I wanted to be a rock star. At first. I mean I wasn’t bothered about big cars or big crowds but I wanted to make enough money out of writing & performing music to live off comfortably. That’s me in the photo by the way, I’m the right with the foppish hair.
As my twenties shot past me like a speeding train the supportive comments around me turned from “will you remember us when you’re famous?!” to “don’t be silly, you’re already successful!” And at 34 I look back on those conversations and can see they were largely a response to my state of mind as opposed to unsolicited statements about my position. I ranged (and still do) massively from self-confident to self-doubt.
When I left university I went straight into a recording studio and had a manager, we were bound for stardom…but it’s not that simple in the music world and whether it was down to taste or talent or lack of lucky breaks the big time eluded me over many more exciting and destroying false starts in the years that followed. Friends in the music industry quit their jobs because “there’s just no money in it anymore” and 3 years ago I heard one of my favourite new artists tell BBC 6music’s RadMac that they loved seeing their vinyl in record shops but couldn’t afford to buy it. The dream was over. At least I have a great job in the ‘real’ world that I really enjoy (most days, come on, I’m only human!!).
Can you see the wind dropping from my sails and the sails of thousands of other budding artists?!
Here’s the most important story. Last week I heard a band – Hookworms – on 6music talking live with Lauren Laverne. 6music loves these guys and has been playing them to death, they’re Big right now. And then…did I hear that right?…yep: they work full-time. Actual work. Jobs. My automatic first response was “told you, the dream is over” but then something else occurred to me:
Committing to a ‘real life’ job doesn’t mean you can’t be a successful artist.
On that day last week I got home and I picked my guitar up for the first time in ages and started writing, resurrecting old ideas and talking to my band again about what the future might look like.
My mum always told me & my sisters we could be whatever we wanted to be and in many ways that’s exactly what’s happened for me. But there’s more yet – more to achieve and more time in which to do it. This doesn’t apply only to music; I write blogs, I build watches, I travel… no one has told me I can’t make any one of these pastimes a success and no one can dictate how that ‘success’ should be measured.
So what happens next? I don’t know. But I’m writing music and recording it and I’m building watches and I’m loving it and my great real-world job seems bright and full of positivity. Real-world jobs don’t have to be a swear word or a hindrance; mine is a facilitator and it surrounds me with good people and inspiration and it’s suddenly GREAT again.
Hi. My name’s Tom and I’m a consultant for a big company. And I’m a professional musician. And I’m a smalltime watchmaker with big watchmaking plans… It’s nice to meet you.