Michael Barclay is a writer focused firmly on the Canadian music scene. He was a 2021-22 journalism fellow at the University of Toronto’s Massey College, and has worked for the CBC, Maclean’s, Exclaim!, Eye Weekly, The West End Phoenix, and freelanced for many more. His third book on Canadian music is Hearts on Fire: Six Years That Changed Canadian Music 2000-05, which details artists like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Peaches, Kid Koala, The Be Good Tanyas, The New Pornographers, and Arcade Fire.
How did you get to where you are today, professionally?
In 1990 I walked into my university newspaper in Guelph (Ontario’s equivalent of Chapel Hill/Athens/Olympia), and said I wanted to write about music, which I then did every week. Became arts editor the next year. Started doing campus radio the year after that. Friends started an alt-weekly in university towns west of Toronto, where I was music editor but basically everything else as well (except sales and distribution). We were all dirt poor, all hands on deck, and staking our place in the world: it was exhausting and thrilling. Meanwhile I was also playing in a rock band that put out two records and toured Canada coast-to-coast (only once, but still…).
When that mag went under following a botched corporate takeover in 1999, two colleagues and I decided to write a book about the Canadian music of our youth, called Have Not Been the Same: The CanRock Renaissance 1985-95. It was about the Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo, Sloan, Rheostatics, Cowboy Junkies, NoMeansNo, Sarah McLachlan, Daniel Lanois, the Pursuit of Happiness, k.d. lang, Shadowy Men, etc., and came out in 2001. We staged a big release show in Toronto featuring Neko Case, Julie Doiron and others.