Songtrust Spotlight: Gloria Cavalera

As band manager, road guru, and family matriarch, GLORIA CAVALERA is the embodiment of dedication to the cause. Across countless international tours, millions of albums sold, and millions more lives touched, Cavalera shepherds a worldwide “tribe” of underground music acolytes. As head of Oasis Management, Gloria oversees career direction for a diverse roster of heavy music purveyors springing forth from the “roots” of the Cavalera family tree, including Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy, Killer Be Killed, Incite, Lody Kong and Healing Magic. Working sun up to sun down and raising seven children, Gloria has encouraged compassion, gratitude, and creative expression among her kids and clients. She’s at her best while wearing many hats, as her and her husband, heavy metal icon Max Cavalera, continue to welcome new family members, literal and figurative, to their tribe.

Photo Credit: Glen LaFerman

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You’ve been in the music business for over 23 years --  how has your experience changed over time? Have you noticed any big shifts in the music industry, for better or worse?

I actually got into the music business in 1983, so it has been 37 years since I first started working with Metal. Starting in a time when there was only Thrash, and now seeing the breakdown of so many different types of Metal is a big change also. While the new fans sought to define the music, the early Metal fans had less boundaries and more freedom. They also would line up outside the record stores. Waiting for the doors to open for a particular release. This kind of excitement is gone, giving way to digital, which is more personal to the individual. Everyone wears headphones now, and makes their own playlists, but joins together at concerts.

The rise of Alternative music was the first big change. Metal was halted and several bands broke up, because they couldn’t make it through that time. I was fortunate that I was representing an artist, and not only musicians, so I was able to form a new act at a time when my life was quite hostile. I have always taken a band that was very small or new, and developed them. This is contrary to what most managers do. I always find it a bit unethical to steal band members or bands from people who worked very hard to get them to the level they reach just to attract attention in the industry.  

The next big change I saw was when fans started taking music for free. This was probably the roughest time, coupled with the recession that followed. Because of this, and the record labels turning to all platforms digital, bands have never returned to making the income they once did.

How did you get started managing bands like Sepultura and Soulfly?

In 1985 I started working with Jason Rainey of Sacred Reich. I had owned an all Metal nightclub, Sacred Reich first played there, and I became friends with Jason. During that time I paid for Flotsam and Jetsam’s demo tape, which led to them receiving a deal from Metal Blade Records. I produced shows with Poison, Dark Angel, Faster Pussycat, etc. I arranged tours for Sacred Reich in the US and Europe, and eventually signed them on Hollywood Records. By the time I had met Sepultura, I had already had my acts on the major festivals in Europe, had several records under my belt, and had made videos with many directors, including Mark Pellington. I had done several US tours with Pantera, Danzig, etc. When I found Sepultura, they were doing a showcase at The Ritz in New York City and I was the only manager who considered them. Because I did not know them very well and they kept asking me to manage them, I worked for one year for free. During that time I renegotiated their entire recording contract, got them a new merchandise offer, and booking agents. I also got them their creative control back, which they had given up in their original contract. The tour that they had done prior to meeting me did not go as they wished. I had a great relationship with the venues in America, so I called them up and promised I would make a good package and pack their venues if they would give Sepultura one more chance. The tour was called the SOS Tour with Sepulturam, Obituary, and Sadus, who were all new bands. 

After Max and I left Sepultura, we began working on a new project which evolved into Soulfly. Now we have Soulfly, Killer Be Killed, and Cavalera Conspiracy, so I keep quite busy. I also manage the bands Incite and Healing Magic.  

You were dubbed “one of metal music's most successful managers” -- was managing something that came naturally to you or was there a learning curve? What advice would you give to an aspiring manager who wants to have longevity in the music industry?

I was? I never knew that. Haha!  
I do feel that what I do comes naturally. I am not really a run of the mill manager. I am more an artistic manager. I was never able to have a short vision. My mind always goes to the question, what will people think about my artists 50 years from now. I turned down so many popular bands due to my style of managing. I work 7 days a week; the owner of Roadrunner Records once called me in the middle of the Amazon on a family vacation and also in a maternity ward, directly after I gave birth to our son, Zyon. The call was not to congratulate us, it was work. I couldn’t have done any of what I do without my team. I once was at a hotel and saw Willy Nelson and his posse check in. They all had white beards and someone told me he kept the same people for many years, and I told myself, that is what I was going to do. No artist is successful without their team, and hopefully there is a quarterback among them.  
My advice is to believe in yourself. Start from the ground up. Go hang out in a small club, do roadie work, sell merchandise, be fearless. I have done every job that there is on the road, and I rarely did it just for money. If you fail, you simply look for another door, because you never know what opportunity is waiting for you. To work in any arts, it is very easy to give up and walk away, but if you believe in yourself you realize that all you need to do is try something new.  

Throughout your experience as a manager, how important was/is understanding music publishing to you and your creators?

I used to always lean on record labels to provide publishing. They would give you an advance, and everyone would be excited, but the recouping wasn’t always as good as I felt it could be. There is so much to learn with publishing and it is very confusing. I followed a path of many different agreements, learning as much as I could, and trusting someone who took me under their wing and lead me to Songtrust. It’s very important, especially now when touring is up in the air, and record sales are turning more to streaming.  

You’ve talked at length about how oftentimes Metal, and those that listen to or create Metal music, have automatic assumptions made about them. What misconceptions do you think people have about the genre as a whole? What advice or insight would you give to the younger generations, who find Metal relatable to their experiences, to stay true to themselves?

When I went with one of my acts to record at a tribe in Brazil, the chief’s wife said to me, “You are just like us. You are not afraid to express yourself, and I am sure you get followed when you go into stores.” This was a powerful statement to me. We’ve all seen Metal-heads be accused a number of crimes they did not commit, and some spend many years in prison, such as the Memphis 3, as portrayed in the series Paradise Lost. I still get followed in stores. Max went to the bank recently and they did not believe he was Max. It’s strange how people can walk around carrying an AK47, and no one says, “oh, they listen to country music.” This stigma only seems to apply to Punk and Metal bands.

It takes courage to walk through life and live an alternative lifestyle. I have chosen to raise my family a bit different than the norm, and it wasn’t always easy.

You raised seven children while on the road. What was your secret, or what did you learn, to balancing family life and music/career life while traveling on the road?

It is very easy for me to flip my persona from manager to wife to mother. When I had the nightclub, the patrons always said it was like a club that was home. I have always had a huge amount of energy. Sometimes a couple of my kids wouldn’t get it. Now they have grown up and they all know that I was creating a legacy for future generations. Max and I work as a solid team and I feel very fortunate that he is so positive about the way our journey has gone. I am able to come up with new ideas, tours, band members, and he has always trusted my guidance. It was always our dream that our children would have bands and now we can see that dream materialize. They always went in to settle with me, colored in coloring books in my office, and grew up on the side of the stage, so our lifestyle was very normal for them.

Music seems to be the family business -- what values or experiences have you and your family gained from the industry at large and those that you’ve worked with/around? Is there anything you’d change or hope to see change as the industry evolves?

Yes, it definitely is a family business. We all look at the world a bit differently than our neighbors. My kids have a strong understanding of political issues from traveling to so many countries year after year. They’ve learned a lot about history and many different cultures. Through the years, most of my children have worked with me in one sense or another, either as a musician, technician, merchant, or tour manager. Christina worked with me for several years as I started my business and then went into advancing and production. They all helped me watch each other and they did that with love. I can’t be more grateful for the family unit we have built together.  

I would like to see new bands be given bigger opportunities and I am actually working with a new label who’s intending to do just that.

How did you hear about Songtrust? How has your experience been so far?

A long time trusted acquaintance, Mandy Aubry, introduced me to Songtrust. I worked with her at Roadrunner Records Netherlands and also at Fintage Publishing. She has guided me and also been a close friend. I trust her in every way. I am very happy with Songtrust and I have recommended it to many artists.

As someone who's had experiences with different publishing deals, artists, managers, and the like, what do you find is the most difficult part (but maybe the most important!) about remaining independent while still building trust and relationships to get further in the industry?

I have always been a bit of a hermit. I had many offers to team up with other people, but I would always catch myself going in a different direction. I didn’t really fit the cookie cutter mold of a manager. I prefer longevity in my relationships. Once Soulfly started, I became very confident in myself. James Brown’s manager once told me to stop having my artist support or open for other acts, and I listened.

What’s next for you?

I have 3 records and 2 EP's coming out in the next 12 months. I will be doing two new record deals. Max and I are doing the bi-weekly Max Tracks, which is attracting a huge amount of fans, and connecting us with our tribe. While there is a break in touring, I am working on tours for 2021. We have our 9th grandchild coming in two weeks. I can’t say that I haven’t enjoyed being home for the 3rd summer in 25 years. I am going through our large archives of photos, lyrics, and gear. I haven’t had time for this since I can remember.

Lastly, what’s your go-to song or playlist right now?

I’ve been listening to the Healing Magic's EP, Restoration, and I can’t take it out.  I listen to the track, Nature’s Embrace, several times a day and sing it at the top of my lungs.

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