I wear a variety of hats when it comes to my career: I’m a writer, a songwriter/recording artist, a university instructor and a radio broadcaster. It sounds like a lot of hats to wear, but actually, my roles are pretty connected. I should rewind the tape, though.
Back in the late 90s, when I embarked on my first “official" career in professional music, I had no idea I’d be doing all the things I’m doing now. Back then, at 27, I had a singular goal—to play music full time. Believe it or not, I actually pulled it off for a few years. I just worked on music and managed to pay the rent with a little help from my record label at the time. Then, in the early 2000s, the winds shifted. Napster blew into town, major labels lost their industry grip, and I found myself out of a record contract. So I dug out my barista hat (yes, another hat!) and went back to being an indie musician/local coffee-shop guy.
Thinking outside the box: From musician to radio host
That formula worked for a while—until it didn’t. Pushing mid-30s, I wanted out of the service industry. I started looking around for other job options, all the while thinking, “What the heck are all my years as a professional musician worth to anyone besides me?” Turns out, to the CBC, more than I thought! They actually offered me, the artsy-fartsy guy, a job. I went home, hung up my server hat, and packed my bags for Vancouver. I spent the next three years in the host chair at CBC Radio 3 talking on-air about Canadian independent music. All the years I spent alone in my apartment writing songs and sitting in the tour van were actually an asset when it came to talking about music on the radio or interviewing bands.
Fast-forward a few years to 2008 and the global economic crash. Over at the CBC, water cooler chatter quickly turned to impending job cuts. Rumble turned to roar, and rumours to reality. One morning, I walked into the studio to do a radio show and walked out with a white envelope and a redundancy letter. I sat at my desk and stared out the window while my co-worker sobbed beside me. She had a white envelope on her desk too.
When in doubt, learn something new
I drifted, anchor-less, for a few months until it hit me—why not go back to school? After some online research, I decided to apply to just one program: the creative writing master’s degree at UBC. Call it gut instinct. I could have applied to something with clearer job trajectories, but I didn’t. I felt motivated to become a better writer, so I scrounged up a portfolio, put my song lyrics on the top of the pile, and sent off the package. To my surprise, a few months later, I got in.
Turning art into a career
The next three years at the MFA program at UBC were brilliant. I found mentors, developed friendships, and learned about the craft of writing. As a student, I worked as a TA, and once I graduated, I turned my teaching experience into an actual teaching job.
I currently teach a class in lyric writing as well as a popular introduction to creative writing course. Being part of a department where your fellow faculty members are all working artists—be they poets, fiction writers, screenwriters, playwrights, graphic novelists and so on—makes for an inspiring place to be, and I feel motivated to continue working on my art. I am currently writing a collection of short fiction, a memoir and, of course, an album of new songs.