Irene Carroll Shares Success Stories of 2013

Irene Carroll.jpg

Submitted by Sandy Graham

American Fashion Designers, the late Bill Blass and Cher’s wardrobe wizard, Bob Mackie, were the integral force for Toronto based, Irene Carroll to form her own company.  Encompassing 15 years of marketing and cross promotion expertise in the corporate, entertainment and lifestyle sectors, i see / Irene Carroll Et Associates Public and Media Relations emerged in 2001.

High profile campaigns were immediately executed including international media and “out-of-the-box” strategies for The Bay, Zellers, Canadian Olympic Athletes, and Authors. One Canadian Musician, paid close attention and in 2003 Irene launched Juno nominated, Amy Sky and her 4th CD, “WITH THIS KISS A Romance Collection”, with Estée Lauder, making Sky the only Canadian musician, to ever be financially supported by an international prestige cosmetics company for her Canadian tour.  While SARS took its toll on most live performances that year, mini concerts were held at Estée Lauder counters in Sears’ stores nationwide with some boasting sales increases of 1700%.  This bold campaign garnered over $22 million in editorial media coverage and provided new areas of CD distribution, increased sales for the artist and different sources of media.

Although sought after for her PR strategies, Irene takes a hands-on role with the artists that work with her, aligning each with her close relationships consisting of award winning vocal and live production coaches, songwriters, grant writers, producers, videographers, distributors, record labels, and fashion designers -- all to enhance the development of the artists careers. Throughout the years, music clients that enrolled in the  i see. strategy system went on to achieve great results with artists walking CCMA, ACMA, CMAO, SCMA, Canadian Aboriginal Music, Juno, or Grammy carpets. 

With a whirlwind year behind her, Irene attended conferences in 2013 to help further her artists careers including Alberta Contact; CAFÉ National Convention; Canadian Music Week; Folk Alliance International; MIDEM, Cannes, France; OAAS; Ontario Contact; Toronto International Film Festival. 

CB: What are your personal thoughts regarding the artists you worked this year?
Carroll: It was an action-packed, brilliant, and colorful 2013. The artists have grown to new heights; they’re confident and more comfortable on the stage and in their performance skins. They realize the work behind the scenes is as important, as what happens on stage. Emphasis has been placed on securing FACTOR and other sources of funding. We did. Emphasis was placed on touring. We did. Nominations were submitted and in some cases, awards were realized. New songwriting partnerships occurred. Fan reach has increased with each artist being very grateful for their new followers. Each artist has worked very hard and it shows.

CB: What did your artists achieve this year?
Carroll: Billy J White (Burlington, ON) Nominated for CMAO Male Artist of the Year, Billy was jury selected to perform at the OAAS Convention in Toronto in February, was the Grand Marshal for the Burlington Sound of Music Festival Parade, performed at Country In The Woods and Manitoulin Country Fest to name a few. His high energy performances have resulted in callbacks in the 2014 season. Billy completed his second EP which was produced by multi award winner Tom McKillip and will launch that in February 2014. His first single, “Saturday Night” was released to radio by Anya Wilson and in late October, Billy drove solo for his first Western radio tour and added over 13,000 km on his vehicle to support that single. “Keep Them Kisses Comin’” was also released to radio and is raising eyebrows. In addition to all of the above, Billy is also sponsored by Bustle Clothing -- a partnership I’ve wanted to create for quite some time.

Carli and Julie Kennedy (Victoria, BC) whom I affectionately dub “The Twins Terrific” are unstoppable. Their self created West Coast Christmas Tour in 2012 was immediately followed up by their Classical to Country Spring Tour in 2013. They’ve attended Toronto’s CMW twice, have performed songwriters’ rounds and conducted Master Class Workshops where they implement their classical music degrees and music educators’ experience across Canada. Carli and Julie moved to Nashville for 2 months where they continued their songwriting with great writing partners and networking with high profile music execs. They were juried in to and performed at Alberta Contact, Ontario Contact and the CAFÉ National Convention -- I represented them at each of the conferences. Theirs is a very captivating performance experience -- you can’t take your eyes off them for fear of missing what might happen next. In February 2014, they will attend Folk Alliance International in Kansas City, and prior to that, Carli and Julie will record their new EP. When asked who the producer will be: Ahhhh - you’ll have to read about that in the press release -- let’s just say, their stars are aligned.

Hutchinson Andrew Trio (Calgary, AB) knocked their “Prairie Modern” sound out of the jazz ball park when they won the 2013 TD Grand Jazz Award at the Montreal International Jazz Festival beating out 9 other jazz ensembles who took part in the pan-Canadian competition. With an invitation to take part in the 2014 Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, 50 hours of studio time and mastering, an invitation to perform at Festi Jazz International de Rimouski, 2014 edition, as well a $5,000 grant from TD, 2014 will be a mega year for Hutchinson Andrew Trio with undoubtedly, additional awards in their future.

Jamie Stever (Prince Edward County, ON) took Mother’s Day to a whole new level when he partnered with MADD Canada and committed a portion of every sale of his CD, Pretty Good Start to the volunteer-driven group in more than 100 communities across the Country. Special emphasis was placed on the single, “No One’s Stronger Than A Mother” which resonated with the organization, given the fact that the entire MADD movement began with mothers who had lost children due to drinking and driving. A Western radio tour occurred in the Spring as did on-line sales followed by a Fall tour with Jamie and his band as well as a feature appearance at the MADD Canada National Leadership Conference in Toronto. With a new CD in the works, Jamie will continue his alignment with MADD Canada and raise awareness of the dangers of impaired driving. 

100 Mile House (Edmonton, AB) Husband and wife, Peter Stone and Denise MacKay, plus multi-instrumentalist Scott Zubot are rich in harmonies, arrangements, captivating lyrics and an incredible distinct sound. Anyone that experienced 100 Mile House during Folk Alliance International in Toronto will attest to their talent and teamster-ship. Their current CD, Wait With Me released in March resulted in a Western Canadian Music Award nomination for Roots Duo/Group Recording of the Year. Their song, “London” won the 2013 Calgary Folk Festival Songwriting Contest. With media accolades touting, “This band is poised to move the folk rock needle outside of Canada," I’m excited as the rest of the industry to see what happens with this incredible musical force in 2014 and beyond.

PEAR (Calgary, AB) consisting of dynamic husband and wife, Denis and Lynae Dufresne were named the 2013 Group of the Year by the Association of Country Music in Alberta and won the 2012 International Songwriting Competition in the country genre for their famed ballad “This Ain't A Love Song.” With an official showcase at Hugh’s Room in Toronto, during Folk Alliance International, PEAR performed on many stages during the February conference resulting in new fans, new performance opportunities and a new booking agency. With a heavy summer touring schedule, PEAR took the stage at Ontario Contact in the Fall and ended this year opening for Johnny Reid and his “A Christmas Gift To You” national tour. Talk about an early Christmas present. The back and forth where media was concerned resulted in rave reviews of their performances as well as standing ovations. It was incredible to witness audiences that have not experienced PEAR before. It’s impossible not to be excited for artists you work with when everything they work for comes to fruition. In 2014, PEAR will continue to WOW audiences at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City. They too, have a new CD in the works. Stay tuned.

Steve Rivers (Campbellville, ON) is a force!  Nominated for CMAO’s Rising Star, Steve’s songwriting and storytelling is matched by his incredible guitar playing. He straddles the Canadian and US border often performing in Michigan. This year, he opened for Greg Allman as well as Michelle Wright. Currently, he has 10 independent cuts including Drew Gregory’s chart hitting “Truck. Beer. Girl.”  The highlight for Steve this year undoubtedly was being declared Winner of the Michigan State Final in the 2013 Texaco Country Showdown -- America’s largest country music talent show. Steve was also juried into the CAFÉ National Convention in Ottawa where he took the stage the same day following the performance of Carli and Julie Kennedy. Steve’s performances are “all encompassing” -- he knows how to work his audiences in to every performance where everyone feels included, and it’s done with ease -- much like breathing. Steve has a very big 2014 ahead of him. He’s also working on his new album, will continue to perform both sides of the border AND he is getting married!

Wednesday Night Music Club is the genius of Brian Donkers and Trisha Evelyn who have conducted songwriters’ circles in smaller venues in Toronto. They wanted to take it up a notch and brought me in on the mix. We approached Sam Grosso of Toronto’s famed Cadillac Lounge who graciously supported the idea. The first Wednesday Night Music Club -- The Autumn Session, occurred in October to a packed house. Audiences were treated to the sounds and storytelling of Brian Donkers, Carli and Julie Kennedy, Billy J White who was accompanied by Aaron Solomon and anchored with special guest Don Graham. This process was heightened as we involved Unison Benevolent Fund and presented door and collection proceeds to them that evening. Brian and Trisha will continue this endeavour with new songwriters and stories in the New Year;  I’m looking forward to being a part of that process.

My business door is always open to those that I’ve worked with prior and The Abrams Brothers (Kingston, ON) are no exception. I had a tremendous experience with them when we launched “Blue on Brown” in Abrams Village, PEI, years ago. We worked hard and that resulted in The Abrams Brothers being featured on CBCs The National, ET Canada and several national media print outlets. Recently, I was called upon to help John and James garner additional votes for the CBC SongQuest / Hockey Night In Canada contest as their song, “Made For You”, went to the Top 100. This was a really great way to complete the year -- it was fun and had us listen to what the next hockey anthem could be.

In looking forward to 2014, what advice would you offer those coming in to the music business?
Carroll: To the artists I would say “Align yourself with the best team you can find.  Do your research. Don’t settle. Remember, we do not do any thing in this life alone -- say THANK YOU -- and say it often. Don’t forget about the people that brought you to where you are despite your successes. And remember this is work. Put in your 10 thousand hours plus, because that’s what it’s going to take.”

To those looking to find a “job” in the music business? 
Carroll: I am going to copy a quote given by my friend, the late Doug Kirby (Live Tour Artists) during his Industry Profile interview with Celebrity Access.  “Never look for a "job" in the music business. There isn't any because it's a myth or an oxymoron. Be an entrepreneur. Do it yourself. Find partners. Make something happen. This isn't a business that provides "jobs." It's a chosen lifestyle. If you want a job, go work for the government and get out of the way.”

Merry Christmas everyone -- and a bountiful, bliss-filled 2014.

For more on Irene Carroll visit