In this edition of my blog series feature, Behind the Art, meet Marianna Burdon. This beautiful lawyer is also the manager and wife of rock icon Eric Burdon. Read on to see how Marianna Burdon lays down the law, and shares an interesting phone call.
Nothing really prompted me. It just happened. I had no choice. I didn’t choose it, it chose me. I didn’t really plan to do this. I had other plans for my career and being a manager wasn’t it.
I fell in love with Eric and whenever possible I would join him on tour. I was observing the business for a while and I saw a lot of dirty dealing and mismanagement going on. It broke my heart to see what was happening. Eric is a very open and giving person, a generous, trusting soul, who had been knocked around for years.
I felt that he desperately needed someone to watch out for his best interest, whom he could trust 100% . . . and that was me. I felt like I had no choice but to step in.
Who all is on your roster?
Eric Burdon. Management requires dedication and time. I do give advice to any artist that asks but I wouldn’t be able to take on another client full time at this point.
As a woman in a male-dominant business, what gender-based obstacles have you encountered and how did you overcome them?
I deal with obstacles every day. While on tour, every minute of the day. It’s not easy being a young female, with brains, and a foreigner with no particular musical background. Not only that, but I am married to my artist, so I deal with all sorts of judgment.
I really had to prove myself and I still do, every day.
Was there a particular moment when you felt you’d “made it” as a music industry professional?
I still don’t feel like I’ve made it, per se, but I have had some moments of victory to enjoy.
At SXSW in 2012, for example. I basically had to drag Eric down there. I had hooked up with Emily White, who manages Brendan Benson. That visit led to Eric recording with the Greenhorns. Coincidentally, Bruce Springsteen chose to make Eric and the Animals the subject of his keynote address, which resulted in Eric joining Springsteen on stage later that evening. The very next day, the topic of conversation on the streets of Austin, in every sidewalk café, was Eric Burdon/Bruce Springsteen. I was proud of Eric, as my artist and as my husband, that he was again getting the recognition that he deserved thanks to being put in the spotlight by Bruce.
How is managing your husband, and how do you make it work?
It’s challenging. Very challenging. For me, it’s easy to switch roles, as the situation calls for, but for him, it takes time. It’s not always an easy thing for a man who has operated in a male-dominated environment for fifty years, to take advice from his wife—no matter how wise or evolved he may be. The key is to remain strong, calm, and loving, while also keeping an arsenal of persuasive tactics.
You are also an attorney, which I’d imagine gives you a powerful advantage in some situations. Is there any specific instance managing Eric where you needed to wield your attorney sword?
All the time. I’m constantly dealing with contracts while on the road, from radio interviews and TV appearances to many situations which are still pending.
What makes you want to research an artist that’s unfamiliar to you?
A song that I hear, on the radio, or through a friend, or at a club or a bar, which catches my attention, I immediately research, using Facebook, twitter, Shazam, YouTube. Technology today gives you all the tools you need to research new artists. I get a lot of demo CDs sent to me, so I listen to them in my car, on my endless drives.
Where do you live and why?
Ojai, California. It’s paradise on earth—and it’s a relatively short drive to LA, so I can pop into the city at any time.
What is your morning routine?
I wake up very early, 6:30 a.m., with my phone in hand and start checking email. Kiss my husband good morning and get to work, fueled by some chocolate and three lattes.
What constitutes a productive day at work for you?
Every day is productive. Booking a gig. Advancing a gig. Working on contracts. Doing research and making plans. Cooking dinner “backwards in high heels.”
Is there anything unusual about your workspace? What do you keep on your desk? What’s the view from there?
My workspace is wherever I go and that could be my car while I’m driving, at the coffee shop, the beach, the airport, the lobby of a hotel. Piles and piles of paperwork and stacks of hard drives go with me everywhere.
Please recommend three songs (any genre, any artist) and tell us why you like them.
Leonard Cohen—1000 Kisses Deep. But anything by Leonard Cohen. He’s a great poet and every time he sings, it feels like he’s singing directly to you.
Ben Harper—I Don’t Believe a Word You Say
Jimmy Cliff—One More, from the album Rebirth
I also love Urge Overkill’s version of “Girl (You’ll Be a Woman Soon).”
Also, “Life in Mono” by Mono.
That wasn’t three, was it?
As I’m also an author, I’d love for you to recommend three books and tell us why you like them.
The Alchemist—Paulo Coelho, because it opens up your view of the world and your inner powers. And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. This has been my model since I first read the book at age 16. As a young person, it gives you the strength to face the world—and create your own destiny.
The Millennium (trilogy —Stieg Larsson. The heroine has a strong attitude, intelligent with knowledge of technology. Before I got involved in the music business, I was doing research on cyber-crime. When this book came out, it was like reading parts of my own life.
I do love Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, and the classics, such as Dostoevsky, but also Hans Christian Andersen.
I like poetry, as well.
Do you have an industry friend who helps and inspires you?
Every person I meet inspires me, one way or another. I have a really good relationship with publicist, Elizabeth Freund, and with the Senior Vice President of ABKco, Alisa Coleman. Both are really supportive of me for who I am and encourage me to come out of the shadows and be myself.
Do you play a musical instrument? If so, which one(s), and for how long have you played?
To be honest, no. However, last year my husband gave me a saxophone for Christmas and whenever I’m free, which is never—or frustrated!—I play it.
Do you have any superstitions?
Of course. I’m Greek.
What phrase do you over-use?
Supercool! and All the best.
Do you have a funny story related to your job, whether it be planning a tour, or on tour, or at a meet-and-greet with one of your artists?
When we moved to our home in Joshua Tree, all of a sudden the phone started ringing nonstop. People were asking to speak to Eric, trying every possible way to get past me to him. They were inventing all kinds of scenarios. It didn’t take me long to realize that our phone carrier made the mistake of listing our number publicly.
It was during this period of transition of getting the matter corrected when a girl called, with a very sweet voice, asking for Eric. I asked who was calling. The voice on the other end of the line said, “A friend of his?” “Which friend?” I asked, not recognizing the voice. “Nancy.” “Nancy who?” I replied. “Nancy Sinatra,” she responded. “Yeah, right. And I’m the Queen of England,” I said, and hung up the phone. Little did I know that it really was Nancy Sinatra. I was absolutely embarrassed when she called back on the cell phone a moment later but I think she understood, having lived a life of ‘celebrity’ herself. Nancy and Eric had not spoken in years so the call had come completely from out of the blue.
Sometimes the person calling is really who they say they are!! Nancy, if you’re reading this, my public apology for not believing you the first time.
What is something about yourself that is essentially unknown and maybe even surprising?
I have a law degree as well as a Master’s degree in Law.
What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
Surround yourself with people who believe in you, who truly love you.
What advice would you give to someone interested in getting into the business side of music?
Be prepared for anything. Follow your intuition. Always be passionate about what you’re doing.
A closing note from Marianna:
Everyone needs to be conscious. Save the world for the next generation—and save music!
Alisa Coleman, Ben Harper, Brendan Benson, Bruce Springsteen, Dostoevsky, Elizabeth Freund, Emily White, Eric Burdon, Eric Burdon and the Animals, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Hans Christian Andersen, Isabel Allende, Jimmy Cliff, Leonard Cohen, Marianna Burdon, Mono, Nancy Sinatra, Paulo Coelho, Stieg Larsson, The Alchemist, The Animals, The Greenhorns, The Millennium, Urge Overkill