The Glengarry News
20 Questions With ... Bradley & Michelle McMillan
Green Valley couple Bradley and Michelle Owen McMillan are the founders of the local Celtic band, Bang on the Ear. In this exclusive interview, they talk about the challenges of balancing work and family life with music, how they came up with their band’s name, and why the Glengarry Highland Games are their favourite place to play.
Q1. How long have you lived in Glengarry? Tell us about your family's history here.
Bradley: I have lived in Glengarry County my entire life, growing up on Lochiel Road in Fassifern. We have lived and raised our family in Green Valley since 2007. My father was a McMillan whose family were all raised in and around Glengarry; my Mother was a Howes who were from Kirkhill and settled in Glengarry in 1883 after leaving Ireland.
Michelle: I was born and raised in Lancaster. My mother was a Cholette, also raised and still resides in Lancaster, and my father is an Owen, who was born in Blackpool Lancashire, England and then moved to Cornwall in 1973 quickly then relocating to Lancaster afterwards where he also still resides.
Q2. You started your band, Bang on the Ear, way back in 2006. What made you decide to start a band and how has the lineup changed over the years?
Bradley: We started the band to keep Celtic music alive and well in Glengarry. My parents always played Brigadoons records in the house growing up so I fell in love with Celtic music at a young age, and saw the importance of the music to Glengarry. There have been so many great bands during my generation – the Brigadoons, Hadrian’s Wall, the 2 Paddy’s, Fridge Full of Empties, McMartin Fiddle, Antrim, the Crofters, Bob and Ducky. Hopefully one day people remember our name among the likes of the ones mentioned.
Q3. How did you come up with the name, Bang on the Ear?
Bradley: In Ireland “a bang on the ear” is a kiss on the cheek, so being a husband and wife in the same band it just seemed fitting. We really liked the name “The Beatles” but it was already taken.
Q4. Besides music, how else do you occupy your time?
Bradley: I work for Lactalis Canada in Winchester. We are heavily involved in our kids’ athletic careers and I love to travel.
Michelle: Self employed. I love watching my kids take part in all sports. I volunteer a lot of my time by coaching many of their teams whether it be hockey or soccer. I also continue to play soccer myself, love to travel and attend music concerts/ festivals of all genres.
Q5. The COVID-19 pandemic posed a real setback to musical acts as it stopped them from performing in live venues. How did you weather the COVID storm and how relieved are you that there's been a return to live performances.
Bradley: To be honest, the live streaming thing wasn’t for us. The one thing that always drives the band is playing live and the energy that comes from a crowd. So playing in front of a camera with nobody there felt funny. We set our sights on recording and writing new music. With that being said we remained off stage for almost two years. We are thrilled to be back performing live! There’s no better feeling!!
Q6. On that note, what are your plans Highland Games weekend?
Bradley: We will be there all weekend long. Bang on the Ear are playing in the beer tents Friday and
Saturday. After that, we will be taking in everything the games has become, the pipers, drummers, entertainment, heavy events and of course meeting up with people we haven’t seen in a while.
Q7. The cover art of your most recent album, Fi5teen (released in 2021) features the iconic coloured boathouses of the South Lancaster Wharf. What made you decide to use that image?
Bradley: We were celebrating our 15th anniversary as a band and wanted something that celebrated our love of Glengarry County. Katie Munro had taken this beautiful picture of the Lancaster wharf and Michelle, who is originally from Lancaster, thought it just made sense. Plus the photo is amazing.
Q8. What is your favourite song to sing onstage?
Bradley: “Thistle And The Rose” which is a song I
wrote about Glengarry. It has so much meaning to me that I always can’t wait till we’re at that point in the set when it comes up. “We’ll up Highway 43 in the County Glengarry”.
Michelle: So many to chose from but I would say “Here we are tonight” has become one of my favourites.
Q9. Where is your favourite place to perform?
Bradley: Nothing compares to the Glengarry Highland Games. We have performed all over from Alexandria to Prince Edward Island, but a Glengarry Highland Games crowd is so far unmatched.
Michelle: Most definitely the Highland Games! Being up on that stage, hearing the constant hum of talk and laughter in the tent and feeding off the crowds energy is simply the best!!
Q10. In addition to being musicians, you are also
parents. How many kids do you have and is it ever a challenge juggling your parental responsibilities with being in a band?
Bradley: We have two kids, both of whom are teenagers now. We have had such great help along the way from our parents. Weekends can be stressful but our support staff is amazing. Our son was recently drafted by the Cornwall Colts so our winters and summers are spent in the rink. Our daughter is involved in competitive hockey as well and both play soccer in the GSL and Hearts programs. It can get quite hectic with both of us juggling work, sports and band schedules, however, we wouldn’t have it any other way!
Q11. Have any of your kids expressed interest in joining the band one day or maybe starting a band of their own?
Bradley: They both love music but are quite shy when it comes to performing. Our daughter, has an amazing voice and is slowly coming out of her shell so you just never know! Time will tell…
Q12. Besides your own, what you ever attended?
Q14. Do you play any sports? Q15. How many has Bang on released?
is the best concert
Bradley: The Pogues in Boston in 2008.
Michelle: Toss up between the Eagles and Bruce Springsteen. Both were absolutely amazing!!
Q13. If you could play anywhere where would it be?
in the world,
Bradley: Based on the type of music we play we just wish for the continued opportunity to perform at The Glengarry Highland Games. I mean Madison Square Garden would be cool, but it’s a far trip for Glengarrians.
Michelle: Scotland and Ireland.
Bradley: Soccer, hockey, golf.
Michelle: I love to play all sports however, only set aside time to play soccer these days.
Bradley: To date, the band has released five full-length albums and hopefully soon to be six in 2023.
Q16. Do you play with any other bands?
Bradley: No, BOTE has always been my focus and we always tried to bring members in where it would be their’s. I feel the commitment needed to do something good and to be put in one direction and focus. The core of the band is so dedicated to what we do I wouldn’t do it with anybody else. We are so busy during the year with performing, practicing and recording; anybody having another band just wouldn’t work.
Q17. Where do you record your music?
Bradley: I built a home studio here in 2019 and have recorded our last three albums there. It is a passion of mine – the engineering part of it – so I plan on continuing that part in the future and hope to get new local musicians out to express their creative side.
Q18. You both took part in the tribute concert to Gerry O'Neill at the Metcalfe Centre this past Sunday afternoon. What was your relationship with Mr. O'Neill and how did he influence your music?
Bradley: Although much older, Gerry was impactful on us all. His high energy and showmanship skills left crowds dancing into the wee hours of the morning. Gerry was instrumental in getting us into Hurley’s Irish Pub in Montreal where we performed randomly for the better part of 12 years. We lost a true legend in Gerry and he will be sadly missed but as you could tell from the tribute concert he will never be forgotten.
Q19. Where did you go to school and what did you study?
Bradley: Laggan Public School then Glengarry District High School then Algonquin College.
Michelle: St-Joseph’s in Lancaster then switched over to Lancaster Public School in Grade 6. I then attended Char-Lan District High School followed by Sir Sanford Fleming College where I graduated in Police Education.
Q20. What's the best vacation you've ever had?
Bradley: I was fortunate enough to travel to Scotland while in high school with our senior boys soccer team. The late Brian Filion and Glen Campbell organized over two weeks of exhibition games and siteseeing for us young boys. We were also fortunate enough to catch two live pro games in Scotland. What we took away from that trip as young men, will never be matched.
Michelle: I love the sun and white sand beaches. Although I have been to most sunny destinations, Cuba is still hands down my favourite place to be! Friendliest people & Best Beaches!
Bonus question: Bang on the Ear just played its second gig at the Barn, located on County Road 10 between Alexandria and Glen Robertson. How does it compare to other more traditional venues like the Metcalfe Centre and the Bonnie Glen Pavilion?
Bradley: Like the Bonnie Glen Pavilion and Metcalfe Centre, The Barn too has its own rich history. The Barn is an amazing new Glengarry venue, with a great sound. Liz and Brian Caddell have opened up their space to allow artists to showcase their talents and to allow people of the community to come and share the great laid back atmosphere.
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