Erica Ehm on the importance of values, the charm of Kawartha Lakes, and surviving on an alien planet

Lunch with Roderick Benns: Conversations with interesting people in Kawartha Lakes

By Roderick Benns

Erica Ehm relaxes with Snoop Dog at her cottage on Pleasant Point, north of Lindsay. Photo: Sienna Frost.

When one is having lunch with Erica Ehm, one needs a memorable opening question. (Or at least this one does.)

Ehm, of course, is Canadian rock royalty by virtue of her time at MuchMusic. She was only 20 when she started at Much, and 23 when she went on air. Her decade in front of the camera ensured her status as Canada’s most beloved VJ of all time, thanks to an undeniable trifecta of courageous interviewing, made-for-camera attractiveness, and a disarming personality that put people at ease.

Many locals do not realize she now has a four-season cottage on Pleasant Point just north of Lindsay, which she bought during COVID.

Ehm had fun figuring out who she would pick from her circle to help survive a crash on an alien world. Image by Simon Marino.

So, you’re in a starship and you run into trouble,” I begin. “Your ship crashes on an alien world. What three people do you want to have with you, out of friends and colleagues, to help you survive and possibly find a way to get off the planet? Oh, and at least one of those people must be from Kawartha Lakes.”

It was striking how quickly she answered this question, as if she had been waiting for this query her whole life.

My neighbour, George Baillie, who is the kindest, most capable person I know,” is her first answer. He’s in his mid-70s, but it turns out the Kawartha Lakes resident was a mechanical engineer. So it’s more than just a sentimental answer – Ehm is serious about eventually getting off that planet.

She also picks her girlfriend, Andrea Loewen Nair, who lives in London, ON. “She’s from northern Manitoba and she’s kick-ass. She’s really handy and knows how to survive.”

Lastly Ehm chooses another girlfriend, Jen Reynolds, who is the editor of Harrowsmith Magazine. “She knows how to grow anything and so she could keep us fed. And safe – she knows all the plants.”

I get the feeling Ehm, 61, is happy to have the conversation begin in a Star Trek kind of way, given she was “obsessed with Star Trek’s Captain Jean Luc Picard.”

I loved how righteous, kind and leadership oriented his character was.”

Righteousness, kindness, values…it’s clear throughout our lunch together at The Pie Eyed Monk in Lindsay that these are the things that animate Ehm above all else.

Erica Ehm walking her dog along Jessie’s Avenue. Photo: Sienna Frost.

Music memories

Ehm was only 21 when she started at MuchMusic, and 23 when she went on air. But the female face of rock and pop music in Canada was not a party girl, even back then. She was all about the music.

Even before Much, she was DJ’ing at nightclubs and working at record stores in Montreal, from age 17. Ehm remembers when a new Irish band called U2 was playing their first-ever gig in Montreal to support their debut album, Boy.

I was DJ’ing at that club where they played and I loved them. I met the band and Bono and I chatted. He said, ‘you should be in PR’ but I didn’t know what that was then.”

Then Ehm saw U2 in Ottawa the following night. “I got home at 3 am, slept in, and got fired from Sam The Record Man.”

A few months later, U2 was playing in Toronto. Ehm and a girlfriend drove to Toronto from Montreal to see them. “They had given me their phone number of the hotel they were staying at. A lot of the bands appreciated that I was such a fan but not a groupie. Just an enthusiastic girl who wanted to be a part of the business.”

Ehm, around the same age as U2’s members, says they hung out after the concert, and she drove them around in her mom’s yellow Firebird. Bono and the boys put Ehm and her girlfriend up in their hotel, as the two young women had made no plans to spend the night in Toronto, not realizing how far apart the Big Smoke and the City of Saints were.

They were such nice guys. I sensed there was something different about them. About their values. They were so earnest.”

Ehm and I decide we’ll order pizza, which is never a bad choice at the Monk. Hers, mushroom, with a Perrier to drink. Mine, Hawaiian, with an iced tea.

The ex-VJ and savvy businessperson radiates a deep kindness and the sort of empathy one only finds rarely. And yet there’s a strength there, too – the kind of quiet resolve that can make good things happen in life, both for oneself and others.

Born Erica Miechowsky, she says “Ehm” has somehow slipped through into being a quasi-official surname, given the Ehm name is on her passport.

Ehm brings up her cottage a lot, but in an appreciative sort of way – especially the folks who live on Pleasant Point.

I love it here! I’m here throughout the year, but just not full time,” she explains, given Toronto is where most of the work is. However, she does a lot virtually these days, too. “If I can work from my boathouse deck, with the sound of waves hitting my dock, it’s really heaven.”

From her Pleasant Point cottage, she wrote and helped direct an international musical series, Outta the Books, a reimagining of Fairy Tales. Meant to be for the Edinburgh Theatre Fringe Fest, the pandemic forced Erica to pivot and rewrite the show as a YouTube series from her cottage.

I like to create. It’s what wakes me up. I like to collaborate with people, and to see my ideas come to life,” says Ehm, in between pizza bites.

Erica Ehm. Photo: Sienna Frost.

Born in Montreal, Ehm grew up in Hudson, Quebec, on a horse farm about 30 minutes from the largest city in La Belle Provence. Her father was a dressage rider.

My sister and I were horrified,” she remembers, about leaving the city behind. And yet it was her time in Hudson – its serenity – that created the sense of longing for her to leave Toronto and “find a place that made me feel like I was home.”

All her friends immediately thought – “oh, so you’re going to Muskoka?”

And I said absolutely not – there’s nothing I like about Muskoka. Especially the vibe. So pretentious. I have no interest. I wanted rolling hills, nice people, comfortable, casual, down-to-earth. And that’s what I found here in Lindsay and in my Pleasant Point area, and in nearby Bobcaygeon.”

She adds it’s also way more affordable here, than Muskoka, “which is crazy because it’s way better,” she says with a laugh.

When her mother died, she left Ehm some money and that’s what made it possible for her to find her “happy place.”

I found it online. It was beautiful and out of my budget. But I went to see it anyway.”

She loved it but moved on, since it was not in her price range. Four to 6 weeks later, she got an email from the real estate website. “I must have ticked a box that said keep me in the loop if there are any developments — and the price had dropped significantly.”

She took this as a sign and brought a different real estate agent with her. The agent said, “I’m bringing papers, I think you’re going to buy it.”

I saw some neighbours there, outside, and I told them I was thinking about buying it. A man said, ‘come on over we’ll tell you everything you need to know.’ He handed me a glass of wine.” (It was George, who will help her get off that alien planet!) and his wife, Lynn.

He told me, ‘I just want you to know that you’re not just buying a house.’” Ehm does her best to hold back tears at this point. “He said, ‘You’re buying a community of people who care.’”

At which point I started bawling,” Ehm recalls. And then she found out her cottage has a right-of-way path called Jessie’s Avenue – “and my daughter’s name is Jessie.”

(In addition to Jessie, Ehm also has a son, Josh, both with Terry Moshenberg.)

The realtor was right. Ehm bought the cottage that day. She walked Jessie Avenue and talked to the neighbours along the way, feeling immediately connected. “I have more interactions here than I do in Toronto, more of a community, than I do in Toronto.”

Her local councillor, Ron Ashmore, has been out to see her. “He’s so passionate to serve,” she said.

After her time at Much, Ehm went on to co-write a catalogue of songs and launched a record label, earning Junos and several songwriting awards. In the early 2000s she co-produced, wrote and hosted the TV series Yummy Mummy, a lifestyle program for the modern mom. It can still be found on Amazon Prime and was syndicated globally.

Then she founded YMC (, an influential digital space for Canadian moms, where she connected brands with her audience. YMC grew into a profitable business, fueled by social media creators. She sold it to Toys R Us last year.

Now, Erica is pumped to be doing more speaking, moderating and hosting events. She loves to motivate entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs to adopt a success mindset, as she recently did when she spoke to about 50 people (by far, mostly women) at Launch Kawartha in Lindsay in June.

(Launch Kawartha is led by Vince Killen, the executive director of the Kawartha Lakes Community Futures Development Corporation. It was designed to help business owners in the region access the local business ecosystem and contribute to a growing community of entrepreneurs.)

Vince is a force of nature and so positive and kind. I felt we were really aligned,” says Ehm. Her talk on courageous leadership was relevant for all entrepreneurs, she pointed out, “but sometimes women need to hear it more, because women are taught to be small and not speak up.”

Ehm said she loves pushing people in a positive way to be fearless and “ask for what you want.”

Everyone needs that reminder. It’s even hard for me to sell things sometime. Everyone experiences failure.”

(As one of the few men in the audience, this scribe can attest it was well received. Ehm has an uncanny ability to involve her audience and inspire bold action.)

Taking a reading break with her loyal companion. Photo: Sienna Frost.

Ideally speaking

Ehm exudes idealism, something she doesn’t deny.

And I try to surround myself with people who have the same values as me. I’m not religious at all, but I do onto others as I hope they’d do to me. I live my life like that.”

She says for her, anything she does is somehow tied to empathy. “How can I make the world better for other people? I’m a grateful person and it’s nice to be able to help other people if you have something to give. It lights me up.”

No wonder, then, she loves her place on Pleasant Point, where people like George and Lynn and so many others she mentioned seem to feel the same way.

They are people with shared values who ended up in the same place.”

What Ehm is looking forward to now is getting more connected to other Kawartha Lakes communities and learning more about what the whole area has to offer – other than the grocery stores, the only places she could go during COVID.

Of course, the creative urges never stop for her, either. She’s already thinking what her next job could be, maybe even with a local focus.

I would love to program the Academy Theatre one day. I would love to be able to bring theatre and music to their stage,” pointing out that so many of her colleagues are artists, musicians, actors and directors.

As we’re wrapping up, Vertigo by U2 comes on over the Monk’s speaker system.

You hear that? That’s not a coincidence. Values are everything.”


  1. Mike Piggott says:

    Hey would would to have her on the board and part of the team at the theatre
    Please have her contact the box office, our manager Craig or myself
    Mike Piggott

  2. A lovely tribute to a new resident of Kawartha Lakes. Welcome to Erica!

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