One of the most successful DJs and club promoters in London, with her night Smash and Grab attracting rockstars and bright young things since its opening, the subject of several hit songs (Razorlight’s ‘Golden Touch’ is said to be inspired by her) and now the manager of Luv Records and Florence and The Machine, Mairead Nash is our kind of girl.
The legend of Florence accosting Nash in a toilet to sing at her and their resulting creative relationship is well-documented, but we wanted to know more about Mairead’s role behind the scenes and to see if we could sniff out any industry secrets.
“I’ve always been interested in behind-the-scenes music industry stuff, even without knowing it. I moved to Mexico for eight months when I was a bit sick of DJing and doing TV presenting; I wasn’t really happy doing any of it. I wanted to do something else but I wasn’t sure what it was so I went away. When I came back I got a radio show on 6 Music for about six months before meeting Florence. I’m just so passionate about music and records that I had to find a longer career than being a DJ or doing clubs. There’s nothing very solid about doing that.”
As illustrated by yesterday’s article by Holestar, as a female DJ things can be tough, and for some women in the music industry the image of groupie or party girl can be hard to shake off. As a sociable and passionate DJ Mairead had more than her fair share of assumptions made about her and her long-time collaborator, Tabitha Denholm, who now works for Luv Management producing and directing music videos.
” I am so sick of it, and I used to get so much of that stick. It’s why I went to Mexico. As a woman, if you like records and going to gigs then the assumption is that you want to fuck one of the band members. You get labeled. It ridiculous, it’s industry; if I was a dentist I’d probably end up going out with another dentist, someone round the office. It’s whatever is in your field. It’s very frowned upon to be involved, you know “Oh she’s just doing a night so she gets laid” and I’m not saying there isn’t the occasional perk but being disallowed from what you are naturally drawn to….why the fuck not? It really gets me. I’ve shaken it off now but it was pretty bad for a while. People don’t like to see women succeeding and enjoying it, that’s what people hate.”
Enjoying success is at the heart of Nash and her team’s operation, and she believes, is the formula for making it in the industry.
“To be successful and a bit miserable is okay, but to be having the best time while you’re doing it….we’re not scared to show it. You never know when it might end, so enjoy it while you can. It might end because you want to do something else, but make the most of what you’re doing now. As a team everyone works so hard, so the payoff is huge. We’re all happy doing what we’re doing and not many people are.
I love when me and Flo will come up with something, like the Dizzee Rascal collaboration, and then all the meetings and courting that goes into actually making it happen, and it becoming a massive catalyst in her career, it feels amazing, when it turned out to be a Good Idea. It’s the best feeling; there’s quite a few things you try and they don’t work, so when it does it’s brilliant. You go through fucking hell in the lead-up to all that stuff, you have to put so much into it, and no-one really knows that’s it’s the whole point. You need to make it look easy, that’s the pop-star role. And once you’ve got a bit of status, use the power while you’ve got it! Sometimes you don’t have it for long.”
Mairead’s role as Florence’s manager takes all over the world on tour and their relationship is one that many musicians signed to major money-spinning labels don;t always have. Nurturing, incubation and communication are Nash’s policy, and she feels protective of her leading lady.
“You have to share a vision and relay that in a business sense; it’s got to be good, well put-together before you can get out there. It’s so bloody hard. I wouldn’t advise any band to rush. The first couple of years of your career are crucial, whether you make it big or not. You have to grow. My approach is to keep development going as long as possible- everyone knows when it’s time to come out of the incubator. Sometimes management is very money-driven; artists are creators and sometimes they’re not as business-savvy, so they need a team around them they can trust, to act as their voice. People can fuck you over, everyone’s got an agenda I think, and it’s not always a good one if you’re out to get what you can and just make money.
It’s not fighting your corner all the time but as a woman you do have to push. Even with Florence the assumption is that she doesn’t write her own songs, but why on earth wouldn’t she? You get it all the fucking time, but that just makes me even more ‘Girl Power’, you know? We’re totally doing it! People assume that I must be backed by a management company, that someone must be supporting me, but I’d rather keep it independent. I’d rather make no more money than sell up or go to a big company. Indie all the way. You can sell records and still be indie.”
Luv Management is an all-female team, which is both unusual and music to Bad Feminist UK’s ears.
” Men want to be the one who is doing it all, but I think as women we want to do it as a team and a collective. I just want it to keep growing and you can’t do that on your own, and it’s not as fun! It’s much more fun when you have great friends that you work with. You need that around you, especially if it’s a creative thing you’re doing.
You just know when it clicks when you can hang out all day, make each other laugh and get the job done. You can’t take it that seriously. It is hard to find the right people to come into the fold; me and Hannah in the office are quite strong characters too. It takes a certain person to be able to handle that. Florence is too. It’s quite a vibey team, there’s a lot going on there. It’s not easy for some people to be round intimidating women! If I brought in a guy partner or whatever it would be completely different, it would change the whole thing, and that’s too risky.
I support women and I’m really quite vocal about it. I’m very proud that we’re all doing it in a male-dominated industry, and that we’re doing it independently.”
In an industry where many artists are forgotten once they have had their moment in the sun, Nash knows she has to prepare for the next round in the ring. Once something has been fashionable, is it possible to have a second ‘moment’?
“I they think fashion and music compliment each other, they need each other. Florence has definitely inspired a lot of what happened at London Fashion Week, you can see it, and it’s great, but she’ll evolve. It’s her nature. Fashion has picked up on her now but I don’t think she’ll pander to that or have to dumb anything down to be part of it again. She’ll do what she does and they’ll follow. I think bands can become associated with one thing and become dated. Being popular can ruin a band, because they represent something form the past and they can’t evolve.
It’s so tough, it’s so hard to make it. We now have a whole new load of challenges- how to make it work a second time? I’m sure we will but it’ll have to be different. It’s kind of scary, this next phase, but you’ve just got to go there.”