Interview with Mary Kastle, musician

In encouraging readers to Discover Your Inner Consultant, I’ve emphasized the wide variety of ways in which you can be self-employed as a consultant. My list of consulting business ideas includes many businesses that might not seem like consulting. But, if you’re selling your knowledge and experience to help people solve problems, you’ve a consultant.

I’ve known musician Mary Kastle for more than 10 years. Recently, I had the opportunity to see her perform and we chatted about her business afterwards. It struck me that she shares many of the skills and qualities I associate with consultants. I asked her if she’d like to do an interview for Consultant Journal and she quickly said yes.

Interview with Mary Kastle

When did you get interested in a music career?
I remember lying on my bed when I was about 7 years old dreaming about being a singer like Paula Abdul and Debbie Gibson, but thinking “I could never do that because I’m not American”. I was already playing piano then but it wasn’t coming together yet. Then when I was about 13, Sarah McLachlan hit the big time and she was right from Vancouver. That’s when my brain starting realizing it might be possible for me to do it too, so I found a singing teacher and came to the conclusion that being a musician was my life’s path.

Did you think you’d end up going out on your own? What prompted you to do it?
I wrote my first song when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I used to sit in my sister’s room and read her poems while she did her homework. So, when I started writing my own and putting them to music, it felt totally natural. I’ve always had a songwriter instinct and a strong independent streak, which combined have naturally led me to always do my own thing.

What does your work include?
At this stage of my career I have had to take on a multitude of tasks to get the ball rolling. It starts with writing the song which includes a lot of different tasks in itself. Writing the lyrics, the melody, the chords, coming up with an arrangement, developing the concept, editing and honing it until it is done. Writing a song can be a long or very short process, sometimes if you get lucky it’ll just come out in one sitting and you’re done, other times I’ve laboured for months over a song, if not years sometimes.

I practice a lot to keep the songs fresh and keep my technique up to speed. Music is definitely a “use it or lose it” situation which is why I try and play live as much as possible.

Playing live requires me to book my own gigs which includes contacting the venues, finding out who the entertainment booker is, sending them something to listen to and then following up to confirm a date.

Promoting a show is probably one of the biggest tasks (or promoting a tour on a bigger scale). This involves designing or contracting the design of a poster, getting them printed, posting them all over town (or bribing someone to do it for you), writing a press release, sending it out and following up with the press several times to solicit interviews, rehearsing with the band, sending out a newsletter to your fans, scheduling any possible radio and/or tv promotion prior to the event (more likely for a tour), getting a great outfit to wear and then rocking out and putting on a great show.

Recording is an ongoing process that requires me to constantly seek out new producers and record tracks with them to see if we’re a good fit. At this point I’m still looking for Mr. Right that will be the producer for my next album but the trial phase is fun too.

Networking is an ongoing part of what I do and probably the most important as well.

There are a lot of administrative things to do like grant applications, filling out royalty forms, doing website/Myspace updates, writing marketing plans, tour planning, etc etc.

Next week: part 2 of my interview with Mary Kastle