Canadian country-pop artist Mandy McMillan has been chasing the dream for the past decade. McMillan gave up her day job in Stony Plain, Alberta to move to Nashville after winning a 2008 Country Music Television Canada contest. This bold choice has led to an array of moments, such as opening for the likes of Trisha Yearwood and Blake Shelton, showcasing at the 2018 Diamonds in the Rough series during Canadian Country Music Week, showcasing at Whiskey Jam and more. Her latest single “Dream Catcher” is an honest reflection of her unwavering belief in the cultivation and manifestation of goals.
I got the chance to talk to her about how she first got into making and performing music, her experience in the Canadian country scene, changing the bridge for “Dream Catcher”, her podcast Dream Catcher and much more. Keep reading to see what she had to say!
Tell me a little bit about how you first got into making and performing music.
I started performing music when I was about 5 years old for Christmas concerts and singing the national anthem at the local hometown rodeo. I have always had music in my soul and my mom loves to tell the story of how I could sing and hum before I could talk!
I wrote my “first song” when I was 8 years old to the tune of the “Care Bears” theme song where I switched up the lyrics. I’ll always remember singing it for my childhood best friend on her little boombox karaoke machine in Grade 3!
Was there a specific moment or person that made you realize that music is what you wanted to pursue professionally?
I knew that I could pursue music professionally after I stumbled upon and won a singing competition called Karaoke Star for CMT in 2008. Meeting artists from across Canada and interacting with the producers of the show allowed me to view music in a professional way that made me realize that being a singer and songwriter could be a full-time career. Once I moved to Nashville, I knew I was in the right place to make that happen.
You now divide your time between Canada and Nashville and it seems like the Canadian country scene is hotter than ever right now. From your experience, what is the country scene in Canada like?
There is something in the water in Canada! So many amazing artists are blossomed up here and it’s great to be surrounded by a talented pool of musicians right here at home. When I started travelling down to Nashville 10 years ago to co-write, before social media blew up, that was the only way I was able to surround myself by music 24/7. Now with interactive tools like Facebook, Instagram, and so forth, it’s so much easier for artists to connect with each other and with fans. It’s so awesome to see how big and welcoming the Canadian music scene really is these days!
I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey with their music so if you had to describe the music you make without using genre names, how would you describe it?
I want my music to be empowering, inspiring and to have an overall feeling of good vibes.
Going off of that, who are some of your musical influences?
I find musical influences from all over the board! I am a HUGE fan of Michael Franti at the moment. I just appreciate his positivity and groovy way of highlighting a subject through his music. I’m also a huge fan of Stevie Nicks & Fleetwood Mac and have studied her sound and writing ability, which is so magical.
Your newest single is “Dream Catcher”. What’s it about?
“Dream Catcher” is about going out there and knowing that no matter what obstacles may come up, you can go out and achieve your dream. It starts off with the line “Her heart is full of wishes cleaning up the dishes at some part time job, til she’s at the top” which reflects on my journey of being a waitress for many years in Canada to save up money in order to move to Nashville and pursue my dream of being in music. In this song, there is no “white horse” that comes to save the character or who makes her dream come true. She is the one who makes it all happen for herself!
Something I’ve always been curious with songwriting is how topics come to mind. Did you know what you wanted to write about going into the song session that birthed ”Dream Catcher” or did the idea just come about organically once you were in the session?
I had an “Aha” moment as I was hanging up dream catchers that I had made at a festival. It came to me that I have been chasing my dream for all these years and now is the time to catch it. The title “Dream Catcher” came to me and I knew right away that I had to write the song with Andrew Beason, so we specifically set up a writing session for the song. I’ve written with Andrew for years now, so the song flowed so naturally and it turned out amazing!
Were there any major changes made to ”Dream Catcher” once you got into the recording studio, whether it be in the lyrics or something sonically?
There weren’t any major changes made in the studio, but one major change I added to the structure was the bridge. Andrew and I had written a bridge during our write and although I was head over heels for the rest of the song, I wasn’t set on the original bridge we had come up with. I allowed some time to go by because I didn’t want anything to be forced but about a month later, I was sitting down for a morning meditation and a bridge just started to flow to me. I opened my eyes, grabbed my journal and started writing it all down. “I know this girl she’s got a dream, she’s gonna catch it”. It fully encompassed exactly what I wanted to say and came to me as a fun rappy part, so the song was complete!
You also shot a music video for “Dream Catcher.” What was your experience shooting that video like? Was that your first time shooting a music video?
Shooting the music video for “Dream Catcher” was an unreal experience!
My beautiful friend Angela Goedde, who is a phenomenal stylist and jewelry designer, teamed up with me to help create my look for the video and also made custom pieces of jewelry for me to wear. I knew 100% that I wanted to film the video out in Arizona, and Angela had just been to Tucson, so we picked that beautiful spot to be the location. I called up my friend Jenny Marvin, who is a crazy talented photographer and videographer now living in Denver, Colorado to shoot it, so her and her husband Blake flew in to meet us in Tucson. There is a beautiful essence about Arizona that encompasses dream catchers within the Native land there. A word to fully describe the trip would be ‘Magical’!
It was my second time filming a music video. I had filmed one for my 2018 single “Chasin’ the Ace” in early 2019 with my friend Lexy Burke in Nashville, which was also a crazy fun time!
You’ve got an album also called Dream Catcher coming out this fall. What can fans expect when it comes out?
I am so excited to get this album out to everyone this fall! These are songs I’ve all written over the past few years and it gives the listener a fun glimpse of who I am. Every song is different and tells its own story. Some are super happy upbeat vibes, there’s a song about holding onto strength through tough times, another song about a woman standing in her power, a song about letting go of someone in your past. I’m so proud of these songs and being able to co-produce them with Simon Gugala in Nashville. It definitely allowed our creative sides to come out!
You also have a podcast called Dream Catcher. What’s it about and what made you want to do something in a completely different medium from music?
Yes! The podcast is something that started out as a side hobby but is becoming a hit and allowing me to be creative from a different point of view.
For the past few years, I have wanted to host a podcast, but it took me a while to figure out the topic and concept of it. Last summer, I approached my friend Carli Kahl who has helped me with music projects for years now about hosting the show with me. I had written and recorded my song “Dream Catcher” at that point and we thought it would be a great concept for the Podcast. So Dream Catcher Pod was born! We have had such a great time interviewing people from all over the board about their journeys to catch their dreams and goals. We want to give people a voice to tell their story and also give the listeners some inspiration to go out and catch theirs as well.
We’ve had everyone from salon owners to poets, a friend that works his dream job in the NHL, singers and songwriters to just interviewing my brother-in-law who is a professional hockey player. There’s something on the podcast for everyone. Carli and I have also started filming our “Dream Catcher Adventures” of us being out on the road to give the viewers a look of behind the scenes. You can follow us on Instagram @DreamCatcherPod and listen to the episodes wherever you listen to podcasts – Apple Podcast, Spotify, etc.
Last question — we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?
I am currently nerding out about a thing called Ayurveda. It is an ancient Indian way of healing that involves the mind, body and soul as an approach to overall health. I first heard about it a few years ago and it has become a part of my everyday life – haha! My sisters have to hear me talk about it everyday and I’m constantly reading books and blog posts on it. It’s just so interesting!
Photo Credit: Bethany Loates