Success for Fraser hasn’t happened overnight though. He openly admits that it’s been a long winding road, and he’s no stranger to failure, stress and setbacks. In this interview, I discuss with him the ups and downs of his journey so far. Specifically, how he’s overcome setbacks and failures to bounce back and build a successful global career as an independent musician.
There’s a lot of inspirational content in this interview… We could’ve chatted all day! But if you don’t have much time, you can skip straight to the top 5 tips for building resilience.
How long did it take you to get your first break in music?
I started at a really young age and it took me 20 years to get a big break producing music professionally. My focus throughout my career has primarily been on producing music for street dance. I’ve had the incredible opportunity to produce music for huge acts including Diversity on shows such as Britain’s Got Talent and now have a successful career globally. But it hasn’t been easy, and it’s taken a long time.
You’ve had some great successes, but it doesn’t sound like an easy ride
I’ve experienced countless failures, been let down many times, I’ve felt hurt, stressed out and could’ve easily given up! Looking back, I now appreciate how the good and bad moments on my journey have helped me grow. I realise now that it was all necessary for me to get to where I wanted to be. In hindsight, I think some of my lowest moments, negativity and failures have taught me more than the successes.
What negativity have you experienced?
Well, I chose to produce music for street dance as it was my passion. I loved street dance before it became a big thing, even before Diversity won Britain’s Got Talent. At that point dance wasn’t seen as “popular” or “cool” especially for boys, and I was bullied at school for being a male dancer. Back then it was probably the least cool thing you could do as a young lad! I never thought in a million years that dance was going to become popular, be on TV or have the following it now has. I was doing it out of passion and my love for both dance and music.
Looking back, I experienced a lot of negativity and could’ve easily quit, but I’m so glad I didn’t. I continued to do what I loved even though it wasn’t popular. Now I think to myself, imagine if I’d let the opinions of others get to me and I’d given up. I wouldn’t have experienced any of the things that have come as a result of my efforts.
So how did you go from having no experience to working on big projects as an independent artist?
I originally promoted myself by networking at street dance events, building rapport and producing lots of music for free. I was going to events in London, meeting dancers and begging them to let me produce their music. At the time, I wasn’t aware that this was “networking”, that was just how I built up my list of useful contacts. Passion was the drive, encouraging me to gain experience, and practice.
I gave out my demo to as many people as I could and I’m sure most of them ended up in the bin, but a few people contacted me afterwards. I used those opportunities to build trust and rapport, whilst showing them what I could do at the same time. In fact, one of the people that I met in those days gave me a job over 10 years later. If I hadn’t built that trust and rapport with them all those years ago and handed them a demo, I wouldn’t have ended up with that opportunity. I’m always conscious that any interaction I have with someone today, can lead to an opportunity somewhere along the line even if not right now.
Once I’d completed a lot of successful projects (some of them for free), my name was now being circulated and people were asking for more and more from me. By the time Diversity won Britain’s Got Talent, I’d already built a pretty good reputation in that community and suddenly from that point on I got loads of paid work. That’s how it all started.
Have you experienced a knock back in your career where you just felt like giving up?
When I was 16, I was constantly auditioning. I got into a boy band, two stage schools in London and thought I was set for life. However, all three things fell through and I was absolutely devastated! Word spread around my college about the boy band, so when it fell through it was real embarrassment for me; this was a low point in my life. One lesson I learnt from that time was not to announce something unless it’s ‘in the bag’.
It’s so hard when you’re in the midst of it and you’re experiencing disappointments and rejections, embarrassment or setbacks. However, if your passion is strong and you believe in yourself, once you get through the initial stage of disappointment, you start to see another road open for you to continue your journey. Resilience and failure really shape you. I think it’s a numbers game, the more failures you get the more successes you’re going to get. You must go through it; if you don’t like failure then don’t be in the game. I think learning how to handle failure is one of the most important factors on the road to success.
I met a life coach a few years ago and the first thing he ever said to me was “in order to increase your success rate, you must first increase your failure rate” and that always stuck with me. Imagine if I’d given up in those tough moments. I wouldn’t have achieved any of the high points in my career that I have now achieved.
How did you overcome this knock back?
I felt quite depressed, but I managed to pull myself out by throwing myself into music production. I shifted my focus back onto something positive… Back to the passion, back to the reason I wanted to make music in the first place. I started thinking “where do I go now?” Keeping the focus on what you’re looking to do is important: I needed to make music. I ended up staying in Bournemouth and before long I had pulled equipment together and built a studio. I wouldn’t have become a music producer if I’d gone to London, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. Also, I met a good teacher here that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
I believe that I was meant to stay in Bournemouth and learn new skills, because I never would have done anything like this if I had joined that boy band when I was 16! I’m not in London, but the power of the internet means that it doesn’t make any difference. In the last 6 months I’ve worked on shows across the world from Germany, to Las Vegas, to South America, all from my studio on the south coast of England. If you’re a producer with a home studio you can work anywhere and still have access to the whole of the world.
My life would have been very different if I had moved to London. In a big city you’re a small fish in a big pond, so don’t ever underestimate living in a smaller place where it can be the opposite way around. You can create and maximise different opportunities even if you’re not in a big city. I feel I wouldn’t have had some of the opportunities I have had if I lived in London because the market is saturated… Sometimes what you think you want and what you need are two very different things.
Are there any books or films that have inspired you?
Yes! I recently watched a film called ‘Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy’. That film really opened my eyes, my whole life I’d never really given a second thought to the importance of a person’s mind-set, I always thought that people only needed talent and skill to get anywhere, now I realise that your mind-set is an absolutely crucial to part of reaching success.
From your experience, what do you think is an important factor in achieving your goals?
I believe persistence is the main reason I have managed to achieve any of my goals, because I’m certainly not the best musician, or the smartest person out there! I’m just passionate. There are many people who are way brighter than me; however,in the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, I am the tortoise. People might get there 3 or even 5 times quicker than me but I’m always steadily plodding along, and I’ll eventually get there as well. I realise now the importance of deciding to do something and sticking to it regardless of any setbacks.
Looking back, I realised that every decision I’ve ever made has had my 100% commitment behind it. Ever since I was 5 years old seeing a piano for the first time, I’ve been the same. The minute I feel committed to something, I know I want to achieve it no matter what. I just have a complete passion for what I do. I don’t think I necessarily have a lot of resilience; it still really hurts when I get things wrong. I just believe that my passion is stronger than any failure I could ever experience, so one wins over the other. I keep going because it’s a need. It’s on the same level as breathing for me, I need to make music: it’s not a choice. I have also come to realise that these decisions have shaped my destiny. So, I never underestimate the power of a decision.
What’s your advice to anyone feeling stuck in a rut or disheartened by the music industry?
It’s important to remember that nothing worth having comes without cost! People often only show their successes, not the mistakes and falls that occurred on the journey, so it’s important to be able to see the bigger picture, the reality, not just the tip of the iceberg. Things don’t just happen overnight; I didn’t just get a ‘lucky break’. If you’re looking for a magic pill, then sorry, it’s not going to happen. Things take time and effort and there will be moments where you feel very disheartened, but if you continue growing and knock on enough doors, eventually one will open.
I’ve experienced countless failures, being let down on numerous occasions, bullying and being ripped off by people not paying. You name it, it’s happened. Yeah, at the time it sucked, and things like this can make you feel down but now I look back and I see it in a more positive light. Because hopefully all the negative stuff that I’ve been through might be insightful to someone else starting out in the industry.
Perhaps there’s someone reading this who is feeling a little deflated, is ready to give up. Realising how normal it is to experience failure and setbacks and that it’s just part of the process. The sooner you accept that you’re going to experience failures on your journey, the quicker you will reach your goals. Society puts a lot of pressure on us to be perfect and act like we’re robots, but this is not realistic. Remind yourself, you’re not perfect, you’re only human!
What are your Top Five Tips for building resilience and maintaining energy when times are tough?
1. Remind yourself that failure is an essential part of the process.
No successful person has ever woken up one day with a successful career without putting the work in and making mistakes. If you want to be successful you need to change the meaning of what failure means to you.
2. Make sure you understand your “Why”.
Why you want something comes first, “how” comes second. Even if I didn’t work on a TV show, I would still make music. I make music because it’s who I am. It’s not just something I want to do; it’s how I live. I’m not working in music for any other reason. When it becomes something, you live and breathe and genuinely want to do, there is no quitting. If you’re passionate about it and you really want to do it then you won’t want to quit. If you do want to quit then ask yourself, Is this really your passion?
3. Validate yourself.
You don’t need validation from anyone else. If I do something and it gets 2 likes on social media, who cares? Who cares if I give out demos that occasionally get thrown in the bin? I’ve done things that have got a lot of views / likes and when I was younger that was an amazing feeling. I’ve also had the complete opposite where only a few people react. I’m starting to focus on doing the right thing now, rather than something that’s going to get lots of likes and it’s much more rewarding. Whatever you do, you need to make sure you’re not doing it for likes on social media; you’re doing it from the heart.
4. Surround yourself with the right people.
I’ve chosen street dance because that is an area that I’m passionate about. This means that I’m constantly surrounded by people who are also passionate about the same thing and that’s important when the going gets tough. Choose the people that you connect with carefully and be aware of how you treat people on the way up. I love the people I work with because they’re on the same wavelength as me.
I’ve joined a company that are going to check if I’m due any royalties, and I’ve had to work back over the last 10 years of my career. As I’ve been looking back at all my past jobs it has reminded me of all the amazing opportunities that I have been given, all the incredible and inspiring people I have met, and it’s made me feel so grateful!
Sometimes you really need to look back and reflect on your progress as you don’t always notice it at the time, but when you do, it’s powerful. Yes, I’ve hit speed bumps but overall, I try to remind myself that I’m always moving in the right direction in spite of the setbacks… Looking back at my journey inspires me to keep going and never to stop working and learning new things!
Reflection isn’t self-indulgent
Reflection is powerful in those times when things aren’t working out, you feel like a failure, you’re filled with self-doubt and feel perhaps feel like quitting. It’s not about self-indulgence; it’s useful to remind you of your personal growth and everything you learnt, even if the journey has been tough. This applies to everyone. Even if you haven’t reached any of your goals yet, if you’ve been learning the guitar for a year, or just a month, it doesn’t matter! You’ll be able to look back at where you started and see substantial growth. If you’ve put a decent amount of work into what you want to achieve, there will be growth and you can use this as a method of self-motivation.
Over to you…
What are your thoughts on building resilience and maintaining energy when the going gets tough? We’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’ve enjoyed this article, then please share the love with any other musicians that’d find this useful.