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Career Advice

Establish Your Blueprint

Establish Your Blueprint
A Guest Post By Julian Marshall

I love to talk to songwriters about their plans and ideas for their lives as songwriters and performers. I call these talks “establishing the blueprint” – and it essentially takes the form of asking two questions: 1. “If you had a magic wand, what would you conjure for yourself and your life as a songwriter and performer” and 2; “what are you up for creating, that upon it’s completion you would look back on and feel that that was a year really well spent’’?

These questions can be surprisingly confronting. Many of us, when given the chance to use a magic wand to create something for our lives, don’t actually quite know how to use it…. Feelings of ‘who do I think I am to dare to think I deserve that’ can surface very easily. Grounding a fantasy in a potential possibility can be disturbing to our identity.

My good friend Mo says: ‘if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans’! It’s a phrase I love. At best, it seems, we can point our ship in a particular direction and then see where it actually takes us… It is unlikely to stay on anything like a steady course. But opening up to the possibility of a future that might begin include results we have always dreamed of is surely the essential starting point and one that starts, first a foremost, with a matter of declaration – declaration as to what these dreams might actually be.

Benjamin Zander, in his book The Art of Possibility, talks about meeting with a group of students for the first time and saying to them that he is starting off by giving them all an A grade for the course about to start…. Then asking them to write and and tell him, one by one, how they each got there. A brilliant, simple idea – but so powerful in that it immediately puts each student firmly in their own driving seat. I, like many people, pretty much detest the idea of being responsible for pretty much anything(!)….. but I have found, over many years of bitter experience, that if I’m not up for making it happen, no one will else is going to do it for me, that’s for sure.

Today’s music business is all about DIY. Ed Shearan, Ben Howard, Ryan Keen and many others are all examples of owners of remarkable courage of convictions – of simple, bold, unstinting tenacity. THEY have built or are building careers based upon years of gig after gig after gig – often with not great evidence that their courage of convictions is paying off.

Wasn’t it Churchill who said “success is failure after failure after failure with no apparent loss of enthusiasm”?

Step by step, the evidence that these young artists are on track has emerged as a powerful reality: Ed Shearan at the Olympics and Ben Howard on the David Letterman show, for example. AND having done it their way for so long, no record company can easily turn around and say ‘’now you’re going to do it our way’’… The power is back us – with the writers and performers…

This is, as no other, the time to see the vision, ground the vision and act the vision… Who knows what’s possible? There’s only one way to find out…and it all starts with you and I dreaming it – and then declaring it. Who will you share your dream with today?

Start here: What is your blueprint?

Julian Marshall

Julian Marshall is Founder Director of leading a team of songwriting facilitators to run courses and workshops for songwriters that help them discover and develop their own unique songwriting identity.

He is known internationally as co-creator (with Kit Hain) of the 70’s group Marshall Hain - known especially for their massively successful international hit Dancing in the City in the late 70’s. He was also a member of The Flying Lizards – who scored a top 5 hit with Money in 1979.  In the 80’s he formed the group Eye to Eye with American songwriter and performer Deborah Berg - recording two classic albums for Warner Brothers produced by Steely Dan producer Gary Katz and a latter day third album produced by Roxy Music producer Rhett Davies.

Julian has produced records, has played as a session musician on both sides of the Atlantic, been an A&R man for Boulevard Records in LA and a Senior A&R man for Polydor Records in the UK.

He has enjoyed many years combining his love of teaching with his love of composition and playing. He runs his own highly successful teaching practice and has taught and lectured at various institutions including Dartington College of Arts, Plymouth University, Dartington International Summer School of music and is currently lecturing on the MA course at Middlesex University.


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