Tag Archives: music

Music & touring

Of all the skills one can have music is a very handy one to make money on the road whereever you are. I first encountered this source of freedom while busking in Europe. Lateron all my ‘holidays’, visits home and many many times back to Ireland, turned into tours. It’s a great way to reduce travel costs. Sometimes a lot of work though: working out gig schedules, hotel arrangements, borrowing or hiring sound systems on location, organising transport, sorting gig posters and press releases on location. Oh and then actually doing it haha! Despite the sometimes very luxurious hotels with spa’s and swimming pools, it’s still work and especially doing all of it solo can be a tough one. I have great respect for people touring all year round. After all these travels over the years I always love being able to just cycle to gigs and then cycling home again!

Part of being a musician is that you have to get out there. Yesterday I was chatting to a musician friend who is on the road fulltime all year and lives from touring only and I asked how he is able to keep that up. He replied his motivation is not the music in the first place but the people he meets on the road. And that music is just a channel to reach them! Beautifully said!

Any practical advice for touring musicians? Always book an extra airplane seat for your guitar so you don’t have to worry about airport staff taking it from you at the gates and it getting damaged in the hold. When booking with low cost airlines it usually works out cheaper than the musical instruments ‘check in fee’ for the hold. Mine is called ‘Mr Guitar’ on the boarding passes! And I couldn’t think of any better reliable and agreeable travel companion.

Anyway, I’m off to look at the organisation of another trip. Got an invite for Vienna this winter. Let’s see which new people I will meet out there! Where are you heading to this summer?

 

Idols and inspirations

Chatting with some friends in a café yesterday brought us to the topic of bands and musicians we adored in our teens…And it turned out we still got the butterfly feeling when speaking about some of them ha! It got me thinking about fandom and what it means to me as a musician. I was a big fan of some bands in my teens and I have been so lucky to finally meet some of them backstage at festivals in real life: From Paddy Kelly (Kelly Family) to Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) and everything in between: Josh Ritter, Rufus Wainwright, Beth Hart and many many more…

As a kid I spent all my pocket money collecting CD’s and VHS videos, to go to concerts and festivals all over the country, spent hours and hours in queues before concert halls and at backstage entrances of stadiums. It brought me to many many places and it was always a good reason for travelling in The Netherlands and abroad. My parents allowed me to travel to a concert at the other side of the country by train on my own at the age of 15!! An exciting first solo journey! I met so many friends through this hobby.

Also it served as a purpose for travelling. I don’t like random travels so much. I prefer to visit places with a special meaning: historically, genealogically, movie set scenes (Star Wars!) or places with a link to music. It gives a whole new dimension to visiting a place. Looking up to idols always inspired me in the music I make myself. I had never imagined I would actually end up meeting some of these people in real life or even sharing the stage or the festival bill with some of them!

Do you guys have certain bands, movies or inspirations that you would travel the world for or that inspire you in your career or otherwise? What does it mean to you? And do you still get as excited about them these days?

 

Session culture: let’s get together!

This weekend I was reminded of probably the most important lesson I learnt over my years working as a musician in Ireland: be social and collaborate! It’s something that’s often forgotten in Dutch individualistic culture where some people seem to be overfocussed on their own careers and results. And musicians can be the worst here!

I found this very different in Ireland on all social fronts: neighbours helping each other out with gas heaters in cold winters when needed, my landlord telling me he didn’t want me to pay the rent the month after the company I worked for went out of business. I saw some famous musicians still making music for fun in corners of pubs, and helping each other to set up gigs, lending out sound systems etcetera. Not really making a difference between buskers and festival musicians. Probably a remainder of the traditional session culture.

This weekend it was St Patrick’s Day and Luuk Lenders and I were spontaneously joined by a very talented wellknown artist from New Zealand Graeme James on violin and mandolin during. It was such a great contribution to the gig! Now if he were Dutch he might not have offered to. A lot can be learnt from the folk session culture. Put your egos aside: let’s share our talents, don’t go too low when negotiating gig deals, and make the music scene a better place. Because in the end: the music is bigger than us!

Busking

When I was a teenager, me and a friend of mine would take a bus from The Hague to Cologne in the middle of a snowy winter to play there on the streets for the Christmas markets. That must have been my first experience with busking. It wasn’t untill a few years later that I found out that one could actually make decent money with it. As a law student I joined a Spanish troubadour group in Maastricht. With this folk music group of girls, dressed in traditional Spanish costumes with long capes, we would travel Europe, and play Spanish folk music on the streets and restaurants of Aachen, Paris, Sevilla and many more places! I have great memories performing at the bottom of the stairs of Montmartre in Paris. With traditional instruments like bandurria, mandolin and pandareta we managed to pay for our own and our instruments’ travels  all the way to Andalusia…

Lateron I always carried my guitar on extra plane seats in Europe, on buses to hostels in Ireland, on ferries, in the boot of rental cars. It came in handy many times and always lead to pleasant encounters, and even selling CD’s on the plane haha! My guitar has seen many places and streets of Europe, from Avignon to Venice, and joined me on several hitchhiking adventures! Oh and even some busking festivals!

Playing on the streets in Ireland, I was given money by one of the Westlife singers, invited to play during a book launch event, leading to meetings with TV producers. It always brought in fun opportunities. It’s a great way to travel as a musician when you don’t have gigs lined up. Even though live gigs are much easier money and not as weather dependent, they also need a lot more organisation, arranging sound systems, promotion etc etc. Busking gives a lot of freedom!

I have great respect for people who actually live and work that way, in the cold and rain, completely in the moment. We still do it for fun now and then after gigs, often on Noordeinde for St Patrick’s Day The Hague. Or two years ago as a warmup before our Paradiso concert on the streets of Amsterdam! Such a nice contrast with the vibes and amazing sound system of the big hall!!

May the Force be with you!

I have to admit I am a big Star Wars fan. I love the whole philosophy and view on society and spirituality behind it: the ideas of the light side and the dark side of the Force. With Christmas and the winter solstice coming up we all – religious or not – celebrate the return of the light in the darkness. Something you sometimes have to search for when you are having shitty weeks or the world seems to work against you. And I had a few pretty hectic weeks on all fronts myself!

Thankfully yesterday – while playing a lovely concert for a nice audience (picture below) – working together with a deeply appreciated colleague musician, I felt able to connect back to my inner Force again and I was wondering what it is exactly that does that. I think for me it’s love and inspiration and really feeling to the core of your being who you are and what you love doing. And connecting with people who have faith in you and inspire you on your own route.

I am so thankful to have travelled together on my own path with some musicians who I really admire for what they do. People who took risks to do what they love and who live very authentically. I cherish them with all my heart for that, as they have given me a lot of life force just by being who they are, and they still do!

I hope you will all have a lovely Christmas. Surround yourself with the right people. And may the Force be with you!

The law of attraction

Let’s get a bit more spiritual! I’m sure many of you will have heard about The Law of Attraction, which means really wanting something with all of your heart – without doubts or fears – leads to the result of it becoming true. This largely has to do with positive thinking, really aiming for a result and fully trusting the process. Trust is the opposite of fear, and a positive mindset and a decent amount of determination always open doors. No mysteries so far, or are there?

A while ago I was chatting to one of my friends, about the risks we took realizing some of our greatest dreams. When I quit my well paid job as a lawyer to focus on music, I didn’t have a clue of how I was going to work this out financially. I just gave up my longterm work contract, not knowing exactly how I was going to pay the rent of my city centre apartment in The Hague. The first ‘miracle’ that happened was that my landlord rang the doorbell that same week to offer me a remainder of 6 months free stay, as he had other plans with the building. ‘Yes please, where can I sign?’

In the years afterwards I have gathered many more experiences like this one, which you might call ‘luck’, ‘accidence’ or ‘destiny’. The name doesn’t really matter. It’s about the feeling one gets in the meantime. It truly feels differently, living from a perspective of love, faith and inspiration, when usually all these good things start to happen, whereas living from a place of fear usually leads to a long road of bad experiences. Been there, done that, tried and tested haha!

It’s nice to know that there is always this choice though, even when it can be pretty tough to make the change when you’re on the wrong road. For example like years ago when my relationship in Ireland ended, I was devastated plus I didn’t have a home or income. One day I decided to go playing music on the streets, mainly to cheer myself up. After only one hour of busking I earned over 100 euros, I had met one of the Westlife singers who gave me money, and I got invited to play at a book release event, where I met a TV producer who asked if he could use my music for a TV production! Opportunities!

Or when I arrived to Ireland first and I just wrote a simple email to an info@….. festival address saying ‘hi, I am a Dutch musician and I live here now’, leaidng to a whole range of events getting a great booker, some festival gigs, many stays in a 4 star hotel with spa, great friends in the music scene and many local and international music collaborations!

Anyway, I am curious to hear of your own experiences! Do you believe in this Law of Attraction? How do you take responsibility for realizing your dreams? Have you also had the experience of the universe working with you to get you to places you had never imagined?

Combining work, music and a million dreams…

What do you want to become when you grow up? This question had been haunting me for many years. The ‘problem’ started with the situation pictured below. This seems very luxurious but it’s not as simple as that. I went to school at 5 years old being able to read, and graduated at 17, not having a clue what I wanted to do.

     

Was I born a musician? Ha! See the grades above! I do love learning, all subjects really, from maths and science to languages and music. School and studying (European Law & Language Studies, graduating in Dutch Law) allowed me plenty of time for hobby’s and other interests.

But then…work life started. This came as surprisingly huge challenge for me. Not being fully in charge of my own work load caused me stress and I was missing time for my other passions. After working as a lawyer in one of the bigger Dutch law firms for a while, I just felt like I wanted to press a big stop button, to earn back that much needed time to be creative! So that’s when quit my job and left to Ireland with just my guitar and backpack, where I started making money from playing gigs. It’s amazing how magic stuff always happens when you tap into your own flow.

Some trial and error later I know how I like to fill my days: either combining small parttime jobs with music or working independently fulltime. I’ve worked in a wide range of areas over the years: from lawyer, university lecturer, PA, train stewardess, sales person, PR officer to bar manager and more…You name it, I’ve done it!

The ongoing drive to create has always been the essence for me. Coming up with a crazy idea for a concert, tour, a story or a CD production and then realizing it is so rewarding! It’s like taking people on a tour to a different world. You know the little boy in the movie The Greatest Showman? That’s how I think and love to work…realizing my million dreams!

In nowadays society specialism is rewarded. Working parttime can be seen as laziness. Higher skilled jobs for 2/3 days are pretty rare to find. A pity for creatives like me who have a wide variety of interests. What are your thoughts on this? What drives you in life? How do you combine work with your passion? And what would be the soundtrack to your career?