University of Calgary alumni Gillian McKercher and Calgary folk-rock artist Mike Tod have collaborated to produce an eight-episode web series, The Calgary Collection, that profiles local folk musicians. The series, released Oct. 19–26, includes interviews and music from Matt Masters, Spencer Jo, Mike Tod, Barry Luft, Nathan Godfrey, Robbie Bankes, Tim Rogers and John Leeder. Each episode of the web series includes music from the artist and a look at the musician’s lifestyle.
“Calgary has a lot of talent that is not known about,” McKercher says.
She says that she and Tod had a long conversation, before beginning this project, about how, when Calgary bands and artists are talked about, it always seems to be the same handful of bands that are mentioned.
“We looked at this as an opportunity to document the exciting things that are happening,” McKercher says, “to show people that, yes, there is something here beyond the surface.”
McKercher says that when most people think of folk music, they are thinking about pop-folk music. She says Mumford and Sons was once described to her as “pop music with a banjo” and at the time she didn’t know why.
“I learned a lot about folk music,” McKercher says, “which I had no appreciation for before.”
She says that, if anything, she realized how much of a vibrant artistic community exists in Calgary while producing the web series.
“One guy, Tim Rogers, best explained it,” McKercher says. “He says that in Canada you can live a very rich artistic career while maybe not a financially lucrative one and I agree with him.”
McKercher says that in the episode with John Leeder, he describes how contemporary culture will often say that someone isn’t a worthwhile musician unless they are out touring and performing, where as some great folk musicians enjoy singing and producing music at home and then sharing it with others whether among friends, through LPs or electronically.
Working with Tod she delved into the Calgary folk music scene and learned of musicians that she’d never heard of, mostly by word-of-mouth through other musicians, including Tod.
McKercher says the web series happened rather suddenly. She met Tod while working at the $100 Film Festival. They collaborated on a performance called The Crow where Tod played live while a film she made on super 8 mm film was projected. He called her up in May with the idea for the web series.
“Our first profile was so impressive,” McKercher says. “It was like, ‘We have something really special. Let’s keep at it.’ ”
McKercher says there is the possibility of interviewing more local folk musicians or local artists from other genres depending on how successful and popular the series is.
“For now it is just, as the title suggests, a collection. Just eight people and we haven’t really seen all of Calgary,” McKercher says. “Mike and I talked about maybe doing something longer, maybe a documentary, but that is such another ball game that [for now] it is focus on the web series, make it happen, see how the response is and if it’s positive maybe look at more musicians in Calgary, other genres.”