Inspired by British post-punk and electronic music, LoneLady (A.K.A Julie Campbell) has released three critically-acclaimed albums on Warp Records.
As someone continuously making waves in the industry, we turned to her for some guidance for anyone looking to make a career out of making music.
Follow Your Nose
When it comes to the creative process, nobody can tell you how to be you; this is something to be discovered yourself. Have, say, two or three allies whose thoughts you trust. Ultimately it’s distracting to listen to the opinions of too many other people.
Corny as it sounds, trust your own journey. Follow your nose and your own instincts. It’s the only way to discover and develop your own authenticity.
If It Sounds Good, It’s Right
There is no right or wrong way of recording, or making tracks. When starting out people can perhaps be fearful of ‘doing it wrong’ or not doing it ‘properly’. Whether using cheap or expensive gear, your ears and imagination are the most important pieces of equipment you’ll ever have.
The studio as an instrument in itself opens up worlds of creative possibilities, and there’s a lot you can do yourself with even a basic home studio setup. There are of course lots of great things to learn from professional studio engineers and producers. But music is all the richer for the inventive DIY-approach too. If it sounds good, the way you did it was right.
Intellectual and Irrational
When deciding what equipment to acquire, you can disappear down a rabbit hole of over-researching. Reading online articles, trying to track down the specific gear used by an artist on a particular track and so on. These things are helpful pointers, but the irrational is also an important factor when deciding what gear is right for you.
I’ve bought equipment before because I liked the colour of its buttons – and I’ve never regretted it. The idiosyncrasy of your personal set up and the instruments and gear you choose to use will shape and even define your sound. My own setup is a jigsaw of mainly fairly cheap gear together with the odd piece of more expensive equipment, but nothing super-flash.
It may feel awkward and as if it’s taking some of the magic away, but you are really doing yourself a favour by getting to grips with the business side of music. It can be very difficult in the music industry because there’s no instruction manual. Every artist has a different deal, a different arrangement or way of working. Get registered with PRS for Music. And if you’re a band, establish what the writing/publishing credits are. If you have an agent, management, tour manager, accountant, clarify what their roles are and what’s expected. Contracts seem scary but they’re there to help make sense of these things.
Ask questions all the time. Seek the advice of a music lawyer (they’re not necessarily expensive). Never be shy about asking about fees. It feels all too often as if it’s somehow taboo to ask for a fee for your labour - it’s not! Get an understanding of timeframes - how long you want to spend on the different aspects of writing, recording, touring etc - and how you are going to budget for it all.
It’s not an exact science but it’s good to be able to envisage a framework. In some ways, the only way to learn things is from experience, but I wish I’d had a stronger grasp of the basics when I started out.
Refresh the Process
I’d go mad listening to music all of the time. It’s not necessary to try and listen to All The Music. Writing music every day is a challenge. The blank canvas can be daunting. It’s helpful to find ways to trick your brain into thinking you’re writing a song for the first time in order to keep your music from going stale.
When I need to refresh my brain it mostly comes from doing non-music related activities. Exploring a new part of the city, listening to a comedy podcast, going to an art gallery, reading. It helps to pull my brain out of a rut, set it spiralling down some new path, open up some new approaches, so that when I return to the music, I’m reinvigorated.
Making music is work, and it’s not always enjoyable. The ‘muse’ doesn’t always just float down from the sky. It has to be invented by you, constructed and worked at. Any tricks you can find to refresh the process will be invaluable.
"It feels all too often as if it’s somehow taboo to ask for a fee for your labour - it’s not!"