Tastemaker: Talia Schlanger

A lot of us grow up considering ourselves to be music geeks, but few turn their passion into a bone fide, enviable career quite like radio and TV host Talia Schlanger. When she’s not busy on the airwaves with Weekend Mornings for CBC Radio 2, and introducing listeners to the best of Canadian indie on CBC Radio 3, Schlanger hosts one of the most intimate and outright awesome music shows we’ve seen in a while. CBC Music Backstage Pass features exclusive interviews and performances with some of the biggest names in music today. (Catch it Friday nights at midnight and Sundays at 4pm.). We caught up with Schlanger to find out more about her life in music, tips for aspiring radio personalities, her interview wishlist, and much, much more…

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Tell us a bit about yourself. What should people know?
Right now, I work as a radio and TV host for CBC Music. I chat about the best in Canadian and international adult alternative music on Weekend Mornings for CBC Radio 2, introduce people to the latest in Canadian indie on CBC Radio 3, and take you inside the world of Canadian music for interviews and performances with CBC Music Backstage Pass on CBC TV.

Before CBC, I worked as an actress, singer, and (most importantly) professional head-banger in rock musicals. Most recently I spent a year performing across the States in the First National Tour of Green Day’s American Idiot. In Toronto, I spent a year performing in Mamma Mia at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, and I understudied the two leads, Scaramouche and Oz, in the Original Canadian Company of Queen’s We Will Rock You at the Canon Theatre. I also did TV work and voiceovers for commercials.

I’m a huge music nerd – whether listening to it, reading Rolling Stone or NME, talking about it on the radio, or performing it myself. Now that I’m busy at CBC, I still pick up the guitar or sit down at the piano whenever I can, and I have a couple original music projects on the go.

Tell us about Backstage Pass. What’s the concept behind the show and what new Canadian voices have you been introduced to that you’ve been obsessed with ever since?
Ever notice that lately “music programming” seems more like reality TV? Yeah, not BSP. We’re all about the music. Each episode features exclusive live performances and interviews from some of Canada’s biggest and brightest. For our first episode, we got to hang out with Nikki Yanofsky as she recorded with Quincy Jones at one of the most famous recording studios in the world, LA’s Capitol Records.

One of the most exciting Canadian artists I’ve seen for BSP was Bahamas. The new record is called Bahamas is Afie. Afie Juarvanen (a.k.a. Bahamas) came into CBC Music Studio 211 to play a super intimate preview for us. It was face-melting good. he brought some of the most gifted musicians around, including my favourite lap-steel player Christine Bougie. I also can’t wait for people to see our footage of The Trews and Tokyo Police Club. Both are on my must-listen list.

What musicians have you yet to interview who are on your wish list and why?
Wish list? Wow, tough question. In Canadian music right now, I’d love to sit down with Mac Demarco or F’ed Up. They are wildly unpredictable and great characters, which always makes for a fun interview. Joni Mitchell or Leonard Cohen would also be dream-come-true interviews for me. I’d also love to talk to Arcade Fire about world domination and philosophy.

Internationally, I’d like to get Tom Odell, George Ezra, Paulo Nutini, and hozier in the same room. They’re all super young solo artists from the UK with very unique voices. I’d like to ask them what the heck they’re putting in the water in the UK that makes them so phenomenally mature. In the States, I’d love to interview Phosphorescent and Spoon. Both quirky acts with real longevity who have put out some of my favourite records in the last decade.

You’re the host of CBC Radio 2’s Weekend Mornings and CBC Radio 3. What’s some of your best advice or tips for anyone wishing to get into radio?
I think the most important thing you can do is hustle. Love what you do, work hard at it, and pursue your dreams relentlessly. Also, be a sponge. Most people are happy to help you and give you advice. If you’ve got access to people you admire, don’t ever be scared to ask. I’ve had incredible luck in that department at CBC. From the time I began at CBC as an intern on Day 6, to working as a digital associate producer on the Beetle Roadtrip Sessions, to hosting, I have had the good fortune of being surrounded by amazing people who wanted to help me succeed. I’ve learned something from each one of them that’s gotten me where I am. I also think kindness and gratitude are the keys to success anywhere, not just in radio. If you have a great attitude, the world is yours.

What’s your favourite restaurant and why?
Does a coffee shop count as a restaurant? I do a ton of writing for my job, which seems to require heavy caffeination. There’s no place better for that in Toronto than Sam James. The original Harbord location will always be my favourite because of its simple and hip decor, super cool staff, and, of course, crazy good coffee.

When it’s time to sit down and decompress from all that caffeine, I like to grab great Mexican food at La Carnita on College Street or whatever they’re serving at Farmhouse Tavern on Dupont. The menu at Farmhouse changes daily, but it’s always Ontario-grown and farm-driven, both things I like to support. Plus I love the homey atmosphere and epic Caesars.

What’s one of your favourite go-to designers/brands or accessories lines?
I’m really much more of a second-hand gal when it comes to clothing. I love vintage finds (especially for shoes and jackets) and can’t get enough of The Kind Exchange in Toronto for that purpose. Just like their name implies, they’re all about socially conscious consumerism, which is really important to me. They buy, sell, trade, and donate second-hand clothes. Some of my favourite items are from there, and it always feels good to support a local business that makes recycling sexy. I will always think recycling is sexy.

If I’m getting bling-y, it’s going to be Rebekah Price. She’s a Toronto jewelry designer who works with Swarovski crystals and metal to make pure magic. From wacky, out-there statement pieces to absolute classics, nobody does sparkle and colour like her. She’s absolutely one of a kind, hard-working, and local, so I love to wear her stuff. My favourite item is a blue, pink, green, and purple “glam ring.” It’s so fabulous it requires two fingers, and always gets compliments.

What products are always in your beauty/grooming bag?
Mascara all the way! Oftentimes it’s the only makeup I wear, and Rimmel is my drugstore favourite. When I put it on, I like to think I’m waking my eyes up with that magical wand. And at night, I always wash my eyelashes carefully, and thank them for keeping my eyes open for the day. It may sound goofy, but it’s my favourite routine. I make my own exfoliant with olive oil, coarse sea salt, and patchouli, and always keep real shea butter in my bag for moisturizer. I don’t keep a smile in my grooming bag, but it’s my all-time favourite beauty tool. No face is complete without it (as long as it’s a genuine one).

What style trends are you obsessed with right now?
I’m not really into trends – definitely more of a classic rock and roll type. I love leather jackets (okay, let’s be honest – really good faux leather) which I usually wear with band t-shirts, great jeans, and super-high noisy boots. One time I was clunking down the street in my favourite pair when a man yelled out, “I hate the sound of your shoes!… But I wanna marry you anyway!” Since the shoes are non-negotiable, we did not get married.

What’s your favourite spa or service?
A really great massage. Not the relaxing kind, though. The extra-painful-but-always-makes-you-feel-better “hockey player special,” as I like to call it.

Let’s get social for a mo’. How can people stay up-to-date with your busy life?
​Twitter and Instagram, as long as you’re into finding out the latest and greatest in music. For Facebook updates on my radio show, you can visit the CBC Radio 2 Morning page. And for the latest episodes of Backstage Pass, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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