Working for the Weekend: Canadian Musicians Reveal Their Day Jobs

Show & Tell

A glimpse inside the working life of Hanorah, Said the Whale, Sarah Neufeld, Royal Canoe and more

Photo: Monse Muro

BY Alex HudsonPublished Dec 18, 2023

It's famously challenging for even established artists to make a career out of music, meaning that most have to earn a living in other ways. Whether working on the side as a way to launch a full-time music career, or simply using music as a hobby to unwind from the rigours of another job, Canadian artists extend their talents into all sorts of professional fields.

For our Show & Tell column, we asked a few musicians to give us a glimpse of the day jobs they work when they're away from the stage.

Rachel Bright of Dead Broke
Fine art handler and photographer

Photo courtesy of the artist

When Rachel Bright isn't kicking up a racket with Toronto garage punks Dead Broke, who released their When the Night Comes In EP this fall, she pulls double duty as both an art handler and freelancer photographer. The former of these involves "transport, heavy lifting, liaising and installing artworks for artists and their collectors on a local and international scale," she tells Exclaim! "Support your local galleries, and next time you visit, take a moment to think about how those intricate works made their way onto the walls. That was an art handler!"

Bookstore salesperson

Photo: Monse Muro

Montreal singer-songwriter Hanorah became a devoted reader during COVID lockdowns, and eventually, this led to her taking a part-time job at an indie bookstore. "I needed something else to occupy my mind to curb my obsessive tendencies in album-making mode," she reflects. "Having multiple things going on in my life helps me feel balanced. It feels grounding if you don't let it consume you. Otherwise, I have a habit of just staring at a wall, spiralling about perceived success and putting undue pressure on myself. I clock out and it's off my mind."

The fruits of her life-work balance can be heard in the form of the new EP Time Waits for No Woman. Plus, the job comes with perks: "Right before these photos were taken, my coworker Jules said to me, 'I saved you the last goldfish cracker.'"

Katie Cruel

Photo: Ryan Gullen 

If you had the good fortune to be in the studio when country noir songwriter Katie Cruel was recording this fall's Lost Vagus, you might gotten to enjoy some of her cooking. "I've always said that food and music make the ultimate power couple," she says, "Thanks to Katering Co., boy, do I make a lot of both! When I'm not behind the microphone or the pen, I can usually be found behind the cutting board cooking for my clients in the studio. There is indeed a lore to the after-dinner take!"

Coffee shop owner

Photo: Gustavo Segura

As a musician, Louwop combines the sounds of his native El Salvador with hip-hop — and as a café owner, he brings the coffee of El Salvador to Linsday, ON. "This has created many opportunities to share stories and part of my culture with customers," he says of Northwardcoffee, which opened in January 2021. "We've become an integral part of our community, whom we love dearly." Louwop even teamed up with Oakville's Firebat Coffee Roasters to create a signature coffee for his recent album, La Ofrenda.

Oliver Ghoul
Emergency room psychiatrist

Photo courtesy of the artist

Montreal songwriter Oliver Ghoul works an intense job as an emergency room psychiatrist, and making psychedelic pop — as heard on this summer's The Big Reveal EP — is his way of unwinding from the stresses of the job. He tells Exclaim!, "I love my career, but it can get pretty heavy at times. Music is what allows me to do what I do; it helps me process the intensity of the daily grind."

Sarah Neufeld
Yoga instructor

Photo: Katia Repina

Away from the intensity of touring with bands and being one of Canada's most notable violinists, Sarah Neufeld unwinds by practicing (and teaching) yoga. "I fell in love with yoga when I was young and had just started touring in bands," she says. "The practice helped me balance myself out in so many ways." She has co-founded two yoga studios in New York, and she says that "connecting with the staff and community at the studios keeps me grounded and helps me grow."

Penny Shades
Nonprofit worker (Ness Benamran) and voiceover artist (Sarah Orton)

Photo: Bobbi Barbaric

Drummer Ness Benamran has spent 15 years working for nonprofit organizations, and he maintains what he calls "a strict no-work-on-Fridays policy" as a way to make time for Nelson, BC-based soul combo Penny Shades, who released their single "Way Back" this past Halloween. Singer Sarah Orton, on the other hand, works as a voiceover artist, and she jokes, "Sometimes it feels like I'm just a struggling actor on top of being a struggling musician, but other times it's amazing, and I'm grateful to have found another career calling outside of music."

Michael Jordan of Royal Canoe
Ice maintenance manager

Photo: PJ Jordan

Busy Winnipeg drummer Michael Jordan can often be found sitting behind the kit with projects including Royal Canoe and Begonia; other times, he can be found sitting atop a Zamboni on the city's Assiniboine River and Red River.

"In the winter months, my job is to manage a crew of folks who build and maintain the River Trail," he says of his 15 years of experience. "The many tasks my job requires include: making sure the ice is safe for people (and our machinery) through extensive ice testing, managing staff as well as helping with tasks like flooding (resurfacing) the ice, clearing snow, towing warming huts (designed by architects worldwide), standing up 700-plus Christmas trees that line the skating path and driving a Zamboni (no cab and runs on veggie oil) on some of the coldest days imaginable." His job inspired Royal Canoe's 2020 EP Glacial, for which they recorded with instruments made of ice.

Ben Worcester of Said the Whale
Hammock salesperson

Photo: Ali Wennes

If Said the Whale's harmony-drenched, Weezer-esque new single "Never Grow Up" has a youthful, carefree vibe, perhaps that's because the band's co-frontman Ben Worcester works as a salesperson in a Vancouver hammock store. "I sit in hammocks, and they pay me," he enthuses. "It's a lot like sitting in a van for eight hours on tour, only comfortable, and it smells better, and I get to listen to roots reggae all day without any complaints. Creativity is taxing and parenting is hard. Work is relative."

Alexander Bishop of Silvertone Hills

Photo courtesy of the artist

"I plumb so I can drum," says Alexander Bishop of Hamilton's Silvertone Hills, who plumbed classic rock and pop power influences on this fall's Limits LP. He's a licensed plumber with 11 years of experience offering service and working on new builds on construction sites. He explains, "Music has always been my first passion, and working in the trades has allowed me the flexibility to grow as a musician."

Stephen Stanley
Creative content agency co-owner

Photo: Peter Vamos

Lowest of the Low co-founder Stephen Stanley used to be a full-time musician, but these days, he takes a more holistic approach to creation with the agency Verses Content, which he launched earlier this year. He tells Exclaim! that the endeavour is "mainly focused on creating video content but we also do 360-degree creative strategy, design and write original music for clients. It's afforded me the opportunity to really tie my two lives together."

Zach Lemay of Yester Daze

Photo courtesy of the artist

Zach Lemay knows his way around a guitar. In addition to making swaggering, arena-sized rock as the six-stringer for Montreal's Yester Daze, he's worked as a full-time guitar tech for five years, and, this past spring, opened his own luthiery workshop, Boréal Guitars, in Joliette, QC.

"We build our own brand of guitars by hand, and offer custom builds as well," he tells Exclaim! "For now, we are focusing on coming up with a few electric guitar/bass models, but acoustic and folk instruments are definitely something we want to get into in the near future. We also display and put up for sale instruments handcrafted by other artisans from Quebec, as most of them aren't as lucky as we are to have a brick-and-mortar store."

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