Mary Ocher’s quest for world domination had a rocky start. The second date of the Russian-born, Berlin-based musician’s North American tour saw next to no audience and zero cash, thanks to a sketchy, deadbeat promoter.
“He didn’t even turn up at the show and never paid us,” she says. “There was another incident where the manager flat out refused to pay. I’m not a big person, so I can’t threaten or intimidate people. I don’t know if those will be the only cases, but I’m hopeful things will be better.”
Ocher is promoting her third full-length disc, Eden. Recorded two years ago under the watchful ears of Canadian producer King Khan, the 14 eclectic tracks play like a collection of Kate Bush’s kookiest B-sides. Spanning 40 cities, Ocher’s first foray across the pond has been a true labour of love. Working without a booking agent, she single-handedly lined up the gigs, scheduled the travel and scored accommodations for herself and the one person who’s accompanying her on the road.
“Musicians are kind of spoiled in Europe compared to North America,” she says. “Here, everybody’s in a band, everyone wants to tour and the conditions are much harder. Some days are amazing and the show goes really well. Other times it’s awful and I play for an empty room and then sleep on a stranger’s dirty couch. But the upside is that thousands of people have helped. I think because the conditions are so hard, there’s a sense of community among musicians that doesn’t exist in Europe.”
The tour isn’t just about promoting her music. Along with playing shows and hawking merch, Ocher, who counts the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O as one of her many fans, is making a documentary about the nine-week trip, giving fans a gritty look inside life on the road. “People try to make touring sound more glamorous than it is,” she says. “It’s a wise strategic move from the point of your career and getting more attention for your work, but I don’t actually like doing it very much. Sometimes, though, what makes it more interesting is that it’s so challenging.”