The Great Leap of Faith

I am now a full-time musician. For clarification, this means I no longer have a day job and my main source of income derives from ’the whole emzae thing’. There, I’ve said it. I’ve conquered my strange fear of announcing that to the world. Now it must become real, right? Except this has been the case since September 2018. I guess i’ve just felt embarrassed to say so.

Why? Well I guess there are multiple reasons. Social gatherings have become a little more awkward, if that were possible. The classic question along the lines of “what are you up to now?”  must be answered with something that sounds abstract and dream-like. A cover-up for the reality of my unemployment, I assume most people must think. Or a poor naive woman thinking she can ‘make it’ in an overflowing sea of talent. I get those doubts too. Often, I don’t know how to answer such questions. I hope to one day have the courage to give a one or two word response, but at the moment I confess it is a two or three sentence explanation verging on an apology of how I got here. 

My song Lucid Dreaming was my first confession to the world — including those closest to me — that music and creating has always been more than just a hobby I have. For as long as I have entertained what my future self might look like, she has been creating for a living. Even in meetings with my teenage careers advisor where I briefly considered becoming a dental nurse, it was all a cover up. Music and creating is so close to my heart that I guess I wanted to protect it.

Since the age of 19 I have completed two apprenticeships and been lucky enough to work in both social housing and marketing. Two completely different industries that have taught me so many new skills and provided me with the money to buy the recording equipment I have used on each and every released track so far. 

But there comes a point when anyone with a ‘side hustle’ gradually taking up most of their time and turning into a second full time job has to evaluate their priorities. As much as I enjoyed the positive effects that having a ‘regular’ job had on my life — the social interaction, sense of routine, feeling of normality and stability and of course, WONGAAA — I began to wonder how I would feel if I found myself in exactly the same job in 5 or 10 years’ time.

Many people imagine that there is a very specific, measurable and euphoric moment in which we discover that our side-business is generating more income than the wages from our day job and subsequently feel safe to hand in our notice. I have discovered that this is rarely the case. Most often, there is an awkward crossover point in which our side-business hits a ceiling. It is not yet bringing in more than our day job, but in order to do so requires a time commitment that can only be achieved by quitting said day job. I suppose this must be a common time for such side-businesses to fall by the wayside. It was definitely a period of much soul-searching for me. Having had an unconventional journey through life growing up, my job was one of the only things I felt I could discuss in conversations with friends on an equal footing. Perhaps the only thing about me that I felt could be considered ‘normal’. It also provided me with a regular wage - a portion of which I could put away each month for the future, a little bit to invest in music and a little bit for browsing what I have nicknamed the ‘Makeup Megazone’ in Derby (a patch of the Intu centre where both Boots and Superdrug are situated directly opposite each other). But there came a point when I had to be honest with myself.

I had been saving and compromising in various ways for five years. I cut and dyed my own hair, have ditched driving lessons and stayed at home with my mum and dad when i’d have loved to chase independence like many of my other friends. But what was it all for? I had only ever earnt minimum wage and it was time to level up in some way if I ever wanted to be financially comfortable. That was either going to be achieved by getting another job or making a big go of music.

There’s often an underlying certainty that our paths are already mapped out for us. It is unlikely we will break out of our moulds and survive our 20s with our dreams and excitement about the future still in tact. The things we dream of are for other people. But what if we are those other people?

I realised that in waiting for the right moment to take on music full-time I had simply been making excuses for myself. It was fear that was holding me back, not circumstance. Compared to some, I am incredibly lucky. I believe that one of the many keys to success is having the ability to pinpoint the advantages and limitations you have, making the most of the former and finding ways of working around the latter.

I am lucky to be the youngest in my family, meaning that by now my parents through 30-something years of scrimping and saving — including, perhaps most notably, still having a VHS recorder in the year 2014 — have been able to pay off their mortgage and retire. We are lucky to be able to live within our means, not go overboard on spending and not have to worry too much about money. I have a roof over my head and a wonderful, supportive family. I have a small space to record which, err, doubles as my bedroom, and some amazing equipment I have worked very hard to buy. I’m only 25. I have no boyfriend, no mortgage, no kids. I’m as single as you can get at this point. So what was stopping me? I thought about all the people with mental and physical health problems like me who feel their futures have been stolen or blocked. My friends who are unable to work in the fields they studied at university, and my dad, who dreamt of starting a business but never got the chance due to me and my brothers coming onto the scene. I owed it to all of them to try.

So, basically, that’s what I did. And that’s where I am. Motivated by creating art that makes people feel and think, and one day moving to a random cottage in the countryside with a cockerel waking me up each morning instead of an alarm clock. It’s hard, frustrating and like trying to crack a ridiculously hard puzzle figuring out how on earth to earn sufficient money from music as an independent artist in 2019 as I watch my savings gradually wither away. But i’m here. I’m trying and i’m not going to give up until I have given it everything I have.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Featured image by Georgia Pinfold