Job Title: Owner-Operator, Open Sky Music Festival
Why He’s Top 40: Hard-won self-knowledge and one of the highest bowling averages in the T5H postal district.
Key To Success: “I don’t do anything for money. Everything that drives me is passion.”
Nathan Richards is proud to say, “I physically want to be on a job site 10 days a year.” And, the founder of Open Sky Music Festival, would like to add, “I have no issues telling people that. They can work their 200-plus days a year.”
This atypical attitude suits Richards’ atypical path. He walked away from a lucrative career in real estate to indulge in Open Sky, a roots and reggae music festival he founded. Held in the Heritage Amphitheatre in Hawrelak Park, this year’s edition overcame rainy June weather and Edmonton’s hyper-competitive summer festival season to draw an audience of 6,000. And in its second year, no less.
It’s hardly the kind of career advice dispensed by guidance counsellors, but it felt as natural as falling off a log. “I was never too into security or knowing where my next paycheque is going to come from,” he says. “Living on the edge, it’s kind of fun.”
Richards admits he earns less dough since making the switch. But, he says, it’s worth the chance to work in something truly stimulating. The festival aims to “bring the beach to Edmonton,” in his words, and that more than makes up for the wage cut.
“It made sense for me to do it without thinking,” he says. “I’ve always been really passionate about music.”
He’s also big on local artists. The festival features a steady stream of homegrown acts -in 2012 more than half of the bill hailed from Edmonton and Richards aims to maintain that fraction for future festivals. He sees no contradiction in organizing an island-themed music bash with a bill comprised mostly of landlocked Edmontonians, just like he doesn’t see tension between chasing career success while looking to travel as much as possible.
Or, for that matter, loving Edmonton while disliking its weather for half the year, or rocking a chic wardrobe while also confessing his love of bowling.
“I really hate the cold weather,” he says. “I think it’s a great city and community, but I have to travel.”
With Open Sky’s growing attendance and a travel-themed reality TV pilot in the works, he may soon have the opportunity to do that as much as he wants.