Meet the MusicWorks Panelists: Anna Weisband, Amber Bell, Carla Hackman, Mike Denney, David James, and Emma-Lee

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Clockwise from top left: Anna Weisband, Amber Bell, Carla Hackman, David James, Mike Denney, Emma-Lee

We're teaming up with our friends at Manitoba Country Music Association for our Manitoba Country Music Meeting. Join us on November 10 for a day of connecting and learning for the country music community with THiS Music's Anna Weisband, RGK Entertainment's Amber Bell, Sakamoto Agency's Carla Hackman, MDM Recordings Inc.'s Mike Denney, artist David James, and songwriter Emma-Lee.

Fredericksburg, Virginia, native and Belmont University graduate, Anna Weisband began her career as an intern at THiS Music, a joint venture of Warner Chappell, in 2012. Quickly establishing herself as a young executive on MusicRow, Weisband began carrying out A&R duties including talent discovery, collaboration creation, artist/writer management and song placement for the company's roster of 14 award winning songwriters, producers, and artists. Songwriters including two time ASCAP Songwriter of the Year Ben Hayslip, Hall of Fame songwriter Tim Nichols, and Grammy Award winner Emily Weisband. 

Amber Bell has been working in radio promotion since 2007 and most recently joined the Open Road Recordings team in 2016 as the Manager of National Promotions. Amber handles and oversees the radio promotion for the label's roster including Dean Brody, Tim Hicks, The Road Hammers, Madeline Merlo, The Hunter Brothers, Sons of Daughters and River Town Saints. Born in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Bellmade her way to Ontario and attended Durham College’s Music Business Management program. Throughout her career, Bell has worked with artists such as Alexisonfire, Jess Moskaluke, Chad Brownlee, Bush, City and Colour, Rival Sons, Jimmy Rankin, Tokyo Police Club, The Trews, Paul Brandt, Danko Jones, and more.

Booking Agent Carla Hackman has over 20 years of experience in various facets of both the music and film industry. Moving from administration and marketing into management and booking, Hackman got her introduction to the music world in 1998 working production for a classic rock festival in High River, AB, and she never looked back. Her keen interest in all aspects of the arts saw her dabble in logistics and marketing positions, management, booking, and as an assistant producer filming commercials and videos. She started her independent management company Elevation in 2007, consulting with a wide range of artists in grant writing, artist development, bookings and management, while maintaining a position as an award-winning Marketing Director for a real estate development firm in Calgary for over 11 years. Hackman brought her knowledge and experience to Sakamoto Agency in 2015, and maintains a development roster as well as contributing to bookings for all current roster artists. 

Mike Denney is acknowledged by many as a fervent champion of the Canadian music industry and his clients around the world. With roots in Toronto, he brings a multitude of expertise, creativity and knowledge along with his record business acumen to the industry and the award winning artists he proudly works with. In his roles as President of MDM Recordings Inc. and Managing Partner for the newly relaunched Acronym Records label, his vision and leadership led MDM to become the #1 independent country label in Canada in 2015 and 2016, with his elite roster of artists achieving multiple Top 10 hits in 2016 and 2017 to date. The MDM Records Inc. roster includes: 2017 JUNO Award winner and three time CCMA Award winner for Female Artist of the Year, Jess Moskaluke, CCMA Award winner and JUNO Award nominee,CCMA Award winner Bobby Wills, Charlie Major, Black Mountain Whisky Rebellion along with rising stars, David James, and The Lovelocks.

Celebrating his highest charting single to date, the Top 15 hit “Sun Set On It”, award winning country artist David James (MDM Recordings Inc. / Universal Music Canada) followed his signing with MDM Recordings Inc. in 2016 with a banner year, including the release of his debut EP Songs About A Girl, which garnered the Manitoba artist two Canadian Country Music Association Award nominations including a nod in the Rising Star category. He made his debut performance at the highly celebrated Boots and Hearts Music Festival, received a Canadian Radio Music Award nomination for Best New Group or Solo Artist: Country, and wrapped it all up by joining award winning country artist Chad Brownlee on the road before returning to the studio to begin working on a new EP.

Toronto-born singer/songwriter Emma-Lee has been releasing original music since 2008, garnering multiple film and television placements, charting radio hits and millions of streams. Her latest release is a two-part album called Fantasies: Volume 1 & 2, a collection of songs inspired by her earliest musical influences of pop music from the 80s and 90s. In tandem with her artist career, Emma-Lee has been co-writing hits for other artists in both pop and country and in 2017 she moved to Nashville to pursue this full-time. Some of her notable cuts include Brett Kissel ("Anthem"), Tim Hicks ("What A Song Should Do"), Kira Isabella ("I’m So Over Getting Over You", "I Don't Wanna Know"), Michelle Treacy ("Colours"), River Town Saints ("A Little Bit Goes A Long Way"), Madeline Merlo ("Crush"), Leah Daniels ("The Story & Salt Water"), Alee ("Only The Strong Survive").

Get to know them more with our little Q+A...

Q. What is your favourite material object that you own and why is it special?

Anna: Locket passed down from my grandpa. 

Amber: My dad's Elvis record collection

Mike: I have a silver star that hangs on my bedroom door knob that says "BELIEVE", I look at it very day as motivation

Carla: It is a series of items I have gathered from my travels, each a token piece reminding me of that moment in time on my journey

David: I have an old and very cheap blue Walden guitar that my mother bought for me when I was 14 years old. It sounds terrible, but I learned to play on that thing, and wrote my very first songs with it.

Emma-Lee: Currently in love with my baby pink mid century sofa. It's probably the first super adult piece of furniture I ever bought and it's the comfiest thing ever. 

Q. What is your favourite restaurant in your home city and the best thing to order there?

Anna: The Catbird Seat. Chefs menu 

Amber: Orwells Pub in Etobicoke. The nachos!

Mike: I love 7 Numbers on The Danforth, amazing Italian food order everything in appetizer size and share with whoever is there!

Carla: The Himalayan in Calgary. By far the best kept secret, it is Nepalese cuisine family owned and operated Sanjay the owner is probably the main reason we keep going,I feel like part of the family! For dinner, we food share everything. Starters: Chicken or Pork MOMO  (these are traditional Nepalese dumplings). Fish Tarket (basa fillet, lightly breaded flaky and tender) BOTH served with incredible spicy home made sauces. Main: The Himalayan Grill (typically Lamb) which comes with saffron rice, soup and naan for $20. The lamb is well seasoned and they are very generous with the portion sizes.

David: The Braised Benedict at Clementine's on Princess Ave.

Emma-Lee: In Nashville it would be the lamb burger with truffle fries from Burger Up! In Toronto one of my fave spots is Guu! Get the deep fried brie and black sesame ice cream.

Q. Who/what are your three go-to artists or records right now?

Anna: A Star is Born Soundtrack, Camila Cabello, New Cole Swindell Record 

Amber: Greta Van Fleet, Brothers Osborne, Ariana Grande 

Mike: Blue Rodeo anything, Lori McKenna Lorraine, James Taylor anything

Carla: Right now, well you don't make this easy... I am a country gal at heart SO: Luke Combs "Best of Me" I think this is one of my all time fav songs. I am a big melody gal,  they get me everytime. Eric Church: just really diggin Desperate Man, love the vibe reminiscent of the stones, love the smokey grit in his voice. Killer harmonies... Just a great effin tune. Chris Gaines: If I want to just feel good this does it for me every time. Such talent here and the best mistake of Garth Brooks life if you ask me!

David: The Trews, Eric Church, Rolling Stones

Emma-Lee: Leon Bridges, Robyn, Lykke Li

Q. What is the best live show you've ever been to?

Anna: Adele

Amber: U2

Mike: Rolling Stones, seen them four times amazing every time!

Carla: There are so many and each for different reasons. so I couldn't name just one so here are two... One of my fav rock artists Richie Kotzen. Saw this at a small club in Vegas, vocally as always Richie killed it and what an incredible guitarist. This trio is so under-rated. Lionel Richie,  he literally had everyone dancing on the ceiling, all night long; funnest, feel good show ever! 

David: Either Keith Urban or Bruno Mars.

Emma-Lee: I have a few that stand out. Amy Winehouse at the height of her career at The Mod Club in Toronto in 2006, Tom Petty, Aretha Franklin.

Q. If you could offer one piece of advice to an artist aspiring to have a career in country music, what would it be?

Anna: Be nice to people. Become a pro at what you specifically do.

Amber: Be patient.

Mike: Be patient and do it with passion over thinking you're going to make a lot of money.

Carla: Be kind always, work hard and when you feel most defeated remember, you are closer than you think and that's when you have to dig deeper and stay the course.

David: Set goals and have a vision. Know where you want to go, and that will help you get there.

Emma-Lee: Know your business. Even when you get a manager and a record company and the whole team, you're the one that cares the most at the end of the day. Be collaborative and a team player, but don't let the reigns so loose that you don't know what's happening in your career. 

Find out more about this workshop and register online

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