WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Welcome to Witchpolice Radio. I am here with someone who is new to the show and new to me. And I think that the reason I was interested in talking to you and having you on the show is because, as we'll get into, you're doing something that's a little different in a lot of ways than the typical guests I have on the podcast. So, as usual with this show, the best way to start things off is if the guest introduces themselves. And if you can give a little background about what you do as a musician, that would be great.
EMILY THOROSKI: Yeah, for sure. My name is Emily Thoroski. I call myself the Environmental Musician. I am a grad student at the University of Manitoba, and I have a heavy science background. I love the environment, and I'm kind of using music in my master's thesis, so I've been incorporating my passion into my thesis. And I also love music, and I love writing songs and performing. So I'm just getting a bit more into that in my 20s.
WR: What part came first, the music part or the science part?
ET: It's hard to tell. When I was a kid, I really loved music, like, in music class, and I had guitar class from elementary school to high school. So it was a mix of both. It's not really what came first. It's kind of just it mixed together.
WR: Okay. So, I mean, like I said, kind of at the outset here, you're doing something different in the sense that everything I've seen anyway, on social media, from what you've been up to over the past while, has been, as the name implies, very heavily tied into environmental causes and events and research and things like that. So you're not playing the type of shows that the typical guests on the podcast do. You're not playing at bars. You're playing at events that are tied into these causes. So how does one become an environmental musician, I guess? How do you go from being someone who can play music, who writes songs, to then taking it to these places that maybe don't necessarily have music as a typical part of the event or the presentation, things like that.
ET: Yeah. So I think I would answer that is it's like all collaboration? So it's like the networks I've already created almost as a wildlife biologist and as a scientist, and then bringing that in to be like, oh, can I perform at Fort White Alive? Or like, Oak Hammock Marsh and all these areas that are mostly like environmental areas. So it's like already networking with the people I know and just saying music is such a great tool to spread your information and your knowledge to an audience and get people excited about it. So I just thought it's a great place to kind of start my journey and hopefully I can play at bars one day too. But I haven't got there yet.
WR: Well, based on having that as your name, do you feel like you have to write about these topics or do you have sort of this treasure trove of songs that you haven't released yet that are all about other things?
ET: Yeah, so that's a good question. I did feel that since my name was the environmental musician, I should focus strictly on environmental music. But I like so much other stuff that I've actually incorporated. I'm going out of my environmental zone and I'm creating a lot more. I have two love songs created already that have nothing to do with the environment. So, yeah, I will be kind of like, always have environmental songs, but I'm going to be journeying outside of that zone too.
WR: Well, it's also interesting too. It makes complete sense. You have that science background that this is what you're singing about. But when I first saw the name, I thought, okay, this must be some kind of like a protest singer, like someone with strong political causes, an activist kind of artist. Do you see elements of that and what you do as well?
ET: Yeah, absolutely. I like to consider myself an activist because I'm out there trying to promote about the environment and that people should live more sustainable lives and stuff like that. So definitely that aspect.
WR: Yeah, that's not the easiest topic to sell to a lot of people. I mean, obviously when you're doing these events at places like, okay, for sure the audience is ready to hear that message. And I mean, people are already kind of into what you're talking about, but I imagine it's going to be a difficult thing to just sort of to a general audience to just be like, here I'm talking about environmental science and stuff. Have you encountered any kind of people thinking maybe you're just a folksinger and then, wait, what is this about?
ET: Yeah, that's kind of the trick, right. A lot of the people I've kind of gone after, like, have had it as an audience so far is people that are really into the environment. And I've had people say, okay, now you have to really get out of your environment zone and get to the people, like the people that have no idea anything about the environment and try to get them involved. Right. Because that's, like, the key. We need more people involved in environmental conservation to be able to actually sustain a healthy planet. Right. So that has been one of my tricky things. I think social media is great for that, because there's just a mix of everybody, right. And whoever follows you. You don't really know if they're an environmental advocate or anything like that. I think for the most part, it's just a variety of people you're talking to. So that's why I try to really get involved with social media and YouTube and all that stuff.
WR: Yeah, well, I mean, that's where everyone is, right? Everyone, especially over the past couple of years, everyone's been kind of just locked into their computers or phones and just consing as much content as humanly possible. I don't want to talk about the pandemic much, because I talk about it constantly. But what has this past two and a bit years been like for you as someone who is doing this? Obviously, you're able to do stuff online, like you said. I mean, YouTube has been an option for a lot of people, but has it affected your ability to get that message out and to be creative since sort of the whole world has been shut down?
ET: Yeah, so that's a great question. I kind of started, like I don't know, I grew up very shy, and I've been doing covers and music covers on video since I was, like, 12. I’m 27 now. And I didn't send anything out. I just kept it all on my computer. And it wasn't until about 2019 where I was like, I love what I'm doing, and I have to be confident myself to show this to other people. So I wrote my first song, and then I sent it out or whatever so people could see it. And I started performing. And actually, I went to a conference in Reno, and I got to perform there and stuff, which was amazing. And then the pandemic hit in 2020, and it was like, oh, my gosh, as an artist just coming out kind of thing. It was very hard. But I did the best I could. Since 2020, I've taken part in various projects. There was one in 2020 that took place, the Manitoba Youth Ambassadors through Volunteer Manitoba. So it was like to celebrate Manitoba's 150 anniversary. Yeah, I worked with, like, a whole cohort of youth to tell stories, , within our community. So I wrote a song called Manitoba, You’ve Got Everything I Need.
WR: I've seen the video for that one.
ET: Oh, perfect. Thank you. Yeah, so that was kind of that. And then 2021 I took place in another program. It was an RBC emerging artist program through the Manitoba Arts Network. So that was amazing. I got to perform to the cameraman. It wasn't a very big audience, but at the West End Cultural Center in Winnipeg, which was I just love that stage and all the lights and stuff. That was like my first stage performance. Yeah, so that was really cool. And then I don't know if I should keep talking, but then even in 2020, I got involved in another program, which was Jane Goodall Institute of Canada. I got a grant to try to start my own program, and I called it Music for Conservation. So I brought in artists kind of across Manitoba. I had Raine Hamilton, I had the Dum Dee Das perform. It was mostly virtual. And then I had one live performance. But this was to raise awareness for conservation. And I raised some funding because I always try to get some funding through whatever I'm doing. And then even the last month, I found out that I got accepted to another program for this summer. And that's actually a paid program, through the Canadian Musicians Cooperative in Ontario. Yeah. So I'll actually get paid to learn to how to be a musician and stuff. So that's pretty cool.
WR: That's awesome. Yeah. Well, I think that the way I first kind of clued into what you were doing is with that Raine Hamilton show, because I follow Raine on various social media. And I saw that, I was like, Oh, this is cool. And then I did some research into it, and the fact that you got that grant is awesome. I think that's not the typical music grant people would associate with music in Manitoba. But you've obviously found a creative way to use some of these programs that aren't necessarily music based, first and foremost, and kind of make it work with what you do.
ET: Yeah, exactly. It's a lot of fun, I find, because a lot of people like the programs I'm involved with. It's like a lot of science or a lot of youth that are doing soil based to building gardens and stuff. And it's like, you don't usually see, like a music aspect, like the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada and stuff. So I hope that I'm able to continue that Music for conservation program because I think I got a lot of great advice back from people just saying, this is really amazing, and it's great to take part. Even the musicians that I was able to fund their hour Zoom session. And I think that was also yeah, that was really cool, too, and I think very much appreciated from them.
WR: Yeah, well, it's such a different idea, too, that I think it definitely stands out. I mean, especially during a time when so many people were doing live streams and virtual events and things like that, it was different enough that it was like, oh, what's this? It's got music. And there's an environmental aspect. This is kind of cool. Yeah. What is your background musically? Maybe a better question is how do you define what it is that you do as a musician? It seems, like, very folk influenced to me, but that might just be because you have an acoustic guitar and you're singing. That might just be kind of the visual. It's like, oh, this is obviously a folk artist, but what do you call it? Where do you place yourself on the spectrum of music with all the millions of genres and subgenres?
ET: Yeah, so that's something that's kind of always on my mind, because whenever I put my application in or I talk to somebody, they are always like, what genre of music are you? And I can answer it, like, the greatest. Like, I always put folk or singer songwriter. I really want to click the pop punk, because I'm really interested in pop punk music, and I would really like to be able to write that kind of stuff. And I think I will in the future. But once just picking up my guitar and writing a song, it's been mostly in the folk genre, but I hope to be able to do a little bit of pop punk soon, too.
WR: Well, that would probably also require a full band too, right? I mean, I would imagine if you want to get their full, effective pop-punk sound. Is that sort of what your background is as a listener? Like, that kind of more upbeat stuff?
ET: Yeah, like, I grew up listening to Sum 41, Avril Lavigne type stuff, going to their concerts and just having the best time.
WR: Yeah. If you went that pop punk route, would you keep the environmental aspect of, like, would you be writing environmentally themed pop punk songs, or would that have.
ET: I thought about that today and I was like, he might ask me this question. I think it would be very cool to write an environmental pop punk song or something. So I would definitely look into doing that. But also, like, a variety. I like to keep my options open and kind of write whatever comes to my mind and stuff like that.
WR: Yeah. Have you worked with a band before, or has it just been solo to this point?
ET: Not necessarily a band, but like I said, for elementary and high school, I took a guitar class and I was, like, in an ensemble, and that was a lot of fun. But other than that, for my last ten years or whatever, it's mostly been solo. But I really want to look into collaborating because I think that's, like, one of the greatest things about being a musician is being able to collaborate with other musicians and learn from them and stuff. So I'm really looking forward to that, too.
WR: Well, you're in a good city for that, too. Just because of the small population, huge population, musicians, and especially, like, punk bands, too. And there's there's so many people there's so many bands, like, over the past three decades, too. It's crazy. So you're in the right place for it.
ET: Yeah, I know. That's why it's awesome as just an emerging musician, because that's kind of what I call myself. I'm still learning and stuff like that. I found through the programs I've been involved with that the musicians are so friendly, welcoming, and they're very supportive. It's crazy. I was very surprised and I was like, Holy, this is, like, great. This is very helpful to a person just coming in, because it's, like, exactly what you need. So I've met so many great people so far.
WR: I'm glad to hear that, because I haven't been in a band in a long time, and it was definitely like that. And this is, like, going back quite a ways when I was playing a band. Same thing. It's like, people are super welcoming and super encouraging. And I keep hearing that over the course of doing the show, too, is that people who are either new to the city or new to the music scene are finding that they're, , being welcomed with open arms, which is great. That's one of the things I love about Winnipeg, is that people seemingly, for the most part, want to see other artists succeed. And it's a really good vibe.
ET: Absolutely. Yeah. No, it's amazing. I love it. I was actually going to say I'm usually an interviewer because I'm not usually the interviewer, because that's what I do for my research. So it's weird to be like answering somebody else's questions, but because I'm almost like, I have so many questions about for you, and I'm like, should I ask him? But it's probably best to keep it on me. I don't know how.
WR: Well, we'll keep it on you for now, and if you want to ask me questions later, after the fact, feel free to shoot me any questions you want.
WR: That's probably the best way to do it. Because we're talking about you here, right. So let's keep the focus on you.
WR: And you have a bunch of stuff on YouTube. Is that where all of your recordings are at this point? Or do you have other stuff out there that is available somewhere else?
ET: So I do have a couple of songs on Spotify and like, Apple Music. I use that Distrokid to what's it called? Give my music out. Exactly. So it's out on all those platforms, SoundCloud and all those. I don't usually go on there, but I put it on there.
WR: Yeah, for sure.
ET: You use YouTube quite a bit. That's kind of like my main because I like seeing the videos too. When I have a song, I like to watch the video and I do other filmmaking work, so I post everything on there. So it's just easier that way.
WR: Are there plans for putting on album or anything at some point or an EP?
ET: Oh, for sure. It's definitely something I'm kind of working on. So, I am a graduate student. I'm actually just about to defend my thesis. So I'm just writing, like, 200 page paper, which sounds like heavy work. Yeah. So that's kind of my focus right now. But, I'm aiming to have my EP out, like, mid next year. Next year, hopefully June-ish, like, around this time.
WR: Okay, cool. Do you have the songs already figured out for that and everything? Or is that sort of to be decided at the time?
ET: Yeah, it's in the works. So far, I think I've written like seven songs. Okay. Yeah. So I don't know how many I want on there, but I'm pretty close to having an EP ready.
WR: Cool. And then as far as the environmental stuff, for people who are listening to this, who don't really have much background in or information about that side of what you do, and maybe more into the music scene, are there resources out there, or places they can go online to sort of find out more about some of these issues that you're talking about and some of the research and some of the causes that you're supporting?
ET: Yeah, absolutely. The thing that's great about the environment is there's so many resources you can go to and organizations working towards it. I'm really passionate about the Wildlife Society, and I've volunteered for years through that one. So just, like, they have a website or social media. The Manitoba Chapter of the Wildlife Study is great. Nature of Manitoba is another great one. Canadian Wildlife Federation. Cool. Yeah. I can name a lot. I believe it comes to my mind.
WR: Do you have any events coming up? Like, is your series still going on? Or do you have anything in the near future that's happening?
ET: So my series kind of with the Jane Goodall ended because my funding ran out. Okay. So I ended that one, but I really would like to continue it. But no plans yet for that one. And then my Canadian Musicians Cooperative, like, job is going to start next week. So I think I'll be learning online through that. And also be, like, busking around Winnipeg. So that'll be really cool. So, yeah, follow me on social media, to see where I'll be busking and stuff. But other than that, I don't think as much.
WR: Those kind of my next questions… where can people find you online? I mean, I know you're on social media, but what's the best where would you sort of direct people towards?
ET: Yeah, so Instagram is my biggest one. Or Facebook. Those are the two I use quite often. I don't know. I haven't got into Twitter. I have a Twitter account, but I don't know why. Look on the environmental mutual Vicious shown on there. I don't have one. And then YouTube, I post a lot of stuff on YouTube. I don't have a website yet, but I'm looking into creating one this summer.
WR: Okay. At this point, are you looking for more shows? I know you're busy, obviously, with school and stuff. Is that sort of something to happen in the future? Are you still trying to get opportunities and things? At the moment?
ET: Yeah, so I'm always open to opportunities and shows. I do have a full schedule, but if someone was like, Oh, there's an opening here, I would definitely go. Like, performing is great. And I think the thing that I've learnt about performing is that you need to perform as much as you can to be able to get comfortable with your audience and really become a performer. So, yeah, I'm always up to performing.
WR: I was actually going to end it there, but I had one more question for you, based on what you said. You mentioned earlier that you wrote all these songs and you didn't really show them to anyone and you mentioned you're shy and all these things like that. Does singing about this topic, does that give you more confidence because you know so much about the topic and you're so kind of deeply invested in it? Does that sort of help with stage confidence or the willingness to sort of put yourself out there?
ET: I've never thought about it like that, but honestly, maybe that was like my trigger, that it's like, I'm knowledgeable about this topic and I could help to spread my word about it. And that's my key on getting me out there because one of the things that I found is my journey and stuff. I do it because I love music. I also do it because we need more people involved in environmental conservation. And the thing is, animals don't have a voice to speak for themselves. So I feel like it's us that has to step forward and speak for them and try to help them. So that's kind of where my background is, like how I'm kind of talking. So yeah.