...that all you ever wanted to do with your life was create music? Like a lot of my friends and collegues and maybe even you, I was unsure of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life at one point - this is how I got my answer...
Music heads, interviewers, friends, family and usually clients will eventually ask how long you've been a professional doing what you do and I rarely have an answer that I'm satisfied with as the truth. My official answer as a music producer is since I went to University in 2011, or sometimes when I studied music in college in 2009 but I was making music way way way before either of these dates. I've always taken my musical ability, like most creative people, for granted. It was never something I considered myself passionate about - just something I was able to do well and enjoyed doing.
The first thing one of my mentors (Raj Kotecha) ever asks anyone who doesn't know what they are passionate about is "what is your 4am subject." A simple concept question put to anyone who doesn't know what they are passionate about... what can you tell me about in depth at 4am? Why 4.. well, 3am - you're probably leaving a club... 5am - you're waking up early so that's cheating but 4am?! Ha... good luck talking about something you're not interested in at 4am.
I never understood the power of the question until my first year at University.
On the first day we were given access to the smallest studios in the building it felt like Chistmas. Myself and my friend George stared at an empty booking screen as our successful introduction to the smaller consoles and miking techniques drew to a close. George looked at me and asked if we should do an all nighter... what..? Spend all night in a freezing room with the A/C too low, no food, no change of clothes, in front of thousands of pounds worth of equipment I can barely use yet and then go to lectures first thing in the morning?! Sure, why not. We hesitantly booked out two studios all night and fell in love with the experience.
Fast forward a few more weeks in and by this time we'd passed our studio exam and were now allowed to record within the studios for our production 1 assignments. Myself and George had teamed up to do our seperate projects together using each other as assistants. George being a very able drummer not only player the role of engineer but musician as well. Our first couple of sessions went horribly as we got to grips with recording drums with elaborate mic set ups, technical misunderstandings and generally being newbys at the whole process. If I recal correctly it took us 60 hours of recording to nail George's track and that was just the drums.
I'm sure none of this strikes you as something that'd inspire passion but wait for it...
I'd chosen to do a live cover of I'm On One - Drake for my assignment which was insanely complex and we had a lot of trouble getting the drums right. By the time I'd got around to my project I'd been drum tracking every night for 3 weeks with very little sleep and we'd barely made a start on my assignment. Half way though the second week I'd fallen fairly ill and it was getting worse, I had been assisting other assignments and making no progress on my own, I was tired and hadn't eaten a proper meal for over a 2 weeks and all I had in my system for the most part was a litre of Boost energy drink and a weird tasting tesco sandwhich or worse... a pasta with a yellow reduced label over the packaging. I'd go from afternoon lectures filled with electronics and math or physics straight into the studio until early morning, rest for 2 or 3 hours and then repeat. It finally caught up to me HARD.
I made the decision to come home on Wednesday night after countless nights of recording. The minute I stepped into my bedroom everything hit me. My mind turned off auto pilot, my legs ached and my knees felt as though a knife was lodged in the socket, my body had been ignoring its pain up until now and on tops of this sleep deprivation had gotten too much for me to handle. I didn’t know what to react to first, all I remember doing is bursting into tears; physically I’d never felt more run down and my mind had not been more worn.
I should have rested. A regular person would have called in sick at 20% of this - that much I was sure of. I was happy to be home until the realisation set in and a reminder went off on my phone. Studio: TASCAM booked at 3AM – 8AM. Prior to leaving the studio I’d left George and another friend of mine, Camillo (a student from Italy), to record drums for another track. We were going to do mine in another studio at 3 and I'd forgotten.
Initially I refused to go back – I felt like a poorly 6 year old who didn’t want to go to school. I could feel my muscles refusing the thought of it – I despised the idea of even standing up though my headache.
But after a short conversation with my mother we decided that I’d rest for an hour, she’d wake me up and drive me to the studio where I’d continue. This is where I realised I would be making music for the rest of my life. I didn’t disagree. This was my 4am. Despite everything telling me no. How weak I was and how much pain I was in there was a very strong but extremely powerful part of my mind reminding me that I want this. I wanted it so badly it’d hurt more not to be in that studio. I think my Mum knew that way before I did. That's when I knew this is what I'd be doing for the rest of my life...
If I was going to give anyone any advice - especially the people going to Uni this year with no idea what they'll do after - from my own experience, just do what you love. You won't be worrying about money when you're just fulfilled with your day to day tasks. And if you don't know what you love then answer the question - if you were asked to do talk about something at 4am - and do it - what would it be?
If you've got a similar story to mine I'd love to hear it; or any tips on how to discover what you're truly meant to be doing. Just comment below...
P.s. on a side note – I have the most supportive parents in the world. They perhaps do not understand what it is I do and that’s fine with me because some days neither do I but they’ll make sure I’m pushing myself as hard as it goes no matter what I am doing. Thank you Mum and Dad if you’re reading this.