Advice I Would Give To My 16yr Old Self About A Recording Career

09-23-2013 12:29 PM

I found this snap (on thr left) recently of me playing my Yamaha SG guitar into my Tascam 244 Portastudio. It’s in the attic bedroom I had at my parents home circa 1983. In those days my recording system was not much more than a couple of guitars, my Tascam cassette-based 4 track, a pair of Realistic speakers, a Sony Hi-Fi amp and some effects.
30 years on I have more than I could ever imagine to record with and my journey has been an amazing one, having worked with some of the most talented people in the world and travelled to some amazing studios too. When I posted this picture on my Facebook page one person asked “Did you know at this age you would be helping 1000s of musicians around the world to get better in their production?” The simple answer is no, but what I did say is “Not at all, I think it’s remembering what it felt like starting out that inspired me to run the blog. Never forget where you came from.”
So if it were possible for me to give the 16 year old Russ advice now, here is what I would say.

  1. The Gear Doesn’t Make You More or Less Talented
    I begged my Dad to lend me around £1000 (in 1983) to get me to buy the 244. I can honestly say some of my best and most rewarding times were with that 244, even now I have a HDX equipped studio. So my first advice would be this, your gift is not restricted by the gear you own, or improved by it either. So don’t lose sleep if you don’t have the best and certainly don’t get into debt or steal trying to own the stuff.
  2. You Will Buy Gear You Forget About
    You know that piece of gear you are dreaming of owning, often the chase is better than the actual owning of it. You will forget you even owned stuff that you are lusting after now, even worse you will waste money buying and selling gear in search of the Holy Grail… it doesn’t exist.
  3. Be The Best You Can Be
    If you are smart then you are going to spend time reading manuals, watching videos (we didn’t have video in 1983) showing you how to use the gear or cool tips and tricks. Not a single second will be wasted learning how to use stuff. If you are really smart then you will be the best you can be - most of my recording career happened because I read the manual and other people didn’t. Inspiration and education go hand in hand.
  4. Invest In People
    If you want to invest in anything then make friends, be a good friend, and reliable. Little did I know when I was starting out that many of the people who came into my life imparted to me things I still rely on today - I count many of them friends. This is a tough business and there are going to be times when you are going to need the advice, support and talent of friends. Don’t use people for what they can do for you, but show generosity, it’s contagious.
  5. Hard Work Is Rewarded
    I see a lot of people talk about how lucky some people are, be they top artists, engineers or producers. It’s not luck, I’m yet to meet an artist, engineer or producer who hasn’t sacrificed a great deal to get what they are. Luck is an excuse often used by those who don’t want to put in the hours, as if there are some stars guiding them on their journey and they got the wrong set of stars. If you take responsibility for your journey and work hard you have more chance of being ‘lucky’, you have less chance if you keep blaming luck for your lack of progress.

There’s probably a lot more advice I would want to give to 16 year old Russ, some of it unprintable, but if you are starting out and young and have a dream then here’s my advice to you, 30years on I could have never imagined going from the boy on the left to the man on the right, work hard and NEVER give up!