Are you a star or a journeyman?

In my early days as a professional musician (I would have been in my mid-late 20s), I got a gig with a colleague of mine written about in these pages before – Eddie Lee. We had to go into a class of 16 year-olds in one of the local schools to play some music and talk about how we made music work for us as a career. Eddie had (and still has) worked as a musician for longer than I had, and so I think I was learning as much from his insights as the students were.

I remember his central point that day being that you don’t have to be a star to make a living as a musician. There are lots of ways to do so, and if you are committed to it you can make it work.

I was reminded of this while listening to Studio Time, a brand-new podcast from an Australian friend of mine, Matthew Carey. Matthew’s guest on Episode 1 is Tim Henwood, a guitarist, songwriter and producer.

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I had never heard of Tim before, but his story drew me in immediately. He is not a household name, even in his home country of Australia, but as he says himself, he has had tremendous success over the years – i.e. he gets to write and play his own songs, gets to play with some amazing musicians, and supports his family through music. Most recently he has played guitar on the Australian production of Mamma Mia and fronts the rock/blues band Palace of the King.

He is passionate, smart, engaging, funny and in my eyes he has a great philosophy on music and how he makes it work for him. I would recommend you listen to this podcast. If you can’t, here are some of his central points.

  • Work with young people where possible. They bring an energy and a purity to gigs and projects that is more difficult to find in older musicians.
  • When reflecting, sometimes it’s good to give yourself a pat on the back. Think back to your 16 year-old self, and what he/she would think of all the cool stuff you have gotten to do musically.
  • When starting a project, commit yourself to it. Make the hard choices.
  • Bring a serious work ethic to your musical endeavours (Tim trained to be a carpenter before becoming a full-time musician and learned what real hard work looked like there).
  • Be grateful for the opportunities you are given.
  • Look to create a body of work.
  • Be a decent bloke.

Matthew finished the interview with a quote from an article written by the well-known music pundit and philosopher Bob Lefsetz, in which he compares a star musician to a journeyman musician. It is on the same subject as the above, and as Tim would say, it is gold – read it here.

Most musicians are journeymen, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t stars in the eyes of many people.

 

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