MRG Group’s Communication Director, Julia Rambeau Smith, comes from a music family. Smith’s mother was a singer who studied classical music in school. Her brother works for Sony Canada and her father was a music manager who was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
“My mother had the classical training and my dad had the business side so I got the best of both worlds,” Smith told Amplify.
Smith tried her hand at both piano and violin, but neither stuck so her creative music outlet came through dance. The business side of music has stuck with her much longer.
“My earliest mentor would be my late father, Leonard Rambeau who managed Anne Murray along with other Canadian musicians,” Smith said. “He worked tirelessly for these artists but never sacrificed his own personal integrity.”
After attending college at University of Western Ontario, Smith wanted to start a career in something she loved.
“I reached out to people to see who could connect me with people in the music industry. I got the internship at EMI over the summer after university,” Smith said. She worked with their media team then was hired to work in digital marketing. She continued to work in media relations when EMI was purchased by Universal.
Smith met the founder of MRG Group, Matt Gibbons, back during her senior year in college.
“Matt was running a bar and I would coat check there,” Smith said. “I worked for him my last year of university when he opened that bar. Over the years we always kept in touch as friends and kept tabs on each other professionally.”
Last year, Gibbons reached out to Smith about working at MRG Group.
“Knowing Matt for over a decade now it seemed like the right fit to make the move,” Smith said. “I was at EMI through Universal for over a decade. I thought I’d take a shot at something new, but still being on the concert side of things was comforting.”
Amplify caught up with Smith to learn about five of the most stand out shows she has seen.
Anne Murray at O’Keefe Centre in Toronto
One of the many Anne Murray shows I went to over the years but this was my first memory of being backstage. She showed us all the “tricks of the trade” including a few magic tricks she would perform between songs. The Sony Centre (formerly O’Keefe Centre) does a lot of art and culture performances so it is one of those places that has many wings backstage. I got to see the magic of putting on a production happens from backstage. I remember standing in the wings and walking across what seemed like a massive stage before the show. Then I got to see it come to life. She had a top hat, very simple early nineties Anne Murray.
Spice Girls at Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto
July 11, 1998
I was the target demo for the Spice Girls, 13 years old at the time and I went with my 3 best friends, most likely dressed up as Sporty Spice. It was pure entertainment- great stage, countless costume changes and perfect dance routines. I remember having so much fun and couldn’t believe the Spice Girls were RIGHT THERE!! 100% fun from start to finish! The best shows are the ones you sing along to at the top of your lungs with your best friends. Girl Power. Maybe it is my dance background, but I appreciate good spectacle and pop stardom. The Spice Girls had taken over the world. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing them. I remember thinking “I can’t believe I’m in the same space as these people.” When I started working in music I realized these people are just doing their jobs. There was a parent waiting area because they knew so many kids were there but the tickets were expensive. They let parents into the gates so that the kids could go but the parents didn’t have to pay for the entire family. Working in the business now, these are things I realize made shows like that happen.
Eric Church at Ford Field in Detroit
Aug. 22, 2015
The Eric Church show is actually one of many favorites. I have seen him at GM Place (now Tribute Communities Centre) in Oshawa, FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, and Air Canada Centre in Toronto. We have a group up to 20 friends that will be in for any Eric Church show. Not one of them would strike you as a die hard country fan but when we come together, it’s “to go to Church”. Eric has amazing showmanship, and gives so much to his audience and commands the stage without being over the top and the crowd feeds off of it. For example, last March’s “Holdin’ My Own” tour, with 2 sets and no opener, Eric Church showed that he works hard to give his fans exactly what they want. Another show, I can sing along to every song surrounded by best friends.
Vince Staples at Vogue Theatre During Westward Music Festival in Vancouver
Sept. 14-17, 2017
Vince Staples at the Vogue Theatre was one of the first shows I experienced working on the live side of the music business with MRG Concerts. It was amazing to learn all the moving parts on the production side. Vince performed on stage with a massive orange screen behind him- we could only see his silhouette and it was magic. There’s an amazing feeling when everything comes together at a showtime, you can take some time to stand at the back of a venue and watch fans go wild for an incredible artist, knowing you played a tiny part in making it all happen.
Ryan Adams at Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto
Dec. 10, 2011
I have seen Ryan Adams many times, but this show in-particular stands out not only because the theatre is so enchanting (walls are hand-painted in watercolours and the ceiling is decorated with lanterns and dried beech leaves) but Ryan performed an acoustic set with a few songs on piano. He told his many tales which charmed his adoring, loyal fans in seats. This show also took place early on in my relationship with my now husband, so a lot of the set list reminds me of our shared appreciations for Mr. Adams.