Morrella Raleigh is the woman behind the late Southgate House and the now Southgate House Revival. What you may not know about Morrella is the wealth of knowledge she holds about the music and arts industry as a whole.
Morrella started her path at a young age hoping to write for Rolling Stone Magazine. Little did she know she would end up where she is today, an inspiration and role model for much of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky.
It was a great honor to speak to our good friend, Morrella Raleigh about being a Woman Behind the Music in Cincinnati.
Everyone knows you from The Southgate House Revival. However, you have had your hand in music at just about every venue in town! Tell us about your start in the Cincinnati Music/Arts Scene…
On a professional level, my start was with Cincinnati Arts Association. I started working part-time at Music Hall fairly soon after I returned home from college and I got to be part of the team that opened the Aronoff Center. That was a really exciting time and project. I started off working in ticketing, which I think was a great base for the business. Understanding how all the logistics of ticketing works and seeing customers and clients up front all the time very much informed the job I was able to do when I went on to P.R. and Marketing.
While I was there, I was able to work with Broadway in Cincinnati, The Cincinnati Ballet, The Cincinnati Opera, and we did great shows too - Bruce Springsteen, Phish, Willie Nelson, Dave Brubeck....the list goes on and on. It was a terrific first job.
I went on to work at Bogart's, Riverbend, the Taft, U.S. Bank Arena. I worked on Pepsi Jammin' on Main and Forecastle Festival, as well as with the Cincinnati Cyclones. I'm very grateful for the variety of opportunities that I've had and all the great shows I worked!
I have it on good authority that you have your Masters in Pop Culture. I feel like this is a great path to take as you must have the tools to measure trend setting. It seems like a great tool to possess as a venue owner. What prompted your educational path?
My educational path actually was based a lot around writing. I think I got it in my head at a young age that I was going to write for Rolling Stone because I loved music so much and I knew I didn't have any actual talent at playing it. I was driven by the fact that there were jobs out there that allowed you to participate in music and be behind the scenes. I chose BGSU for college because they had the world's first (and best) Popular Culture program but they also had a great School of Journalism. I had a great experience there - writing about music for the school paper, hosting a radio show and seeing a lot of bands. I got my Bachelor's in Journalism and stuck around for a Master's in Popular Culture. And while I do agree that my education was a good basis for what I do now, by no means do I think it was completely necessary. Job experience has been the best teacher I've ever had. Along with that is the fact that I've had some really great bosses who were very open to teaching me the ropes.
What have been some of the most memorable shows for you thus far? Not just at tSGHR, but in general…
This is one of the toughest questions I ever get asked because literally almost every night, I get to listen to great bands. As far as specific shows that are super memorable for me, I guess I would have to say Tom Waits at the Ryman, George Jones at The Palace in Louisville, The Cramps at House of Blues Chicago and the Tibetan Freedom Concert I attended at Alpine Valley. The line-up was beyond ridiculous: Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, Eddie Veddar, Blondie, Rage Against the Machine.
When The Southgate House down on 3rd Street closed, it really was a bleak time for the Cincinnati music scene – bands and concert goers alike. Do you care to comment on how you felt at that time?
In a word - lost. But I certainly had a lot of people supporting me and surrounding me who felt the same way. That's how I got through it and the reason I am where I am today, without a doubt.
As a woman business owner, do you feel that your gender has ever hindered your path? Do you feel that you have to work harder to get your voice heard?
I think I felt that way much more when I was working for corporate promoters than I do now that I'm a business owner. There was never going to be a future for me as a decision maker in those roles, because they were mostly reserved for men, but I do think this is changing. There are a lot more women in all aspects of the business now - from management/booking to the technical side. It's definitely something that I've seen change in the industry in the time I've been doing this. The old ways are dying off as younger people are getting involved. Obviously, that's a plus!
What is the most rebellious thing you have ever done? Did you ever sneak into the Jockey Club back in the day?
OK - well, I did go to the Jockey Club a few times way back when. But really it was just because I had friends who were in bands playing there. It certainly opened up a whole new world of music to me, though. It was my first experience in learning that there's great music out there that NEVER gets played on the radio. Of course, that's still a big deal to me - working with the bands that the commercial machine hasn't or won't embrace.
Lastly, I feel as if you have helped so many people in the Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky area to become better bands, promoters etc… What do you want people to take away with them when they think of you?
Well thank you. I hope you're right. Like a lot of folks, I guess I just want people to think that what I do matters, especially on a personal level.
March is Women’s History Month, in celebration, CincyMusic.com featured a number of important women behind the music scene in Cincinnati. Cincinnati is the home of so many amazing women within the music industry. These women included; a Venue Owner, a well known DJ, Educators, the First Lady of Cincinnati Music, an Assistant Program Director, and a beloved fan.