When I consider my career to date, it certainly throws up many questions. I’m a very deep thinker. I realised this years ago! I endlessly kick ideas around, and I can of course be impulsive. I really do tend to ponder too much. This can be frustrating for those around me I am sure.
How much of the way we go about finding work, and the way our career has progressed to date is down to luck? How much is down to karma, the wind, events, whatever… and how much was truly down to planning? What truly makes me happy? These are very big questions. These are life questions… We come into this world without an owners manual, but it is incumbent on us to get it right - right now and right on each occasion.
Wrong - dead wrong! Life isn’t like that, life wasn’t meant to be like that. We have pressure to do the right thing - abide by the laws of the land, pay the bills, look after family, socialise with friends etc… But, we have total latitude to learn from our mistakes, and so with this in mind, I go from Dr Wayne Dyer’s line, “I have no desire to be better than my fellow man. I only have a desire for me to be better than I was yesterday”. For me, it this simple…
Is it possible to grow 1% per day in an area of your life? ‘If’ it were, is it possible to keep that going for around 3 months and say 10 days? What percentage improvement in that area do you believe you may find? Take a guess…
I have always wondered about what it means to truly ‘follow my heart as a musician’. Is following my heart, chasing the money, or is it actually following your true aspirations as an artist? Being a ‘Professional Musician’ by definition means that you have to create an income. This for most musicians is a total and utter stress… It has been, and is at times stressful for me too. I did at one stage get much into the scarcity mentality model massively “I have to do whatever it takes to make a buck”. There are lots of fantastic, and I mean genuine people out there, and as friends they will naturally be keen to offer support. But remember, this is offered from ‘their’ frame of reference and not yours. They have your best interests at heart and there may be a tie in where they are rewarded too, but forget them as far as your life plan goes. What do you want? How is your life designed? Many of us have been there in scarcity corner, and there is so much bravado surrounding this, no one truly knows where any one stands regarding security. I have been shocked on many occasions. But, do you know what? It doesn’t matter. Right now you matter. Your lives, your aspirations. This is the stuff that matters.
Think for a second, dream about what you in life would like? What is your vocation? What is right for you?
Would you like to take on the role of peripatetic teacher in a secondary school? - I did this briefly for a couple of months having left school. How about the thought of helping kids bash out chart hits on the drums and a few rudiments? Or, even bringing the wonderment of music delights to a group of disabled children. I know both of my drumming Uncles have experience in these areas. Secondary school teaching of an instrument was fun. I can honestly say that it was rewarding, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and… yes a little financially too. Not my long term goal personally, but I’m glad I gleaned that experience. It enriched me life and gave me understanding in areas that are really important to me today, particularly with reference to dealing with young people.
When we started out as musicians we all had dreams. For some it was to play music in the latest ‘pop’ group in a stadium/arena. Maybe as drummers we saw ourselves as the next Ringo Starr or Neil Peart? Or perhaps dream’t of a career in recording studios carving out a niche as the next Steve Gadd or Vinnie Colaiuta? I know my first thoughts of being a professional musician came from seeing a video of my Uncle Carl playing a drum solo in a big stadium in Montreal, Canada with Emerson, Lake and Palmer. I remember saying to my Father, “Dad, this is what I want to do” I was very, very fortunate on many levels to have had Parents that a) Understood musicians and b) Had the patience to transport me to the many rehearsals with bands and orchestras that I was fortunate enough to gain valuable experience performing with. I am very lucky, I am blessed totally within this regard. Some may say that having a famous drumming Uncle opened many doors for me? Well, it is a name that a lot of drummers will relate too, but it ultimately it comes down to your ability to cut it once the opportunity arises.
One of my Father’s favourite phrases was “luck is being prepared when the opportunity arises”.
What am I trying to say in the above?
I am trying to get across the point that many ‘music people’ see the ‘music business’ as just a pure business and somewhere along the line they forgot the real reason they got involved with music in the first place. Be true to yourself to me, really means having that balance in finding what artistically is fulfilling and what also enables me to sustain lifestyle. I love teaching and coaching people in the art of drums, from that various categories years ago, to my private practice today. As I alluded earlier, I find this tremendously rewarding. I do however have one big eye on the ball regarding the whole reason I got into drumming in the first place.
It wasn’t all about playing a drum solos in front of thousands of people, but rather more about ‘the music and the artform’. I love the creative outlet that music provides. I love the fact that I create music collectively. This for me is being true to myself. I love creativity, not so much to leave ‘my mark’ but to collectively create and add to the sum of the parts of the music. I was working on the second album a while back with the British band The Ghosts, and I really relished the totally creative space at Eve Studios in Manchester, England. The studio was a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of the most wonderful old synths, valve amps, microphones and the most mysterious, and beautiful niff naff and trivia. A creative person’s dream. I have turned down less working drummer opportunities and in fact the process forfeited income because because the artistic side wasn’t really working for me. I have a parallel career as an airline pilot for UK long haul airline Virgin Atlantic in order for me to survive financially and keep true to myself artistically at some points. That really does mean that I can accept the left field jazz gig if it so appeals. I have noticed that there are those who get too focussed on the financial side and seem to be very unhappy people. Those who get too obsessed in the fame department to me seem equally unhappy. As my late friend Jon Brookes (drummer with the Charlatans)once said to me “If you want to be famous, rob a bank!”. How perceptive those words are.
To sum up. I have found the happiest and most fulfilled musicians are those who are still in touch with their personaI reasons for starting out on this bumpy road as a musician. Those that seem ‘the most’ unhappy are those that get caught up in the classic red herrings, chasing the fame and fortune. All along you can in fact micro manage. Make the right decision each time through thought, direction and conviction. Be the humble guy, but be in touch with your dreams and make the decisions congruent with end in mind. Have Faith! Have faith that if you are good enough in all areas musically, personally, socially and spiritually, that rest will follow. It only ever can…
Focus on the music. Think music always... After all, this is the reason you are one if the chosen ones who can actually call themselves a musician.
Go on and do great things. Never die with the music still left in your heart and above all else.