The journey to become a professional music producer is not easy. In fact, I’d say nobody should pursue that path unless they feel deep down that there is no other choice but to become a music producer.
However, the payoff is truly incredible. Every time someone pays me to do something that essentially feels like playing a video game it’s really a euphoric feeling! But along the way, there was a ton of struggle. It could destroy a lot of people. It nearly killed me. The only way to survive is with passion.
It’s a funny thing how I became a producer. When I was growing up I really wasn’t passionate about music. I was just a normal (okay still weird) kid who went to school, played video games, and ran around causing trouble. I wasn’t exposed to a lot of modern music as a child. Most of what I heard was Contemporary Christian Music and uninspiring early 2000s Pop music.
As I got older, I started to hear more Rap, Rock, EDM, and Metal music and I loved the raw sound that was in a lot of these songs. I had a bit of piano training when I was young, but I had no idea how that kind of music was made. I had to know.
I am grateful to have grown up in the age of Google, because I think it would have been incredibly difficult to find any resources otherwise. By the time I started to become engaged in music production, it was the early 2010s and there really weren’t many great resources that were accessible on the internet. But, there was enough to whet my appetite. I quickly began to watch every tutorial I could find. I scoured up all the money I could to buy licenses for DAW’s. I skipped out on a lot of the frivolous purchases others my age were making so I could invest in music production.
That’s a hard choice to make. When I entered the workforce (at 13 shhh!) I would work long hours to buy the next piece of gear or software. This path continued all throughout high school until I hit college. In college, I unfortunately lost sight of my goals for awhile. There was a lot of pressure to get a ‘real career’. I ended up failing out of college after a few semesters.
I was really in a negative headspace at that time. I was working a local fast food job that sapped all of my energy and left me constantly looking for a quick fix. I still had a vague dream of being a producer or rapper or something. But the pressure and addiction clouded my goals for awhile. Eventually the business I was working for went under and I had nowhere to go after burning bridges with family and not really being mentally equipped to go find another job. This is where I say the path gets especially difficult.
“Everybody goes through something, it’s all bout perseverance.” — Polo G
I was down bad at the peak of Soundcloud rap and I was looking for a quick way out. Suicide wasn’t a distant thought at that time. I was watching my heroes die off the same drugs I was doing and most people around me were very frustrated with how I was acting. I made a lot of mistakes at that time. I had no plan but I had face, hand, and neck tats.
Imma always empathize with anyone who has tattoos in the places where society doesn’t accept it. Friends, neighbors, family, and the public might mean the best but often there’s serious judgement that people pass onto people with tattoos. It’s hard to blame them, it’s easier to look at the body than the heart. Thankfully, some people reached out to help me.
I was pawning off my music gear, my car, and anything else I could to pay off bills and feed my addiction. Of course that cycle ended up with me being in a ton of debt, totally broke, in withdrawals, and on the border between life and death.
I’d been a hardcore atheist since I was a teenager, but I started to believe in God then. I started to pray at night and it was the most viscerally awkward experience I’d ever had. But I knew then that there is a God. I just prayed that God wouldn’t let me die right there.
To be perfectly honest, I am tremendously blessed. While the circumstances of that situation were very bad. I am blessed to have a family that helped me through recovery. I was coming off a crazy cycle of drugs and was in and out of hospitals for weeks. I could have easily died. After I was off the drugs, the struggle wasn’t over.
Every morning I woke up with a heavy feeling and no direction. I was utterly broke and couldn’t even get a fast food or warehouse job when I would apply. I was grateful to have family but I felt utterly useless and I knew most people around me kind of felt the same way even though they didn’t say it. I started going to church as much as possible and found some community there but honestly the place I came from made it hard to really connect with people. I had to grow a lot from the person I was.
I was still pursuing music heavily at that time, but I really had no path forward. I could rack up a few thousand plays making some dreamy bedroom Soundcloud trap but I really didn’t know where I was going long term. I was stressed out but doing my best to appear calm on the surface. I gained a ton of weight and felt like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.
I remember the day XXXTENTACION died as something that really broke me down. It felt unreal. I woke up late in the day already depressed and went to binge scroll through Instagram hoping to distract myself for a little bit only to find the headlines. That artist was someone who really influenced my whole style and really was someone who carried the entire Florida music scene.
After that, I kind of just stopped making music. Making beats always made me feel better but I lost all my drive at that point. I had no idea where I was going and those months of my life after getting off drugs are really sort of a cloud. I feel like I got nothing done sometimes, but I started to get my mindset right in that time.
Eventually, I reenrolled in college and it’s really a miracle I got accepted with face tats. It was tough being told to put on makeup to show up to certain places and at certain times, but at that point I had very few choices. I knew an education would benefit me.
Thank God, I was able to crush it academically after failing out of college. I finished my first semester with straight A’s and continued to excel in academics. As time went on, I was learning in school, but I ultimately realized that a degree could only do so much for me. My passion was music and I was letting it fall to the wayside to follow someone else’s vision for me.
There was a lot of pressure from every direction. My family, pastors, and medical professionals told me to get my tattoos removed. I definitely had a lot of emotions tied up in that, but I’d been unable to land a job for a year and there didn’t really seem to be any other option. I support people with tattoos, but mine were hurting more than helping. I encourage anyone to be especially mindful with tattooing. If you are unfamiliar with the tattoo removal process, let me tell you that it is one of the most physically painful things you could ever experience. And it takes a LONG time.
Pressure makes diamonds. Between the realization that I had to follow my dreams, the physical pain, and a growing mindset, I finally had the drive to get to work again. After proving myself in academics and getting the tattoos mostly removed I was able to find a couple jobs. More importantly, those jobs helped me propel my music career forward.
I started to invest heavily into my music again. Without the burden of addiction, I was able to do it right. Instead of 80% of my income going to drugs the moment it came in the door, I was able to leverage and invest to start building up the business and passive income I needed. This is still a process, but the results of only about a year of focused effort are amazing.
Don’t get me wrong, it took about 12 years of pursuing a career in music production to get where I am today. But the kind of focused effort I’m able to give today could have brought me to this stage much faster. There’s room for mistakes, but the margin is thin. Choices are very important. I believe God gives grace but we still have to put in work.
I’ve had to make the choice to keep pushing forward at every step with organized planning. In less than 5 months, I’ve launched my podcast Producer Cast which now has listeners in more than 20 countries. I’ve also gotten more production credits this year than I did in the previous 11. Every day I get passive income.
I’m still working part time jobs, but the transition to full time music production is in the near future. A lot of things have helped me get here. One is love from people who definitely don’t understand me but still choose to love. Those kind of people are rare, but their influence has encouraged me to make that a priority.
Focusing on my physical health with exercise every day has also been something that’s really given me the energy to handle the crazy effort it takes to be a full time student, work 2 jobs, and be an entrepreneur.
Life is not easy. I am blessed to be where I am today. I was a normal person at one point perhaps. But I don’t really think there is such a thing as normal. I’ve always been a music producer and by the grace of God, I’m winning as a music producer. Whatever your dream is, you can win too!