Interview: Alastair Burns

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The 2018 NZ Music Manager Awards take place on Wednesday May 9th at The Tuning Fork in Auckland.

Up for the main prize of Manager Of The Year are Alastair Burns (Marlon Williams, Julia Jacklin, The Weather Station. Phantastic Ferniture), James Southgate (Devilskin) and Julia Foa'i (Te Vaka, Opetaia Foa'i).

We had the chance to fire some questions to Alastair Burns ahead of the awards.

Who was the first musical act that you managed and how did you become a music manager?

My first full time management gig was with Jordie Lane. I had been working with Matt Langley in a pseudo management capacity, but in those early days you're often doing jobs that are technically management, without really understanding the scope of the job. With Jordie, I committed full time to the gig and haven't really looked back since 2012. 

How were Marlon Williams, Julia Jacklin, The Weather Station & Phantastic Ferniture first brought to your attention?

Marlon and I met when he was double booked on a Jordie gig with his band The Unfaithful Ways. Best double booking ever. 

I came across Julia after my friend booked her on a show in Adelaide, and then invited her to play at my Folk Club in Melbourne. I'll never forget her getting up and singing her song LA Dream with the line "why do you to the grocery store on the day you plan to leave? You left me here with all this food my body does not need". 

The Weather Station was familiar to me, but her agent in Berlin sent me her latest album and I thought it was amazing. Then Julia had half of TWS band with her on a tour, and I met Tamara when we went through Toronto. It all just felt very organic, and true to how my other management relationships had begun. So I trusted in that. 

Phantastic Ferniture is a band with Julia and some of her best friends, so I met them all when in Sydney to spend time with Julia. They're the best people, and the music is amazing so it made sense to manage both Phan Fern and Julia. It has taken a while, but we're about to release an album! 

You're up for Manager of the Year, how does it feel to be nominated for the main prize?

Recognition is always lovely and I think managers are a vital part of the industry so I'm glad there are awards that give more profile to the role. I really hope kids in school are aware that this is a career they could have.

Any up and comers we should keep an eye out for?

I enjoyed Merk at Big Sound last year, and Marlon and the band loved having him on their NZ tour. I'm sure he'll be onto big things soon.  

What's the hardest part about being a manager in the music industry?

I'd say a combination of staying afloat financially, and not being able to enjoy good times. Managers make a habit of feeling guilty unless we're working and always looking into the future instead of enjoying the moment. It's the nature of the job to look ahead, but too much of it makes a miserable person. 

What is the most rewarding part?

Music has a big impact on people's lives, so playing a role in it reaching people feels very worthwhile and satisfying. I also love my relationships with the artists, and the journey you go on together  

If you could manage one person / band, either dead or alive, who would that be?

Paul Simon perhaps, if he sent me his demos as he wrote