Photo by Morgen Schuler•—————————————————–•As PR Manager/“Special Ops” at One Reel, best known

Photo by Morgen Schuler


As PR Manager/“Special Ops” at One Reel, best known for organizing the annual Bumbershoot festival, Barbara Mitchell gives new meaning to the idea of wearing many professional hats. She loads up on extra scarves and gloves, too.

A Fresno native, Mitchell came to Seattle in 1996 via the highways and back roads of the rock scene. Hopping among L.A., Portland, and Australia for months and years at a time, managing publicity for numerous record labels like Slash, World Domination, and Triple X, she formed lasting relationships with members of bands including the Posies, Mudhoney, and Screaming Trees. Her CV includes managing communications for design group Poster Giant and Internet radio station Jet City Stream. She also fits in other gigs when she has time, including past freelance music writing for NPR, The Oregonian, the Portland Tribune, and The Stranger. (She even founded a short-lived record label, Roslyn Records, with Mudhoney’s Steve Turner.) Today she also does backstage work for Ripe Catering and Tom Douglas.

When we spoke last month, Mitchell chatted about accompanying Mudhoney on its recent Australian tour—a rare vacation, she says: “I was just hanging out.” Our chat is squeezed between a lunch meeting and a coffee date (no big deal, just with Wu-Tang’s people). At the same time she’s planning a pre-Bumbershoot show at the Chihuly Cafe, followed by a set of local comedy at the Rendezvous.

Mitchell waxes philosophical about her One Reel job titles—and her broader role in Seattle. “I felt if I kept my title solely to PR, people wouldn’t understand the full scope of my job, which is the opportunity to take ideas and see where I can go with them.”

After freelancing for One Reel since 2011, Mitchell joined its full-time staff last year, bringing her wealth of connections and warm, self-effacing vibe not just to Bumbershoot, but to events like the Seattle City of Music Career Day. She’s also been organizing casual meet-ups among creative professionals in all disciplines who might not otherwise rub shoulders. Her goal: to strengthen Seattle’s creative community. Everyone from celebrated writers like Lindy West to KEXP DJs and arts reps from the Mayor’s office have attended. (You can only imagine what her digital Rolodex looks like.)

“I’m a big a fan of knowing the people behind the e-mail address. A lot of opportunities can be created when people actually get together,” Mitchell explains. “I started coming to Seattle in 1993 when I was working with [the band] Sky Cries Mary. The arts scene was interconnected. It was an awesome group of people.” Without such constant networking, she says, “I wouldn’t actually have ended up meeting a lot of people who are close friends now.”

Unsurprisingly, her friends say the same. “One time a band made me write a bio for them several times and then refused to pay me,” says Chris Estey of Big Freak Media. “Barbara tracked them down and shook the fee out for me. If she gives you advice, listen to it. If you want to do anything in the music business, consider her a spiritual mentor. Don’t ask to pick her brain—pay her a big consulting fee for the best advice you will ever get.”

Betsy Bolte, former publicist for Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg, is no less effusive. “She’s experienced, knowledgeable, and her commitment to the arts community is inspiring,” she says. “She’s superb at what she does—and a multitasking pro who believes in connecting people in the industry.”

With Bumbershoot less than a month away, Mitchell’s inexhaustible drive is now humming even faster. “The incredibly fun thing is to see everyone else get excited” about the Labor Day festival, she says. “I think that’s what really draws me to event and backstage work: being part of the team that makes something happen. There are so many creative people in Seattle, and it’s awesome to be around them.”

Read all of our picks for Arts & Culture, and explore the rest of this year’s edition of Best of Seattle.