Recently I had the honour of being questioned about my music for a high school student's English assignment. It forced me to sit down and reflect on my journey as a musician and songwriter since I started taking it seriously in high school all those years ago. I actually really appreciated the opportunity to reflect on the journey so much that I thought I would share my thoughts here.
What inspired you to start playing music?
My sister had a guitar she was learning on and she taught me a few of the things she was learning, I really enjoyed it and ended up taking some lessons myself. What kept me inspired right at the very start was all the encouragement I would get from my classmates. As a quiet, shy teenager, music gave me something that made me feel unique, valued, and seen. Of course, my sources of inspiration have changed a lot over the years but that was what kept me interested at a young age (around 13-14).
Were there any challenges you faced when writing the Liquid Life EP? If so, what were they?
The biggest challenge I faced was finishing a song. As a songwriter I am forever tweaking lyrics, melodies, etc, even after a song is recorded and released. As I grow as an artist and a human being, sometimes I feel the need to adapt songs - to add depth or emotion or remove parts that really don't sit well with me any more, or even just to make them more interesting to play live. On the flip side, sometimes it is important to preserve the songs as they are, as a reflection of my growth or that point in time. So I guess I never feel like a song is finished - even if I am finished with it, someone else in the world may decide to make their own version of it and then the song takes on a whole new life (for example, see the Revisionist History episode on "Hallelujah"). The only songs I was truly happy with at the time of releasing the EP were "Sticks & Stones" and "For Love". In hindsight I should've listened to my instinct and sat on the EP for longer, to allow time for those songs to develop more. Maybe I should go back and revisit those songs...
While studying at EXCEL School of Performing Arts what was the hardest thing to overcome?
The most difficult thing at EXCEL was definitely feeling inadequate. I went from a small high school in a small town where my identity was based around being the guy who writes/sings/produces music, to a school literally full of people who were also amazingly talented at all of the above. It was incredibly inspiring but also very difficult, I was very discouraged as I compared myself to the other singers who all had much better voices than me (at least that's how I saw it). I wouldn't say that I've overcome that, as it is something I still struggle with today, but I am definitely learning to not compare myself with others and to discover and celebrate what makes me unique as an artist. When I started at EXCEL my vocal skills were pretty average but I learnt to instead focus on my strength in songwriting, which is where I really excelled (pun intended). Over time I've learnt that it is my personality, my life experience, the fact that nobody else sounds like I do - these things are what make my music special. There are people that my music will impact because of the aspects that make me unique from the cookie-cutter record-label-crafted singers out there. Realising and reminding myself daily that musical success is not about money and popularity but depth of connection and impact helps me continue to overcome these struggles every day. Quality over quantity ;)
What is one of your hobbies other than music?
Another hobby I have that has developed a lot in recent years is photography (on film). There are many overlapping aspects but the act of creating and is very different. In both you need to know your equipment (guitar, vocal technique, camera) and use that to portray an emotion, situation, person, idea, story that might otherwise be overlooked. Both, for me, come from a place of reflection, and while the act of writing/performing/recording a song is more crafted portrayal, photography is a much more immediate (sometimes subconscious) portrayal that can only be captured in a fraction of a second. Since I have young kids (1 and 3) carrying a camera around is currently a bit easier to do than to lock myself away in a studio for a few hours!
When writing music, what is the hardest thing to do?
The hardest thing for me now, when writing music, is to not second guess myself, and to allow myself to get lost in the act. As I had more success with my songs I found myself focusing on what I think people will like when I write. But in reality good art is confronting, it doesn't pander to what people want to hear. That can still be musical and creative but to me it is not the point of art, I want my art to move people and to make the world a more beautiful place by inspiring and challenging people to love. I have recently stopped writing completely as everything I was coming up with was rubbish, because of the pressure I was putting on myself to write something 'good'. I'm going to be working on some covers of songs that hold a lot of meaning for me, as an attempt to go back to the beginning and discover the pure joy of music again. A lot of the pressure I had put on myself revolves around the fact that many 'successful' musicians and songwriters these days seem to peak at like 21yrs (hello Ed Sheeran, all the Disney stars, Taylor Swift, and many many other artists). Again I was comparing myself to them and thinking I was missing the boat on musical 'success'. But that isn't the case at all. As I reconsider what 'success' really means, I look forward to a life full of successfully making connections with people through the art that I make.