Meet The Drake Hotel’s late-night curator of sounds, Jalyssa Mills! Jalyssa is a passionate multi-hyphenate and music industry vet who’s been collaborating and creating incredible experiences at some of Toronto’s top entertainment venues and now she’s bringing her signature style to our neighbourhood hub on West Queen West. We caught up with Jalyssa where she shares her excitement for upcoming events, how she got started and who she’s following. Plus, a playlist that you’ll want to turn up.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I’ve always been really into the music/entertainment industry like it’s probably in my blood or something. My mom went into labour with me at a concert – Maestro Fresh Wes (Canadian Hip Hop Legend), and that experience probably subconsciously cemented my love for the industry. Crazy enough, I bumped into Maestro Fresh Wes at Canadian Music Week this past spring when I was working for his agency. Talk about full circle…It felt really affirming to think that I am exactly where I was meant to be.
I started out in the industry a decade ago as a pool bar hostess, but I quickly made my way up to the sales team. When the indoor space turned into a concert venue, I worked my butt off managing sales and reservations during the day and serving as a VIP host at night. I also volunteered my time on the production side of live shows, doing everything from building and painting furniture – to artist liaison – to handling box office duties. That experience helped me make some valuable connections and get referrals for gigs at festivals. That’s how I worked my way up!
After freelancing for a while, I landed a full-time gig at Feldman Agency. I learned about touring for bands, musicals, comedians, and more. Then I moved on to Ink Entertainment, where I got to learn all about show ideation and execution. During that time, I was also working as a production manager and programmer for School Night Toronto. I find working with developing acts has always been the most rewarding and fulfilling work I’ve ever done in the industry. I continued my work in artist development as an Agent at Paquin Artist Agency, but then I got this insane opportunity at The Drake. I’ve seen some of my favourite shows here, like Brent Faiyaz, Sampha, and even recently Blk Odyssy. And I even produced my first solo gig here! I feel so grateful and excited to be a part of The Drake’s story and to be doing work that inspires me and hopefully others.
How have parties, shows and late night evolved and changed in the city?
It seems like people are back to craving nights out where they can dance, make authentic connections, make memories, and have a good ass time! Back in the day (Can I say that now?), there were two collectives/parties, Day & Night and Comeback Season, that dominated Toronto’s party scene and left you drenched in sweat from dancing so hard. However, things changed as bottle service became more common, and social media gave rise to a new generation/ style of partygoers. While underground parties still existed, there was a loss of group mixing and the personal touch.
Since the pandemic, people have been seeking a return to the lost human element and I think we’ve found a happy medium with bottle service and realizing it enhances the experience (no fighting your way through a crowd, shorter lines at the bar and you can actually meet people by inviting them to your section). The events with longevity are the ones that move you. The music from the African diaspora is currently at the forefront because it feels good to move and dance to.
On the live show side, despite the hit that live music has taken, there is a positive side as people are becoming more selective about the shows they attend, saving up and fully immersing themselves in the experience. The entire city was rhinestone and metallic when Beyoncé performed and cowboy hats and boots were everywhere for Shania Twain. Overall, I’m optimistic about the future of shows and parties.
What collectives are inspiring you right now?
Kuruza for sure! They definitely gave a new energy and started a movement in this city. Afrique Like Me is another inspiring collective that focuses on African electronic dance music in a space that is inclusive and creates a fully immersive experience through lighting, and visuals… They’re honestly impressive. Palm Trees is another amazing collective that places a strong emphasis on detail, offering a taste of cultural and lifestyle experiences both inside and outside the party, from the food and cocktails to the DJ selection and merch.
Who is an emerging talent in music you are watching right now?
Wow.. ok, In no particular order: Anane, Adria Kain, Blk Odyssy, Raahiim, Khamari, Taaylee G, Anais Cardot, and Bolu Ajibade. I’m sure I’m forgetting some, so please don’t hate me!
What songs are on repeat? What are you listening to now?
This was an impossible answer… These songs either currently or always remain on repeat, or simply represent me. Hope you find something that you enjoy! 🙂
I might keep updating this playlist