Profile by Jane Ledwell
I want the life of my dreams,” says David Cyrus MacDonald with world-embracing verve. “And I feel very fortunate that in many ways I do have that. I love being in my band (Paper Lions), having a creative outlet. I love making life on PEI better (with my sponsorship company, Confederation Entertainment).”
When we talk, David’s enthusiasm for life—and sense of its precariousness—is heightened by a smartphone on his desk that could ring at any minute to let him know his wife Morgan is in labour with their first child. Soon, the phone will also bring him the good news that Paper Lions, the band he drums in, is up for a field-leading seven Music PEI nominations.
“Paper Lions has been a huge surprise,” David says. The band has been a long-time, full-time commitment, but its consistent smoulder of success has recently burst into flames with a viral video, new album, and high-profile performances (such as on CBC Radio Q) building hype and buzz. “There’s always some new, exciting thing happening with the band… My bandmates are such excellent songwriters and musicians, I feel every album is better than the last, and every tour I feel we’re a better live band.”
The drummer is in touch with the rhythm the band creates together. “There’s just this knowing of what each other are doing—sensing who is having a good day, who is having an off day, and syncing up with them with this crazy precision—until we’re this unit that locks together, this machine that creates a lock with the audience.”
After more than 1,000 live performances, David is still in awe of the magic: “We just literally go up there with these instruments, these tools, and make these sounds, and people go crazy. It’s one celebration after another,” he grins.
“A lot of the reality of being in a touring band is pretty grim and pretty sad. The pay-off is in the music, and the audience, and the pride you bring to family and friends. A lot of my identity is wrapped up in the band…
“It’s like an epic novel, and I get to be a character,” he says. That doesn’t mean it’s fiction. David says, “Our band—and maybe this is a failing—we don’t want to try to posture and fake things. We don’t try to be something we’re not.”
His smile is broad, but his thoughts are deep, “I’m very in touch with my mortality, and I have been for a long time,” he says. “That’s enough to say, that’s one reason I’m less afraid of pursuing my dreams… I find I’m at my best mentally and physically when I’m pursuing some ambitious dream.”
Part of the dream is Confederation Entertainment, the up-and-coming sponsorship agency David started in Charlottetown and that continues to grow, working proudly with events and organizations such as Music PEI, the ECMAs, Anne and Gilbert, and Old Home Week, to match them with sponsors.
“Becoming an entrepreneur was about a journey of self-discovery and empowerment,” David says. “I want to accomplish something bigger than ‘self’. I saw the need for organizations and events (for sponsorships), and I thought, ‘I can do this for people.’”
David doesn’t fear building a big life in a small place. “I love my friends and family in PEI. I like being in a place that is so small. I don’t want to be anonymous,” he says. “I like having ongoing, fluid relationships with a broad number of people around me, in a community setting.”
If life is short, home is important: “The fact that we’re all going to die means—I really want to pack a lot into this life,” says David Cyrus MacDonald. “I just turned 30, and in my 30s, I want to continue to build the band and continue to build the entrepreneurial dream. I want to be a good husband and father. That’s what I want my 30s to be all about; I know I want to take the band and company plan and to follow it through all the way.”