Ten years. That’s how long herohill has been around. It’s hard to believe, but herohill has been a part of my life longer than my wife, any of my jobs and almost all of the friends I have. It’s a part of who I was and who I am, but I’ve come to realize it can’t be part of what’s next.
Last week proved the truth I’ve avoided for the last year; writing about music is more of an obligation than anything else. I can’t pinpoint when I stopped enjoying writing about bands, I just know it happened, and no matter what I’ve tried the joy I took from writing is gone. herohill slowly became a job that paid nothing, and any perks it offered became less and less rewarding.
I know that sounds incredibly bitter, and that’s why I know it’s time to stop.
When herohill first became a music review site, Garden State and the acts associated with Zach Braff’s film changed how people viewed indie rock. Although it’s a cringe worthy line, much like The Shins, this web site changed my life. Instead of spending hours in record stores, we started getting envelopes stuffed with free records set to us. For a music addict, it seemed like we gamed the system. Amazing new bands giving us music - at a time when most people still accepted the fact that you should pay for music - or putting us on the guest list? Yes, please.
At the time, the term blog was equal parts confusing and demeaning. Music publications and newspaper scribes would utter things like, “oh, it’s just a blog”, but PR companies and bands realized they had a direct line to people that wanted to write positive reviews about new bands. It was, at least temporarily, a perfect marriage. Blogs were like the Wild West; rules for sharing legally (and grammar) were largely ignored, and blog ads flowed freely. After a couple of prime years, like everything good, the market was soon saturated and the quality / excitement of finding new blogs faded. For a brief moment though, blogs were getting paid thousands over dollars per year to simply post MP3s.
herohill never made the big time, mostly because of timing and our own misguided ideals. We never shared illegal songs, and never really focused on buzzy bands. Essentially, we followed the model of the bands we were supporting. It wasn’t until about 2006 when we really defined our identity, and for better or for worse, it limited our reach. We kicked off our focus on Canadian content with a series of “mixtapes” that focused on 20 acts from each of Canada’s provinces, and the local coverage really helped us open doors across Canada. It may seem like no big deal today, but at the time, very few blogs actually wrote about Canadian music and even fewer music fans wanted to read about it (we like to introduce our traffic as exhibit A).
Over time however, our voice became respected, at least by artists. If nothing else, we can leave knowing that the bands we cared about appreciated the time we spent with the records and the writing we offered in return.
Over the last few years, we’ve had some great moments - hosting our HPX showcases, our collection of Lightfoot, Cohen and Hall and Oates covers, NXNE, finding out that someone actually started a hate blog based on our reviews, introducing a musical hero (Jim Guthrie) by reading my review for his album launch party, being jurors for Polaris, the SOCAN songwriting prize and the Juno - but the single best part of this experience is the people we met, both virtually and in real life. Musicians, publicists, bloggers, even curmudgeonly Toronto legends who we thought were to link us on their blog. Knowing that we will see or talk to those people less often is really the hardest part of saying goodbye.
When I first thought about writing this post, I wanted to start naming names. I wanted to call out the shitty publicists, the lazy bloggers and the entitled, arrogant musicians that treated herohill like an unpaid employee. I wanted to challenge people to get better - at writing songs, promoting them or reviewing them - but I realized what herohill gave me deserves better. This blog has helped me meet amazing people from all over the country, inspired me to be a better writer, a better person and a better fan of music. To let a few awful people and unfair situations linger on the tongue would ruin the meal.
Over the last ten years, I’ve met people that I now genuinely consider friends. I’ve opened my life and in some cases, my home to readers and musicians. I’ve used music to celebrate the joy of marriage and childbirth. I’ve leaned on it for support when our son had his chest ripped open when he was three days old and as I watched my Dad fade away as cancer slowly beat him into submission. I’ve got to speak on panels, travel to shows and festivals and promote Canadian music. Looking back, I really think what Shane and I did made a difference in terms of how the country feels about Canadian music.
There’s a few things I need to say before I go. Unfairly, I get more credit for herohill than I should and without question, one of the best things to come out of this whole experience was the friendship it fostered. Shane and I were good friends before we launched this blog, but over the last decade we’ve spent countless nights in bars seeing bands, an insane amount of hours talking about music while we avoided the responsibilities of our day job. We used a unique access to music to experience life in a way neither of us could have imagined. But for some reason - most likely because I am loud and cover bands that drive more pageviews - Shane never gets the credit he deserves. It was his decision to have us focus on Canadian bands. He maintains the web site and for years, he was one of the only bloggers willing to give Canadian hip hop the time it deserves. If nothing else, the emcees and producers in Saskatchewan and Alberta owe him a soul clap. herohill was as much him as it is me.
Over the next few weeks, I am going to write ten essays, one of each of the records that really impacted my life. In my head, it’s a greatest hits of sorts, but it’s also a way to leave something behind for the records that mean the most to me. Other than that, I’ll still be hanging around twitter making out of date references to hip hop songs and NBA legends and keeping an eye on the music that Canada produces. If you want to reach out, please do. If you want to send me music, please do. I’ll happily listen and tell people about it, just not in this forum.
Lastly, I want to thank everyone that came through for me when my Dad got sick, and ultimately passed away. The night Dad and I shared with the NS music community and the money we raised to fight cancer was proof positive that these last ten years meant something, not just to me but to the artists we helped along the way.
Thanks, for everything.
10) Dog Day - Fade Out)
9) Minotaurs - New Believers
9) Odd Years - Drawing Lines
8) Ought - More than Any Other Day
7) Lucas Hicks - The Coast
6) Shotgun Jimmie - Everything Everything
5) Hayden - Us Alone
4) The Weather Station - Duets
3) Shad - Flying Colors
2) Marine Dreams - Corner of the Eye
1) Jim Guthrie - Takes Time