Michelle Curran On The Spot

Known in ad circles as the founder and managing director of Amber Music, Michelle Curran has a rock ‘n’ roll past. The London native, who chooses not to reveal her age (instead describing herself as “ageless”), spent nearly a decade as head of promotions at Island Records and London Records—working with musicians like U2 and Bob Marley. In 1993, she launched Amber, which now operates out of London, New York and Los Angeles. The company is currently riding high on the success of Honda’s “Grrr,” the multiple-award-winning spot for which Amber created a whimsical whistle of a tune.Q: Honda’s “Grrr” is cleaning up at the shows. Do you think it’ll win the first “best use of music” film Lion this week?

A: All I can say is, fingers crossed.

Do you party like a madwoman at Cannes?

Yes, I do. We have this big luncheon-the annual Amber Music lunch—on the beach. About 100 people show up to it.

Do you have any fun anecdotes from your days in the record biz? Maybe you trashed a hotel room with Robert Palmer or got stoned with Bob Marley?

Well, I did get stoned with Bob Marley, and I did play a lot with Grace Jones. It seems like a lifetime away, though.

The record business has changed so much since you worked in it. What’s your opinion of American Idol?

I don’t like American Idol at all. I hate it. I think it’s just totally contrived.

Is working in advertising just as exciting and fun as working in the record business?

Both are about as fun and exciting as the other, to be honest. I think that both of them are suffering from the fact that it’s all about money now and not about creativity.

What inspired you to get into advertising?

My cousin owned an advertising agency in London years ago. It was called Richard Cope and Partners. It was the first of the really funky agencies, but that was a long, long time ago.

What is your educational background?

I went to one of those theatrical schools where I learned how to dance and sing. I left as soon as I could. I learned my profession—again, I started working at like 16 and a half, 17—I learned by people who knew how to do their jobs really well.

Did you also study music?

No, I was trained as a dancer. I did ballet, tap, modern, everything. I danced every day from when I started school at 9 to when I left at 16.

Why didn’t your pursue dancing as a career?

Because I’m not very good at it. I wasn’t built to be a dancer, and I haven’t got the temperament to go on stage every day. I think I’ve got the best of both worlds here—working within the music that I love and creativity that I like. I was never meant to be a mother, and I was never meant to be a dancer.

If you could play an instrument, what would it be?

The tuba.

Who has influenced you most creatively?

Tony Kaye. When I was working and learning to do what I’m doing now, I worked with him quite a bit, and he taught me a lot.

What made you start your own business?

I worked for other people, and they treated me so badly and treated their businesses so badly that I just thought … why don’t I just try and do it myself?

Besides your own shop, what’s your vote for the best music house out there?

Maybe stimmüng or Human.

What is your dream assignment?

Hummer … so I was very pleased when we were given the opportunity. I think they do great work—especially in the world of car commercials.

Who are dying to work with?

I’d like to do something with David Fincher, and I’d like to work with TBWA\Chiat\Day in Los Angeles.

Give me three words to describe yourself.

Eccentric, vivacious and colorful.

How about three words that describe how others perceive you?

Generous, creative and a nice person to work with.

What is your biggest fear in life?


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

That the composers and music companies don’t get enough respect from the agencies for doing the job that they do.

What was the last CD/music you bought?

The last CD I downloaded was Nick Drake, just an old collection of his.

What’s on your nightstand?

It depends on which home I’m in—in London, New York or L.A. But there is always something to help me get to sleep because I’m always in a different time zone. There’s usually a book, lots of jewelry, an old cup, a clicker for the TV and a teddy.

Do you mean a teddy bear or sexy lingerie?

A teddy bear.

Do you have one bear that you take with you wherever you go?

I’ve got a few bears that move around depending on how much room I have in my luggage.