Today we’d like to introduce you to Corin Ashley.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My two business partners and I all worked for a booking agency called Willow Entertainment in the 90s, but we knew each other from playing original rock music in local clubs like TT The Bears, The Middle East and the Paradise. My partner Cory and I were in a band called the PIlls which toured all over creation and opened up for every one-hit alternative band you can think of.
We eventually broke off to start our own company, Murray Hill Talent and used some of the skills we had developed in rock clubs to exclusively manage and book genuinely exciting bands and DJs for weddings and corporate events. I still play original music, too. Now I get to open for those 90s alternative bands on their reunion tours!
I have a voracious love of music and I like to do all aspects of it. I love writing and playing my own music, but I also appreciate some of the things I’ve gotten to go through our business. I have played guitar with Mary Wilson of the Supremes a few times on corporate events we booked. It was unbelievable to play all those huge classic hits with one of the original members of the group. I’ve done multiple events with Yo-Yo Ma and experienced him playing cello just a few feet away with all the hairs on my neck standing up.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
In 2006, we broke off to start our own company, I bought a house and had my first child, so it was definitely a worrisome time. We just threw ourselves into it with a lot of heart and took some personal financial risks to get this company off the ground. We were determined to run this as a smart business but always based on a true passion for music.
One of the main things about our company is that we all run the business but I am passionately addicted to playing music and I lead our most successful band, Flipside, I get out of the office and provide on-site management for events and, on stage I make sure that the music goes the way the client envisioned. It’s something I’m really good at (he said humbly). I think a lot of musicians get more skilled over the course of thousands of hours of gigs, naturally, but maybe lose touch with the initial excitement they felt early on. With me, even after so many years of doing it since I was a teenager, I still feel a light switch on inside me the moment we start playing. That’s who I am and it defines me as a person.
In January of 2016, I had a bad reaction to a contrast dye in a “routine” CT scan and had a stroke. I went from being a fully rocking musician to losing the use of my fingers in my left hand and with a paralyzed vocal cord that prevented me from singing. It was devastating, as one would imagine. My band and my two business partners really rallied around me. Being a true pro, I had my stroke in the off-season when there weren’t any weddings. It took a ton of hard work: vocal and physical therapy at Spaulding Rehab and Mass Eye and Ear several times a week and hours more at home every single day. I had to re-learn to play guitar and slowly work on getting my singing voice back. It took months of slow progress, but I am fully recovered. If anything, I’m actually playing and singing better now because I had that chance to really re-build my skill set from the ground up. I don’t take any of it for granted.
Please tell us about Murray Hill Talent.
We develop manage and book bands, cocktail and ceremony musicians, DJs and a wide variety of specialty entertainment for private events. We have a lot of resources and ideas to help clients with customized music and ancillary entertainment for the themed event- everything from live statues, dancers, impersonators, New Orlean brass bands, all sorts of things, really. We really get charged up about working on ideas that are outside the norm and figuring out how to make things work. I had a real moment of clarity not long ago when our team was seriously discussing the logistics of having a live tiger in a Porche as part of an event unveiling a new model at a dealership. I had the acute realization that I have a pretty interesting job.
I am proud of the way we take someone’s inspiration and can make it come to life. It would be so much easier to deflect those ideas and say “Listen, I’ve been in the business for 20 years and this is the way it’s done”, but you can get that from anybody. There’s never a shortage of people to say “No” to an idea and it’s so much more interesting to say “Yes.” We recently did this great wedding at the Boston Public Library for Jenny Johnson, the host of Dining Playbook, and Rob Concuzzo, the editor of Nantucket magazine. These are creative people, they think outside the box, Jenny had this idea of a real grand piano in the courtyard on the BPL for the ceremony. She wasn’t demanding about it, it was just the way she pictured it in her head. It would have been easier to dissuade her and say, “Oh, the building is from 1850 and there’s no loading dock and everything has to push up ramps over steps”, but the thought of how that would look and sound in that beautiful courtyard was so much better than a digital keyboard. I ended up helping the guys push the piano up the ramp on the side of the building and it was well worth it.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Over time, I have learned how to balance attention to detail in favor of anxiety and stress. It is natural for younger people in this kind of business to be nervous about events going smoothly- I see it all the time in younger event planners versus the ones who have been doing it for a few years. Inevitably, one figures out that stressing about things is the exact opposites of the vibe we are trying to create. All that nervous, fretful energy is just a distraction, really. Inevitably, there are times when things go differently than planned and the ability to adjust calmly and with some modicum of grace is a big asset. Mind you, this is an ongoing process. I’m still getting better at it.
- Bands $3,000 to $7,000
- Disc Jockeys $1,000 to $1500
- Website: www.murrayhilltalent.com
- Phone: 1 800 The Band
- Email: Cashley@murrayhilltalent.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/murrayhilltalent
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MurrayHillTalent/
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/murray-hill-talent-malden
- Other: https://www.weddingwire.com/biz/murray-hill-talent-malden/ba419c7c65745e1c.html#reviews