In order to survive in what is a highly competitive industry, Selkirk College music and technology program alumnus Mike Southworth has become a musical Renaissance man.
The man behind North Vancouver’s Collide Entertainment has combined his love for music, formal training at Selkirk and contagious enthusiasm into a multi-faceted business that provides a valuable resource to established and up-and-coming Canadian talent.
Southworth’s skills as a recording engineer and producer are in demand in the highly competitive Lower Mainland market. His company provides music recording, music video production, film and television editing, post production, film scoring, promotion assistance, project consulting, and grant writing.
“After moving to Vancouver, I quickly learned that you need to do more than one thing if you are going to make a living,” says Southworth.
The Opening Act
Southworth grew up in Salmon Arm where a passion for keeping the beat was born early. Drums became his outlet and by junior high he knew that music was going to be his chosen pathway. After graduating from high school, he made Selkirk College his next stop in making it happen.
“There was a run there where every person that was interested in music in Salmon Arm was going to Selkirk,” says Southworth of his decision to move to Nelson after high school. “Two of my drum teachers and a couple guys in my high school band suggested it. It wasn’t too far away and still a small town.”
Arriving to the Tenth Street Campus in Nelson in 1997, Southworth immediately found his groove.
“There are so many resources at Selkirk,” he says. “All the teachers are phenomenal, there are tonnes of other great players and if you want to work all the time, you can get a ridiculous amount of it. In the three years I was at Selkirk, I was more productive than I have been ever since.
“We didn’t do anything else… we played music, wrote music, recorded music, went to class. What you can learn there is so much more than just going to class. Having access to the teachers and the studio outside regular hours is what I really took away with me.”
While going to class, Southworth and three other classmates set up a recording studio in the basement of the house they were renting. Charging local musicians $25 an hour, the students helped make college life a little easier while honing their skills even further.
“It’s a great way to incubate in this small scene where it seems very safe and there are not a lot of distractions,” says Southworth.
Bright Lights, Bigger Challenges
After graduating in 2000, Southworth took his skills to Vancouver where he continued to pursue life as a working musician. He joined the musician’s union, played in a couple of bands and took corporate gigs when he could get them.
To pay the bills — something that is often difficult to do for musicians — Southworth continued to work as a recording engineer in the small studio he set up in his apartment. By 2005, Southworth realized his best shot at a steady paycheque was to take his skills to a new level and set up a formal studio in the back of a music school being operated by a friend.
It didn’t take long before Southworth’s engineering abilities and growing resume of new skills were being noticed by the independent music community in Vancouver. Three years ago he moved into a much larger studio in North Vancouver just over the Second Narrows Bridge. Known as the “post production district,” Southworth’s 2,500 square foot studio is smack dab in the middle of one of the most creative communities in Canada.
Southworth has worked with a long list of well-known and emerging artists. He has produced Shane Koyczan, The Sojourners, Bif Naked and dozens of other musicians who look to the Selkirk grad to help them further their careers.
Making Music Visual
The new space has allowed Southworth to actively pursue one of his new passions — video production. Having built up his skills in grant writing, Collide Entertainment is able to offer musicians looking to take their songs to a new level.
“The musicians don’t have a lot of money and you need to make money for them so they are able to use your services,” Southworth explains. “I would rather do the work of writing grants and getting the funding together so I can make something I am happy with, as opposed to doing something on a really low budget that they have scraped together from working at a gas station.”
Today’s technology has shifted music videos from launching pads like MuchMusic to YouTube. It’s a move that allows the artists to share their creations via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a variety of avenues not available in the past. And for the artists with less financial resources, it’s a perfect opportunity to take the high production values Southworth provides to as many viewers as possible.
“From my experience the people who have money are not necessarily the best artists,” he says. “It’s the weekend warriors that have band in their spare time, but have to work during the weekdays. So if you want to work with artists that are really good, you need to find ways of getting money.”
Music As a Way of Life
Seven years ago Southworth worked on a project for Vancouver singer-songwriter Hilary Grist. Today the two are married and continue to work collaborate in the studio and on the road where Southworth plays drums when Grist goes on tour. He also continues to play and tour with his band Scatterheart.
Still only 33-years-old, Southworth’s career in the music industry is beating full speed. Though it’s not the place he predicted he would end up, he has discovered that continually building skills is the best way to survive.
“When I go to the grocery store, I don’t have to put things back anymore,” Southworth laughs when asked how Collide Entertainment’s bottom line is going.
When he looks back on how he arrived at his current location — both literally and musically — Southworth says his stop at Selkirk was an important journey in itself.
“It’s a great school because it’s isolated and you end up building a much tighter knit group of friends that end up being co-workers and employers,” he says. “I still work with a lot of people that I have met at Selkirk. It’s a cozy community where you can outgrow it and then come to a city like Vancouver with that confidence to do what you want to achieve.”
Below is Hilary Grist’s most recent music video, which was produced, directed and edited by Mike Southworth: