For as long as I can remember music has been a part of my life. It has made me laugh, smile, cry, and even forced me to challenge some of my deepest thoughts. It has been my partner on all of the business and personal trips I have undertaken, especially the longer ones where time away from friends and family allows you the space to reflect and consider your life and what is it all about. My love life has a music life of its own, a concerto of the best and worst, the keepers, and the cheaters.
It is about 1981 and in the western suburbs of Sydney a young boy is glued to the radio for Sunday nights Top 40 hosted by Ron E Sparks. Remember this name it will pop up again a little further on! The world then is so very different as compared to today; yet, when I fall into music mode even at the age of 41 I still feel that excitement of being inside the music. At the impressionable age of 9, I saved my pocket money, mowing lawns, doing odd jobs around the neighbourhood and eventually I had enough to buy my first LP (that’s a vinyl record for the younger readers). It was an U2 album and I couldn’t play it enough. My father was also a music fan, I can remember him and I sitting around listening to music all those years ago. What a life!
Jump forward to 1983 and my first year at High School. I attended the local government school, which was boys only, and luckily several of my friends from Primary School joined me. It wasn’t long before a team of us got together under a shared interest in music to start up a school radio station. Remember these people; they will come back in the future as well! From radio stations to school discos this team quickly took over the production for our school disco after building a relationship with a local DJ company. Before long we were building bigger and better lighting and sound systems every time. It was at this time that we all started DJ’ing. Every cent we had was spent on buying more records, this was our lifeblood, our passion, and as time will show our future. My taste in music had expanded somewhat; I was listening to Pink Floyd, U2, Cold Chisel, and Kenny Rogers (yes I know its embarrassing but who cares) in my private time. I had bolted some JBL speakers underneath my bed and could lie there listening to music whenever I liked. I had yet again saved some money and bought my own turntable rig and DJ mixer for my bedroom. To help me, my parents actually swapped bedrooms with me so I could have the bigger room. I will never forget that act of selflessness…
The years at school would be filled with DJ’ing every weekend all year round, countless parties including weddings, birthdays, and even a Bar Mitzvah! Getting the attention of girls was not a problem being the ‘all knowing’ DJ, life was pretty good 🙂
When I started working full time, music took on another role in my life. No longer was it just a means to earn money as I had given up the DJ’ing gig, but more as an emotional guide to get me through the day. I would plan what I wanted to listen to and while on the train to work (90m train ride) I would zone out and let the music take me away. Once I had my first car I would take my girlfriend and we would just drive and drive and always have music on. I wonder if she really liked it as much as I did? Here is one of the first ironies from earlier in this post. All of the original team from High School now work in the broadcast or entertainment industries. All of us are successful and well respected in our different roles. Did we know that back when we were 14, of course not, we were far to busy living the dream to even worry about being 25 and responsible! The second irony was Mr Ron E Sparks. I would go onto to work at 2DayFM in the mid nineties (and again in the early 2000’s) and Ron E was one of the DJ’s there. It was surreal to work with a guy I use to listen to nearly twenty years ago. My work allowed me to meet people, go places, and do things that most people don’t. Not all of it was good, in fact some of it was life changing and completely horrible to be honest. Like most things in life, they don’t last, and neither did these challenges.
The amount of travel I undertook for work was incredible. By my mid twenties I had been around Australia at least half a dozen times, and travelled to over twenty different nations around the world. This had a profound impact on me and how I saw the world and the people in it. There is nothing like coming home, but there is also nothing like getting out and smelling the roses, talking to the people, touching the culture to really feel alive. Being able to share part of my life with people from very different backgrounds and cultures was just amazing. It also opened my eyes to a whole new world of music, which to this day still sits in my mental-music library. Today, when I travel for work, I have taught myself to switch modes. I depersonalise myself from the person at home and focus on the job that needs to be done whilst away. It is my way of getting through the weeks, and months of not being at home. You miss your friends and family, you miss your stuff, your shower, and the simple things. In some ways, music allows me the grace to crawl into my loneliness and just for a moment, forget where I am.
When it comes to travelling for personal reasons, music yet again provides me with the space to dive into my heart and soul. The first thing I do when I get to my hotel room is setup my laptop and get some tunes going. The type of day I have had generally shapes what sort of music I want to listen to. It’s funny because sometimes when I am not feeling great or I am missing my loved ones I purposely put on music that exacerbates the problem. I don’t know why, maybe it’s a moment of recognised weakness and one that I am happy to surrender to. In July 2013, I spent ten days in Italy after travelling to Germany for work for a week. It was a very emotional time for me, allot of feelings hit me in the face and would not be silenced. I was sick, alone and lonely. Eventually I got my backside out of bed and hit the road. I walked and walked until my head found some answers. What did I listen to? John Mayer, U2, Tony Bennett, and a mix of classical music. I left Italy and returned a revived person, in hindsight I obviously needed a good emotional purge, the music I chose (or maybe it was chosen for me) really helped me get the bottom of some of the issues I had.
Love, marriage and children. Three of the toughest, yet rewarding, parts of any life. The girl I married is a big music fan; there are several artists that still today remind me of her and our time together. We went through some very difficult times together and now, with time on my side I am, most of the time able to put aside the loss of love and remember what was great. In the early days of our relationship we would spend hours and hours talking and listening to music. The real shame is that once the kids arrived we stopped listening to each other. Make no mistake, this was our fault, not the kids, and I am not making excuses. I now have several playlists built with certain songs to set a particular mood. For me it works and it gives me options when I am feeling a little down. Having options is important; the last thing you want is to feel like you only have one option when you are feeling depressed or upset.
When my marriage collapsed, yet again it was music to the rescue. I was at my weakest and I could not help but listen to music that probably made it worse. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it does not help you when you are in the middle of emotional hell! It did not take long for me to start to turn it around when I had my music ears on. I guess I could describe it as some sort of salvation, and one that is quite vivid in my memory of the last 4 years. Aside from music, I could not have gotten through that period without the help of a few key friends.
Move to the current day, and my partner and I share music whenever we are alone. We are a very simple couple; wine, cheese, good music and great company are all you need to make an evening or afternoon. I think I have brought music into her life a little more than she had with her ex-husband. I also think she is still getting used to it 🙂 Each couple carve out their own niche, their own memories and experiences that build into a relationship. I have always struggled to communicate with my partners (I see all the women nodding about all men), the last year or so I have tired to open up. I have tried to talk too, and not at.
Today, I rarely listen to the radio, except maybe for the odd traffic report. I always have music on or listen to my university lectures. My kids love music, my daughter is learning to play flute and my son loves the Playing for Change stuff (http://www.playingforchange.com/). Music is a huge part of my life, it always will be. I treasure my memories, of loved ones passed, of holidays and time spent with family. Music is all around us grab a bite and relax your mind…relax your soul.