When I was five years old I asked Mum and Dad if I could have a piano in the house. We didn’t have any room for on nor was there enough money to buy one in the first place but that was okay with me… I still had my imagination to play with.
All through my primary school years I was writing stories and poems plus, making up songs to go with the poems and drawing pictures to go with the stories. Back then I was an unstoppable ball of creative energy.
It wasn’t until I reached high school though that my interest in music really came to the forefront. The school I went to had a very good music program which I was most keen about and it was there that I could really begin to immerse myself in all things musical.
My chosen instrument to learn was saxophone (it was a pretty cool instrument to play in 1983) however, they were all snapped up by other students so the next best thing to learn was apparently the clarinet, which I continued to play until I left high school in 1987.
Most of my recess and lunch times were spent hanging around the music room practising my clarinet and teaching myself piano. It was an environment in which I really felt I belonged to and through music theory lessons I was introduced to sheet music, manuscript paper, treble/bass clefs and a vast array of notes to play with.
Around about that same time, I wrote my first song after my best friend Andrew showed me an “A” chord on an old nylon stringed classical guitar which was given to me on my 13th birthday by my Dad, perhaps to compensate not providing me with a piano all those years ago and having the ability to teach myself guitar at home allowed me to take music home with me after the school day.
Add to that the thrill of writing a new song with each discovery of a new chord and my life was pretty much complete. All of my school friends were budding musicians, my whole life at that time seemed to be revolved around music, it couldn’t get any better than that.
When I left high school music became something that allowed me to escape the day to day pressures of living. Music made my growing up into a young adult a more tolerable experience.
I started up bands which seemed to endlessly rehearse but never played any gigs and at the same time picked up the bass because I could never find a bass player for these endlessly rehearsing bands.
Wherever I was working at the time I’d carry around a small notebook and pen and scrawl down song lyrics and songwriting ideas at every opportunity. I spent the rest of the time daydreaming what it would be like to play music professionally… That was my idea of Heaven on Earth and it was my goal to find it.
My first taste of being a professional musician came in 1994 when I joined a band that was on it’s way to Sydney. We went there in convoy with swirling romantic notions in our heads of making it big, bolstered by the fact that the biggest band agency in Sydney at the time had decided to put us on their books.
We decided that nothing would stop us. “We’ll play as a cover band to get some money coming in then we’ll start an originals band afterwards” we said to ourselves, “yeah sure, we’ll be able to do both.”
After being shunted around every corner of Sydney playing in every shitty dive you could ever imagine, the agency dropped us after a year on their books. We didn’t know this but at the time but we were “that band from Adelaide” that played the venues that no-one else wanted to play at.
With no real Plan B in place and poverty knocking at our door, the band split.
It was at that time I gave up playing music and tried to have a go at living in Sydney as a “normal person.” Four years later, and after some sort of nervous breakdown I came back to Adelaide in 1999 with my tail between my legs and the dark cloud of shame and failure hanging over my head.
Even in those really dark times, music never left my side. It would knock on my door but I just wouldn’t let it in. After a few months of not leaving the house (I was living with Mum and Dad at the time) I decided that I’d had enough of this wallowing and that not having music in my life was like living my life with an amputated limb.
The next time music knocked on my door, I opened it and embraced it with open arms and from that moment on my life became a process of rebuilding.
I was still working day jobs but I was also in bands that now had some drive and determination and were wanting to go somewhere. I started to find myself in situations that turned into great opportunities for advancing my music career.
In 2006 I had another opportunity to really make a go at playing music professionally. “Yes it’s a cover band” I said to myself, “but still, I’ll be doing nothing else.”
So, I ran with it and FIGJAM was born. We got our demos together, got out and about and networked like crazy, we played everywhere and for the first time in my life I felt that I was in control of my musical direction plus, I was making a living out of what I loved.
I was a self employed, professional musician.
Even though I was doing what I loved at the time, I still came across the same type of ungrateful, difficult, tight-fisted and clueless client/customer that you hear about but think “Nah, I’m a musician, that won’t happen to me.”
As the years went by and the novelty of being a professional (cover) musician wore thin, I started to realise that in my drive to make a living out of music by playing covers I was forgetting the real reason why I wanted to play music in the first place.
I was starting to burn out.
There were however, some bright lights during this time. I finished and released my debut CD “Seeing Stars” in 2012, I made the decision to start building a home recording studio so I can do all my future recordings in-house and I got married.
But all in all, it was decided that FIGJAM would wind up at the end of 2015 and in the vacuum left by that decision I had given myself some time to think. I realised that I had made pretty much the same mistakes that I made in Sydney all those years ago.
I realised that I didn’t have any balance in my life anymore and that trying to play covers to fund your own music is not as easy as you might think.
So where am I now? Well, I’m doing a lot more songwriting and recording plus collaborating with other songwriters and getting myself reacquainted with my blogging through this site as well as my other two blogs All About Songwriting and All About Music Business with more sites to be launched down the track.
Apart from the very occasional live gig here and there (if they land in my lap) I’m still taking a long break from performing and I’m happy with that at the moment. I’ll be back on stage when I start missing the gigs.
Have I come full circle? Well, I’m not sure but I’m looking at where I am and what I’m doing musically with a fresh pair of eyes and ears and that’s got to be a good thing.
What I will say though is that despite everything that has happened in my life so far, it’s comforting to know that music has never let me down, its always been there to pick me up, dust me off and be the means for me to get on with my life.
I would hate to think of who I am and where I would be if I didn’t have music in my life. It’s been there for me for as long as I remember and now, I just want to work on being true to myself and my chosen craft so I can create a way in which I can honour and repay the muse.
And repay her I will… In full.