How did you know you were a SoundGirl/Soundperson? How did that spark make you feel? Do you carry it with you still?
For some of us, our lives feel somewhat planned out. For others, spontaneity reigns. I fall into the latter! No matter how I try to decide the path to take, life loves to throw me as many curveballs as it can muster. (Most likely chuckling at me as it pitches) I used to fight it, but in the last few years, I’ve been able to get in the game and get excited about how I’m going to handle each new surprise as it explodes into my life. When it comes to sound, if I am completely honest, I had no idea it was even a thing until it was presented to me. Not even exaggerating! I’d never plugged in an electric guitar, rarely thought about music as being more than vocals, and never thought about the fact the there was a human at a booth making all my favourite shows possible.
Now, you may be thinking, ‘Well that’s not cool, our honorable profession deserves musical aficionados, dedicated by many years of developing our trade and skills!’. To that I say, kill the elitist inside your head! We all start somewhere. Some are born so very lucky to be within a musical family or surrounded by people who teach and demonstrate the magic of music at an early age. Me, well I guess I am just a late bloomer! And this is exactly what my blog series is about. Do you ever see phenomenal natural talent, or technical genius and wonder how did I get here?! Is this really what I should be doing because I don’t feel like I can compare. Have you just started out and felt as though you are entering a race 12 years behind everyone else? Do you get overwhelmed at all there is to learn so intensely that it makes you feel like you know nothing, so you decline gigs and hide in bed? Me too. For real, me too. However, these thoughts are rarely helpful! I aim to reconnect you with the magic of it all. The passion that brought you here and the character that will make you persevere, so you can realize it’s not a race at all. It’s a marathon where you decide the start, control the pace and have full reign to choose the finish line. Those competitors can be your best allies if you keep your head in the game, ignore the sour Sally’s and push out that useless self-doubt. We all have skills that brought us here, and sometimes the subtle ones that seem small, are the ones that can get you ahead.
My moment came after a tumultuous spring. I was planning on hitching to the Yukon from the Kootenays in British Columbia. A friend offered a ride but had to make a stop because they were working a Festival, for which they offered me an ‘in.’ I went with the intention of slacking hard and partying to great music, but in true character, I took to my job of driving a box truck easily and quickly and ended up ditching parties to re-strategize the camper shuttle load in parking lot. At the end of the weekend, I was considering moving to the states to work with this company full time. Thankfully a friend told me about a small-time bc festival in 100-mile house called Hootstock. I was unsure if I was taking the right course of direction as I nervously attended, and my life was forever changed.
I found the magic under the last night’s moonlight. We were meant to jam by the fire, but we weren’t finished our shift, so we started a song under the canopy of the artist’s kitchen. Musician after musician trickled in to join, and before we knew it we had nearly every instrument imaginable! An electric fiddle, upright bass, a saw, a whole brass section, a melodica, and no joke someone was playing the stove and cast iron pans with metal utensils. It was so monumental that the wood stove campfire was dragged to where we were, and we danced and played until we no longer could! We tried to take video, but it was futile. That moment can never be fully depicted. That moment was for us, that was our magic, our cosmic message telling us we were okay, that THIS is what life is about, and that we were all on the right path. From here I went on to volunteer at six more small-time festivals working every and any job they would give me. I was hooked, that music sang me a song I’d waited my life to hear. That magic was taking me somewhere, and I had to find out where!
Janna Dickinson aka JDog broke into the industry last year, when she accidentally worked nine festivals! At the Last-ival, having worked every volunteer role through to stage-managing, she watched the techs and realized that she had finally found a job where her varied skill sets could finally all work in unison. She spent nearly two months couch hopping while hitching to every tech across BC that she had met at festivals who were willing to teach her anything. Her first gig was waiting for her when she returned! With a childhood free from live music, she had never played in a band or plugged in an electric guitar. She was learning it all from scratch! So, learning WHAT an XLR cable is called, let alone what it’s for! She returned to the same festivals this year with a new role and received honorable mentions at each one. Follow her on her journey of navigating such a complex industry as a complete novice, working solely on instinct, an ear and the drive to work at her passion no matter the odds. Unafraid to ask embarrassing questions on her quest for excellence, she carries with her goals of touring, teching/tuning, tv and teaching. Her freelance company is Penny Lane Audio & Production.