Degrassi Alum Sarah Barrable-Tishauer (a.k.a. Liberty) Is Making Electronic Music More Inclusive

Photo: Lindsay Duncan
When you think of a one-time Degrassi cast member who is changing the music game, your mind probably goes to a certain "Hotline Bling" rapper. However, Drake isn't the only person from the Canadian soap you should have on your radar. Sarah Barrable-Tishauer, the actress who once portrayed school prez Liberty Van Zandt, is making major strides in electronic music — and she's not just doing it for herself. Now 29, Sarah Barrable-Tishauer is a DJ who wants to make electronic music more inclusive.
A Concordia University graduate (like Liberty, she earned a spot at the top of her class), Barrable-Tishauer majored in communication studies and marketing, and currently works as an account manager at a marketing agency. (She was inspired by Degrassi's ahead-of-the-curve marketing campaign, which included a MySpace-like social network which gave all of the Degrassi students virtual "lockers.")
However, while she may be a marketing maven by day, the one-time actress also moonlights as a DJ — a move she made after friends continually complimented her mixes and musical taste. Working under the name Me Time, Barrable-Tishauer performs at various events, including a monthly show called Home Brew, which takes place at Toronto's Supermarket Bar.
I spoke with Barrable-Tishauer about her musical aspirations and what she wants the world to know about electronic music, festivals, and the women of the DJ booth.
(Oh, and this Degrassi stan couldn't resist sneaking in a few questions about her favorite Canadian drama.)
How did you get involved with music?
"Since I was young, music has always been a really important and huge part of my life. I've always gone to a lot of concerts, and I really love going to festivals. I was always the person at the parties who would plug in their iPod or whatever and people started asking me 'Oh, are you a DJ? Are you a musician?' and I was like 'No, just kind of a natural passion.' Then, about a year or maybe two years ago, [I thought] 'Yeah, maybe I should get some DJ equipment, play around. That could be fun.' I go to see DJ shows all the time and I know all this music and I collect all this music. It would be cool to share it with people in a more official way.
"I think a friend had asked me to DJ their New Year's party or something – or play the music there – and I was like 'Oh, that'd be fun if I had more of a set up.' So, I got that, spent about a year, just kind of playing around. Then, on my birthday, a year ago, July 5th, I played my first show at a club in Toronto. I absolutely loved it and I got such amazing feedback from people.
How do you balance your full-time job with your musical aspirations?
"I'm balancing both [my job as an account manager] and I'd love, in the future, to be able to merge my two passions a bit more. Whether I DJ more regularly or also maybe be involved in planning events or marketing for DJs. That kind of thing.
"You can probably imagine having a nine to five job and also DJing until 3 a.m. is kind of a difficult thing to balance, so I've just tried to keep my gigs on weekends and just a couple times of month because I just don't have a lot of time... So, it's kind of like I live this dual life Marketing by day, bass by night, but I'm really loving it. I think it's a lot of pressure if you're trying to DJ full time, so I'm really lucky that I'm trying to be more selective with what I wanna do."

Forever in the groove // Birthday bass at @basslinetoronto ?

A post shared by Sarah Barrable-Tishauer (@djmetime) on

Have you faced any challenges as a woman in electronic music?
"I really believe a lot about creating inclusive places and promoting female DJs and queer DJs and people who are really excluded from that space. I think, for some reason, in all other areas of music, women have been able to infiltrate it more, but electronic music is extremely male-dominated. I feel really strongly about just looking up the line ups at festivals I go to and seeing that women are never headliners. They usually make up 5% of the line up or something like that. Not even close to half.
"I also support a local initiative in Toronto called Intersessions. Their mandate is to make people aware of female, femme-identifying and queer DJs, have workshops, and try to create opportunities for each other because those opportunities are not easily given to us. We want to, basically, create spaces where we can be heard. I feel like it's an important time and there's a lot of change that's happening, but I wanna keep pushing that."
What women do you currently look up to in electronic music?
"Well, one of my biggest Anna Lunoe. The media made this big deal because she was [seemingly] the first DJ to be pregnant while on tour. I think the reason she’s seen as the 'first pregnant DJ' has more to do with the fact that female DJs are lesser known, less respected, and less publicized than their male counterparts. It systemic. She’s not the first pregnant DJ, I’m sure she’s just the first female DJ known well enough for the media to make a story about it. And that’s problematic.
"She's very active in talking about it and calling festivals out. She recently posted a picture on Instagram of this huge picture in Vegas of all the people with residencies at one of the big hotels there and they're all men. I just don't think people really think about it."
Have you experienced any kind of discrimination as an artist?
"We all experience that kind of discrimination, even like when we're playing, having sound engineers talk down to us. So, I think, as female DJs, we really push to know even more than we need to about the pure, technical part behind it because I do think people naturally think we don't understand that stuff. There's not more female DJs because we have none to look up to. I think that if young girls are only seeing men doing that job, they don't really think that it's something that they can do. So, I hope that we build those role models more and more and we see women be closer to 50% of lineups for music festivals or for residencies."
What kind of brand do you want to create with DJ Me Time?
"The brand I’m trying to cultivate around Me Time has a lot to do with something that women can bring to this space. A perspective beyond testosterone-fueled parties that are often not safe-spaces women and LGBTQ. I really want to expand to talk about self-care, self-love. A lot about nurturing yourself and how that makes you better in your journey...Talking about self-care in the states' music festivals or concerts or whatever where people can often lose themselves. Not respect themselves, their body, the people around them. That's kind of where Me Time came from.
"So, wherever I play, we’ll put up signs to call out that discrimination of any form is not tolerated. Too long have certain groups had to feel uncomfortable because the space was not ‘made for them’ or didn’t ‘tolerate them’. We’re turning the tables. These are spaces that anyone should be able to come and be completely themselves and not feel like they have to be someone else, which I think happens a lot in clubs and festival environments where people feel like they have to put on different face or something."
What do you think some music festivals can change so that they are a better experience for everyone?
"There's just a lot of things that I think bigger festivals can do to mitigate a lot of risk that they put on their patrons. Like not easily having access to water when you're expecting people to be outside all day and you're charging $8 for a bottle of water and not giving people the lid to the bottle so that they can't refill it themselves. That's destructive instead or restorative. I think there's a lot of things that can be done at big festivals. A lot of things that people should know about festivals that can be a really positive thing.
"Why I, personally, fell in love with electronic music going to university in Montreal where there's amazing electronic music theme was that not everyone turned toward the DJ. People were turned toward each other and having dance circles and meeting each other, talking to people, and interacting that way. So, I think a lot of that friendship can be cultivated that way. I was just reading – [the festival] Shambhala has a missed connections Facebook page – and there are so many amazing posts on there like 'I danced with your crew. You were all wearing flamingo shirts. I danced with you all afternoon. You were so awesome. I'm sad I didn't get to get your numbers. Please reach out and we can meet up again.' I think that's really cool. I don't think that really happens in a lot of other places. There's not really as much interacting with people around you. You're just focused on the stage. But DJs, there's not as much going on. I always encourage people to turn around, have your back to them. It's not like you have to watch what's going on. You can be looking around and seeing that's going on with other people."
Have you stayed in touch with many of your fellow Degrassi alumni?
"I think it's kind of mixed. It's like your high school friends where you went through a lot together and, of course, we all still hold those memories dear. When we see each other, like when we did the reunion episode, it was really awesome to get to see everybody. We can act, but everyone's got in so many different directions. Like, Miriam [McDonald] is now a real estate agent, Christina [Schmidt] is a model now. Everyone's in their own niche, whatever they're doing. It was really nice to connect with Christina, Chrissy, again. I hadn't seen her in probably like 10 years.
"I actually just recently made contact with Ryan [Cooley] again for the first time. I hadn't talked to him in a long time. I think it's like you went to school with or elementary school with. Once you make that reconnection, it's really nice. I don't actively see anyone, but we certainly catch up from time to time. We're all super busy doing different things."
You appeared on an episode of season 2 of Degrassi: Next Class, your original show's Netflix spin-off. Would you go back to do another reunion episode?
"Yeah, I think it would be really fun. The reunion we had was really fun...Even just from behind the scenes, a lot of the crew is the same. It was really nice just to see everyone after so much time."
Do you have a favorite Degrassi memory?
"I think, from what I remember, we had the most fun on [the Degrassi: Next Generation] set with [the prom episode]. We had Natasha Bedingfeld sing at it. That was a super fun episode. Very rarely – even though all of our character lived within the same universe – very rarely did we overlap days. With the two age groups, we would often separate shooting at separate times. I mainly saw the [people in the younger group]...All of us were on set together and it was a late night and really fun.
"I'm glad [Degrassi] still resonates. I think even when we were picking up from the old Degrassi, there's just always these things that kids are going through and they generally don't get talked about. Degrassi is the antithesis to shows more like The O.C. or 90210 where they're more glamorizing young people's lives and not talking about the very real and adult things that happen to young people...I know that I've had a lot of good responses where people are like 'Thank you so much for talking about this.'
"I actually just got an Instagram message just moments before I talked to you from a girl who has watched one of the episodes about when I give my child up for adoption and she was saying that from watching that – she's adopted – she realized that's it's actually probably hard for her parents to give her up and that spurred her to want to go meet her birth parents. So, she wanted to thank me for portraying that because she's never thought of that side before. Stuff like that is kind of cool. [The show] is still influencing real people's lives."
Head over to SoundCloud to check out Me Time's mixes.

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