Eamon McGrath can’t talk long. He’s in a bit of a rush on a Sunday afternoon in Toronto, getting ready to head downtown to his side hustle, stage managing for a big show at the Danforth Theatre. Like most independent musicians, the gig economy has come for him as well.
“Especially this time of year, there’s such a demand for decent stagehands,” says McGrath. “As a music market, Toronto’s become unmanageable. There are so many bands touring and so few people who are experienced in managing a show. New York has this built-in network of behind-the-scenes people, but Toronto is only just building that now, which is good for me between tours and recording.”
McGrath’s been forced to take full ownership of his career as an independent songwriter because he doesn’t check off the boxes that make the business of selling music easier. His DIY ethos has been necessary, he says, because he wants to make the music he wants to make, rather than fill a role.
“The entirety of humanity is becoming more corporate,” says McGrath. “You look at every mom-and-pop music operation, bands or record stores, and even the show itself. People are going to see production as much as they are music. They’re paying to see gear that’s been sitting in the back of a truck for eight hours get switched on.”
McGrath admits that his own light show, a collection of thrift shop house lamps collected along the highway, is part of his own statement about the digitizing of the analog art form.
While he never openly states he’s carrying the banner for the punk rock, DIY aesthetic, that people who know his music ascribe it to him doesn’t bother him in the least. From pissed off punk rock as a kid, to more mature, folk-based songwriting on his latest record, GUTS, McGrath makes music and tours that leave a lasting impression.
“I’ve accidentally come to embody that ethic for some people,” says McGrath. “I’m really proud of that. It means I work hard. It’s not like I went out with a fucking flag to colonize the bars for a certain aesthetic. It happened because I had to do it this way.”
Eamon McGrath tours his latest full-length, GUTS, through Western Canada in January, including dates at The Starlite (Edmonton, January 23), The Palomino (Calgary, January 30), and The Owl (Lethbridge, January 31).