I’m from a family of five children. I have two older brothers and my two younger sisters are twins. Sometimes I like to joke that I had a condition called ‘Double Middle Child Syndrome’, because the boys would often hang out together and so did my twin sisters, leaving me to play piggy in the middle for attention.
At school, we took violin and piano lessons. At the time, I found it pretty painful, especially the violin. I could never hold the bow correctly, it was quite frustrating. Piano was more bearable because I figured out how to make up my own compositions. We had a funny tutor who always had lipstick on her teeth. Whenever she got angry at us, we just giggled. Mum ended up having to bribe us to practise, which we thought was awesome. As a child, I suppose I didn’t appreciate having that opportunity to learn music. In hindsight, I’ve realised how fortunate we were.
As a side note, there was a boy at the time who I had a major crush on, and he happened to play guitar. I thought if I learnt the same instrument as him, I might be in with a chance. Also, I wasn’t very sporty so I needed an extracurricular activity to keep me busy. Turns out I didn’t impress that boy, but it didn’t matter because I found an instrument I loved. I even got to leave my dull classes to go and practise!
From then on I started playing around with writing lyrics and melodies to simple chord patterns. I’d written poetry before, so it came quite naturally to me. Looking back now, the lyrics were terrible, but it’s great to see how far I’ve progressed. I’m glad I was encouraged to give it a go when I was young. It gave me a few years to work on material, write some decent songs and develop my voice.
During year 12, I decided to leave school. I disliked most of the subjects at school, and was even failing the ones I enjoyed like music, art and english. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in terms of a long term career. I was rather stumped. I took myself to the careers advisor and explained my situation. She suggested I take a career’s quiz. It asked me all these different questions about what style of learning I enjoyed, and what hobbies I had. When she tallied my answers, we discovered I was most suited to hospitality. So I enrolled in our local polytech's year long course called 'Restaurant, Wine and Bar'.
For a while, I used those skills and volunteered at a local café, as well as trying a few short stints at restaurants. While I enjoyed it, there came a time where I needed to try something new. I had a friend who needed someone to work as in-house graphic designer. He knew I was into design so asked me to apply. Instead of an extensive interview, he had me do a couple of creative tasks, like morphing a photograph of my own face with that of a tiger. I was relieved, job interviews have never been my strong suit. These mini assignments gave me the chance to showcase my skills and allowed them to see how well I could fit in with the company. All those years using Photoshop as a kid really paid off. At high school I sat in on a few of the year 13 graphic design classes. I remember thinking how much I loved design, but I thought I could only do it as a hobby. Turns out I was wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed that job and I stayed there for four years. The best part was waking up every morning, knowing I had a creative day full of drawing and designing ahead of me. Being the sole designer meant I also had a lot of creative control over the projects I was working on. It was a mixture of being confident in my own style and skill set, and merging that with the clients' wants and needs. I really enjoyed having that responsibility.
After five years in my band Aviatour, we called it quits. Two of the three members had budding law careers that took them to Auckland. I wanted to try a different approach, so I starting gigging on my own. While I enjoyed the freedom of having complete control over my musical projects, it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable performing or recording on my own. There was no one else to get energy or ideas from. Often I would ask a friend to do percussion or to sing back-up vocals to add a different dimension to my sets. It also took a bit of the pressure and limelight off me which was good. I was definitely still searching for a style of music that I really enjoyed playing. I went from playing acoustic sets to being back in my room experimenting with electronic equipment and sounds on my computer.
Turns out he wasn't joking. We live in an age where the internet has boosted so many musical careers, and we are lucky to be a part of that. In August we got back from our first world tour. We played in Australia with electronic musician Chet Faker, and then at more festivals in the Northern Hemisphere. All of a sudden we went from having never played a show together, to performing in front of 2000 plus people. I struggled to take it all in. I was so nervous for our first Australian show. We had only practised as a band for about three days prior to going on tour.
I really enjoy dressing up for our shows, especially the big ones. Sometimes I have to get ready in the grungiest bar toilets, but other times we are lucky enough to get our own dressing room. Caking on the shimmery make up, putting on a bold outfit with some amazing heels helps me to feel confident and ready to rock. It’s like I'm putting on a stage persona. I can be having a terrible day, but I still have to get up there to perform. At the start, I might be faking it, pretending to have a fabulous time, but after a few songs my whole mood can change. Coming off stage, people cheer and clap and I can’t help but feel lighter.
Whenever our band is interviewed, I notice that I tend to hold back a little more than the guys. I suppose I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing, or interrupting the flow of the conversation. Luckily, the guys are good at encouraging me to speak up. More and more, I’m becoming more confident in voicing my opinions. I’ve been reading a book calledEveryday Sexism. A good friend gave it to me to help me survive touring in a mainly male dominated industry. The title is pretty self-explanatory. It talks a lot about how sexism has become so ingrained and normalised in our society. Reading it has opened my eyes and I’ve learnt to question the things I hear and see.
For instance, the other day I went to the Miley Cyrus concert. There were lots of young women dressed in shorts and crop tops, with their hair in double topknots. You know, just like Miley. As we were walking to the venue, we passed some apartments that overlooked the path. There were some men sitting in their deck chairs on a balcony, beer bottles everywhere. They were cat calling and wolf whistling at these girls as they walked past. It made me furious. I couldn’t walk past and not say anything, so I called back to them. “Women are humans, not objects just your pleasure!” I want everyone, including those young women, to realise that it’s not OK to harass women in any circumstance, not even as a ‘joke’. You would think that's common sense, surely.
If you really want to do something creative with your life, you definitely can. It’s just about pushing yourself, reminding yourself of why you’re doing it, and bringing a personal, unique edge. You have to learn to dream big, work hard, and accept critique, but don’t let others discourage you. I’ve found that if I surround myself with like minded people, it can be very encouraging. I get a lot of satisfaction out of my work, whether it’s designing, writing or playing music. Another great aspect is that what I do brings joy to other people’s lives, too; whether they watch my band or experience another aspect of creativity. And you know what? That alone means more to me than any salary package.
How do I get into this career?
Like Kim said, most musicians need to have supplementary jobs to keep a steady income. So while it's important to build upon your music theory and skills, make sure you keep an open mind about what else you could do on the side.
- Get involved, start a band, or if you're a solo artist perhaps gigging at weddings would be a good way to see if you like performing for a crowd. It's important to find a community of like minded people to get a sense of support, so get to know other musicians in your area, too.
- Pursuing a creative career isn't straight forward, and as an artist you need to figure out what you have to offer that either differs or adds to your area of interest.