Keeping the Faith – The Eyes of a Musician’s Heart

Written by Ryan Kershaw.

Having faith that things will work out great is such an important trait to develop. Without it, there are simply too many rejections, obstacles and doubts that come along with being a musician to keep going.

Let’s look at what faith is for a moment. It is easy to instantly identify the word ‘faith’ as directly related to religion, but it is actually something that is essential no matter what your spiritual/religious beliefs or non-beliefs.

Faith is putting confidence into the thought that something you are hoping for will happen, despite facing obstacles that could prevent the outcome from happening.

The progression of the world is built on faith. If the Wright Brothers did not have faith in their abilities, they would never have flown. If Edison had no faith in his pursuits, he would not have transformed the world with the incandescent light bulb as he did.

Bring it back to a day-to-day level and you will see that faith is so important to a musician’s success, whether you are a grass roots muso, or a worldwide superstar.

Although fans often only see the end result or highlight reel of a musicians output, we all know that there is a lot more going on behind the scenes. Things as seemingly simple as hiring a new band member can be a daunting task. Often it feels like there are 10,000 guitarists in your area but no decent drummers or bass players.

Accepting someone into your line up can present to you with some important questions that could go either way: is the new person reliable? Will they turn up each time? Are they fun to work with? Do they bring any issues or baggage with them? It’s not hard to have doubts or feel uncertainty, especially if your track record with hiring new band members has not been good, but after using your better judgement, faith is then needed to let the relationship develop.

A few years ago I created an event called the NZ Underground Festival. I was sick of hearing the same bands over and over on radio all of the time, and wanted to showcase local talent that was truly deserving but slipping under the radar. The event was a success but had I not consciously used faith – it would have never happened.

The NZ Underground Festival was funded totally from my own pocket, which had a budget of $0 at the time. There were certainly a lot of setbacks: a bouncy castle guy charged me more on the day than he had quoted, organizations were not fully supportive because as it was the festivals first year they had not heard of it before, the weather was unpredictable leading up to the event, there were 5 other festivals in close proximity on the day, setbacks with musicians pulling out, and a whole myriad of other organizational dilemmas. But I had faith and it served its purpose – musicians joined bands that they met at the festival, ended up on radio and even topped the Reverb Nation charts! I faced many doubts but my faith that it needed to happen is what got me through.

Bands must use faith in a similar way when touring as a self-managed act. Hopefully they set a budget first but there are things that remain out of their control – a sudden change in weather, sickness of band mates, even sabotage. Though to think of these possibilities and let them stop the tour would be silly. You have to have faith that it will work, and that you can handle what comes your way.

Another personal example of a time where I needed to use faith is when I travelled to the United States from New Zealand for a live event of a course I was studying.

The event itself was over two or three days, but the flights I could get meant that I had to stay for a day each side as well in order to get a flight home. This resulted in having to stay for 5 days. This sounds great but at the time I didn’t have enough money to stay that long. I didn’t actually have enough money to stay at all, but thanks to the amazing generosity of a fellow course member (Thanks Don) I was able to share a room.

Day four of my stay came around, and my generous roomy left for their hometown. I was left in the U.S.A not knowing how I would stay an extra night, and planning on sleeping outside. I entered the last day of the seminar and we were shown the ‘card exercise’ I now share in my seminars. It’s basically an exercise where you stand up and announce what project you are pursuing and where you need help. The rest of the class writes down how they can help and each person has a go at speaking. My turn came around and I nervously stood up and said that I am planning a music tour and other music related projects but just didn’t have the money… I needed financial help – whether that be with money itself or the knowledge of how to earn it! I didn’t mention the fact that I did not know how I would stay in a bed that night and was hungry but it was playing in the back of my mind. I had big dreams but some good-sized obstacles at that point too.

After the exercise one of the head coaches came up to me and handed me an envelope with a card inside. He told me to open the card later but it didn’t last long before curiosity got the better of me and I had a look inside. Geoffrey had written a beautiful note, saying that he believed in me and that someday I would help a lot of people. Inside the card was $200 – just enough for me to stay another night at the seminar venue and get to the airport. Now I don’t know what you would call that but I’m sure glad that I had the faith that it would work, and that someone else had faith in me!

So check yourself now and think – do you have faith in yourself? It may have been cast aside for a while due to rejections, obstacles, or life’s hurdles. But that’s all part of the journey. You can always get faith in yourself back too. Sometimes you just need to flick the switch.

Author bio: Originally from New Zealand, Ryan Kershaw is a musician and music educator, author of “Use Your Buzz To Play The Guitar” and creator of the Musicians Confidence Course. He helped to strengthen the music education community in New Zealand by bringing organisations together including Music Education New Zealand Aotearoa, Smokefree Rockquest, and Independent Music New Zealand. He is the founder of the New Zealand Underground Festival, which provided New Zealand underground musicians with a platform to connect with the industry, and currently writes for The Guitar Association of New Zealand, Audioculture and Muzic.net.nz. Ryan is now based in Ireland and continues to record, play and teach music.

Web: ryan-kershaw.com Consultations available for musicians, music teachers and music organisations. Email: info@ryankershawmusic.com to enquire

Ryan Kershaw
Originally from New Zealand, Ryan Kershaw is a musician and music educator, author of 'Use Your Buzz To Play The Guitar' and creator of the Musicians Confidence Course. He is the founder of the New Zealand Underground Festival, which provided New Zealand underground musicians with a platform to connect with the industry. Ryan is now based in Ireland and continues to record, play and teach music. Consultations available for musicians, music teachers and music organisations. Email: info@ryankershawmusic.com to enquire