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Some months in the life of a musician… #2

I’ve been through a number of different seasons as a musician. But the past few months in 2018 are worth documenting… both for myself but also for those who are interested in what the behind-the-scenes stuff of musician life looks like.

It all started in May…

9 May, 1.58pm:
I’m invited – via email – to the KZN Bridal Fair to play music. It all looks like a plausible outing to market to a new audience, so the deal is set up and duly arranged.

11 May, 11.40am:
Then I get an email from the organiser – my friend Gail – to say “Ryan, a ridiculous thought – would you offer music, cartoon electronic invitations and thank you’s for weddings? That would be amazing!! And would fly… give it some thought, if you do something like that, instead of giving you an arbitrary space for you to promote your music we will set aside stand space for you – you will have to do a little set up but that would be amazing… have you ever thought about that? When Eric and I got married in the dark ages, our invitation was a cartoon of both of us..”

New banner, by Sign Solutions.

This sets in motion a few manic days of preparation. We build a business from scratch. My in-laws very graciously let me borrow their flat screen TV, my wife decorates my stall and I stand in amongst it all waiting for the doors to open.

Saturday 29 June
10am. The doors open. And blimey… it doesn’t stop! I have a steady stream of hoards around my stall. To be honest, I’m slightly underprepared for the interest. But it’s great. You can literally see people walk by, watching the rolling video on the TV screen, and then – as they realise what product I’m offering – most of them burst out chuckling and walk over to chat.

Between chatting to tons of people, I have a gig to play in the same auditorium as well, where the wedding and conference people can all hear what I’m about. After that, it really doesn’t stop!

7.44pm. The business cards are all taken. General exhaustion is the description from being on my feet all day. And then the phone beeps.

A Facebook event. At my folks’ place. In Cape Town. Apparently, I am playing a concert there. My mom, who by now is all au feis with online hustling with her AirBNB business, has invited the neighbourhood and wider ‘hood of Cape Town.

At work in the studio.

So I say to my brother (who happens to be staying with us at this present juncture): “Maybe we should put together some videos.”

7.58pm. We start creating and synchronising click tracks with beats and backing tracks, and learning the cues on where to come in.

8.59pm. We realise that as the hours go by, it’s not getting any easier… despite the fact that we’re on our fourth cup of coffee for the evening. It’s been a full day, so we call it a night.

July 3
9.48am. After 3 days of intense work – and by work I mean DIY painting jobs on the house, managing 3 small kids and after-hours (post-8pm) musical collaboration with Jon – we head off in the hired car to King Shaka Airport.

Waiting to board.

Park, check in and wait to board the 1.10pm flight to Cape Town.

7.16pm. We stay the night with my beloved folks and over dinner the conversation goes something this:

I say that one day, I would like to create a theatre show as the standard house concert environment.

What my old man hears is: he has a project tomorrow.

July 4
6am. Alarm goes off.

6.37am. Morning run, followed by a shower and leisurely breakfast.

8.48am. I’m working in the study/art room at my mom’s AirBNB and I hear the sound of a drill outside. I wander out to see what becomes of it all. My old man is rigging up a spotlight, a black curtain backdrop and a stage in the garage area. “You wanted a theatre?” he says. Mom is talking about a table with cherry glasses for the guests’ arrival. I smile knowingly. After 36 years, all I know is they love having the masses around their home. And there’s a guest list of 20. I go back into the study to carry on getting things ready.

9.49am. I realise I need a MacBook. This old riggidy laptop with a slow processor and 1GB of RAM is making life arduous as far as churning out a production goes.

10.49am. The first video clip is still rendering. Bladdy slow. I realise my thoughts are too hurried for this machine, and also consider the fact that I may be A.D.D.

4.36pm. Jon arrives and starts rigging the sound and TV and trying out production. Time runs away with us. The TV doesn’t work and the sound setup takes longer than anticipated. I’m still rendering videos.

6pm. We finally manage a soundcheck and a run through of some of the songs.

6.04pm. The first guests arrive. Fortunately they huddle in the warmth of the inner courts (lounge and kitchen) before venturing outside, which gives Jon and I time to rehearse this show… which is, as yet, incomplete in design, let alone rehearsal!

6.35pm. Showtime. Somehow, only one technical hitch impairs proceedings – so I continue while Jon and our friend Andrew, who is in attendance on his night, re-rig the audio/visual glitch.

Stage setup.

9.45pm. I am so energised. The show is a success. A six-year-old and a 76-year-old sat through the whole show, attentive. What we thought was a good idea now has tangible evidence that we’re on the right track.

Bed time, because tomorrow, we’re off on tour.



The Great Deep - Ryan CalderCheck out the new project – THE GREAT DEEP. It’s music, it’s art & animation, it’s podcasts, videos and a whole lot more.


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4 thoughts on “Some months in the life of a musician… #2

  1. This is so cool bud – really capturing the seat-of-the-pants process that makes up so much of the fun of being a working, touring muso. Looking forward to the next installment!

  2. Looking back on it now, this week really was quite a whirlwind. So glad to have been with you and to be a part of it!

    1. Whirlwind only makes sense in hindsight.

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