A cautionary rock 'n' roll tale: Q&A with Alannah Myles


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Alannah Myles made it look easy. Seemingly from out of nowhere, the Toronto native burst onto the scene with the worldwide hit “Black Velvet.” But the reality was that it was exhausting, and the struggle took its toll. Myles dropped off the map for years as she recovered. Now back in the saddle, she is ready for a comeback.

 

How was it trying to break out as a female artist in ’80s Toronto?
Trying to get a record deal in Toronto in the ’80s was, for me, virtually impossible. In my young twenties, I was once asked by an A and R man at a major label in Canada what would happen if I were signed and decided I wanted to get married and start a family. When I wasn’t dealing with misogynistic “professionals,” I was deluged with rejection letters.

Did you find the industry supportive?
Hardly. In fact, it was as if I were in a circus gong show and I was the target … Toronto in particular is a city with tremendous talent but an inconceivably high level of negativity.

Do you think it’s easier or more difficult for young women trying to make it in the music industry in Toronto today?
I don’t think gender has anything to do with the success of an artist. Nowadays all sexuality is accepted. I do, however, believe it will always be an extremely difficult career choice for a young woman to find her way without the help of management or some kind of professional. Particularly if she is attractive.

What was it like to have so much success so quickly?
I won a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocalist with “Black Velvet.” I was nominated for a Grammy with “Rockinghorse” from my second record but lost to a suspiciously similar song to “Black Velvet” written by Melissa Etheridge. When I finally did get my first record recorded and released, I was met with a whirlwind of success in a country that has a tendency to eat its own… I refused to do things the way I was expected to, in an attempt to forge a unique concept of originality or individuality that was mistaken for “arrogance” or “difficulty.” Truthfully, I didn’t give a rat’s ass what anyone else thought or did.

The latest is your first album in eight years. What kept you from recording in all that time?
I needed to heal the scars caused by my first two labels, Atlantic Records and Miles Copeland’s Ark 21 Records who left me bereft of funds after selling millions of records.

What can we expect from your Canada Day concert?
We will be performing a collection of my classic hits and some material from my other records that lend themselves to a more blues-rock style. It will be wonderful to perform in Toronto again.

Alannah Myles will play at this year's Summerfest, July 1, Woodbine Park

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