the same time.

What bands were you in and what bands did you tour with as a sound technician?
I did some stuff with Hey Rosetta!, In-Flight Safety, toured North America with Do Make Say Think, andApostle of Hustle. I also went to Europe with Apostle of Hustle, and then I worked with a slew of local bands in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

What do you like best about what you do?
I’ve worked in the music industry all of my life, my entire working career. I’ve been doing it since I was 16, played in bands, worked at instrument stores, toured with bands, and I guess I keep coming back to festival organizing and concert promotion as my love and niche in the industry. I think it’s always about this thrill of putting on this event. It’s like a rush. The adrenaline sets in, you’re ready for tickets to sell, then the week of the event comes, and the event happens. You’re jacked up, you’ve got the support of the community, and then after it’s done you fold it all back up, and start organizing the next one. I think I always really love that excitement.

The audiences in Atlantic Canada are one of the greatest things about the local music scene.
Photo: Halifax Pop Explosion. 

What are some of the special skills required for your job?
Experience plays such as role in the music industry—and relationships. I don’t know about skills, but I do know that the more you do, the more you learn, the more you meet people. It’s all about relationships, really. It’s about relationship building. That’s the number one thing about the music industry—and all industries. For me, I think relationship building is the number one key thing to staying afloat in the music industry.

What’s been your favourite experience on the job so far?
I just started in April, but so far it’s just working with the people. The team here is just incredible, and it’s really enjoyable to come to work everyday and see so many passionate people working so hard to put on the event. I think I love that the most right now. I think once we get through the festival, and I have a year under my belt, I think I might have more things to add to that, but at the present time that’s number one.

Do you have any advice for people who may want your job in the future?
Get out there, start volunteering, and find the jobs. If you want to work as a technician, I toured as a sound person through Europe and North America, and I was able to do that because when I was getting in I took every job I could, worked every job I could—some jobs paid better than others. It’s really about getting that experience. You just gotta start. If you want to get into the industry, start and keep an open mind and learn from those around you. It takes time and effort, and it’s a lot of hard work. School can only take you so far in this industry. It’s really about on-the-job experience that’s gonna move you ahead.

What’s your favourite local music venue? What makes it stand out?
Our flagship venue, Olympic Hall, is really cool because it allows us to really go in and own the venue for a week. It has a really cool vibe. It’s an old dance hall from the ‘30s or ‘40s or something. It definitely has a special spot in the music community here. It’s a hall with a really rich history in Halifax. But The Marquee is such a staple of the music community here. It’s so great that it’s back open. The Seahorseand The Carleton are so pivotal in the growth of local bands here that you kind of end up liking different venues for different reasons. Reflections is such a crazy place for us because during the year it’s more of a dance club, but during Pop Explosion we have punk bands and DJs, and it’s so awesome. I love all of the venues in Halifax for different reasons. I don’t know if I can pick a favourite.

What’s your favourite record at the moment?
Really love the new Alvvays record. Just starting to get into The War On Drugs. Danny Brown is an artist that I have been discovering over the last few months. We just announced him for the festival, and we are really excited. If I were to choose my favourite record right now, today, I think that new Alvvays record is right at the top.

Archie, Marry Me” by buzzed-about Toronto indie rockers Alvvays, off their Chad VanGaalen-produced 2014 debut.

Who are some of the artists coming out of Halifax right now that should be on Canada’s radar?
Cam Smith
Cam’s gonna be a hip hop superstar. He’s an amazing producer, great performer, he’s got an incredible personality—he’s the real deal. I love Cam’s music and I love his energy. I’m really excited to see how far he can take that, and I really think the sky’s the limit for him.

“Turbo” Ft. XX CLVR produced by Cam Smith.

Jennah Barry
I heard one of her songs on CBC without knowing who she was, and about six months later I was doing sound for Jenn Grant, and this girl was opening. She started playing this song, and I was like, ‘where have I heard this song before? Where have I heard this song?’ I looked up and I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s that girl from the CBC.’ I can’t believe I’m even remembering this song from six months ago, let alone that I didn’t know who she was, and it all just sort of came back to me. You know when you have those experiences where you know someone’s got really special talent?

Jennah Barry performing “Slow Dance.”

Mo Kenney
She is definitely someone to watch.

“Deadly track,” says Boyle of Mo Kenney’s “Telephones” track. “It’s a cover of Halifax band Mardeen.”

Again, it’s hard to pick a favourite—there’s so many. But I think those artists have a lot to offer, and there’s a lot more to come, too.

You should also check out Vogue Dots and that new Glory Glory EP.

What’s the best part of the Halifax music scene?
I have always lived in Atlantic Canada, and I’m from New Brunswick. I started promoting music in Fredericton and one thing we’ve always had bands talk about— whether it’s Fredericton, Moncton or Halifax—is the energy of the fans and the incredible, kind nature of the audiences and the people of the cities. It sounds kind of cliché, but I can’t tell you how many bands I have done concerts for in Halifax that have been like ‘I can’t believe how incredible those fans were or I can’t believe how incredible the people of Halifax were.’ They just can’t get over that people hold the doors open for you, and people say ‘hi’ when they pass by on the street. It’s always a great experience when people come out here for the first time. They’re always blown away by the audiences. Those are the same audiences that are coming to Pop Explosion. They’re really what keep the music scene exciting, because without the audiences there wouldn’t be a music scene.

–Julijana Capone

Wanna talk music? Email me at or follow me on Twitter @thejulijanaruin.

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