Get a Job!: Story of a Satiated Artist

Since early 2009, by choice or necessity, more people are pursuing self-employment.  Small Business Development Agencies are seeing a swell in the number of people enrolled in classes to start a business. 

However, some made the leap before the economic downturn, and were inspired by long held passions.

Meet Shelton “ShelTONE” Garner. 

Known for being “tall for no reason” and a highly respected guitarist, he left his 9-to-5 as registrar at Harlem School of the Arts in December 2005.  ACACIA ULTD caught him before he headed back out on tour to ask about what it took to follow his dream.

ACACIA ULTD:  Thank you for stepping away from the studio.  We know that people who are self-employed generally work much longer hours.  And since you are an artist on top of that, would guess you have even less time.  Along the lines of music, what song would best describe your transition into being self-employed?

Shelton:  Hmmm.  “They Won’t Go When I Go” by Stevie Wonder. It’s a song that always reminds me you have to live your life for you and not for others.  

ACACIA ULTD:  What gave you the impetus to leave your 9-to-5?

Shelton:  Participation in the Landmark Forum, and realizing I would never be successful as a full-time musician if I didn’t actually do it full-time.

AU:  What have you gotten an opportunity to do that was unavailable inside of your job?

Shelton:  I have traveled all over the world. Since I left my job I have been to Europe, Africa, Australia, South America, Russia, and Israel.  I have had the opportunity to play music for hundreds of thousands of people. Couldn’t do that sitting behind my desk or on the way to punch my timecard at the end of the day.

AU:  True.  What questions did you ask yourself before you actually made the move?

Shelton:  How we gon’ eat and pay bills?  Am I good enough?  Is this really what I want to do?  How does it all work – getting gigs and such?  How long before I have to get another job?

AU:  Ha!  That last one is a common consideration.  With all of that on your mind, what did you have to put in place or prepare before making the leap? 

Shelton:  Mainly building up confidence to leave a job I had for almost 13 years.  I had to start talking about what I wanted for my life with others to help me create it for myself.

AU:  What unexpected financial difficulties have you had to deal with since leaving a “sure thing?”

Shelton:  I left my job right before Christmas.  Smart move…with January approaching, which can be the slowest month work-wise for musicians. I started working with my first songwriting client after New Years, but gigs were really spotty.  I learned how to juggle bills like I was in The Big Apple Circus.

AU:  Is that right?  Juggling bills, hunh?  What support did you get from your mate, family, and friends?

Shelton:  My “mate” had been encouraging me to leave long before I left. She played a big part in having me believe it was possible. Oddly enough, my family was all very supportive. My mother was the person I thought would flip out but she didn’t. Go figure.

AU:  Well, what impact do you think your choice has made on your family?

Shelton:  I honestly feel that by making the choice to leave my job, I helped empower my wife to leave hers also, which she did a few months after me.  As far as my kids go, they had to deal with money being short at times.  But, they never really complained about it.  I realize as long as kids eat, have clothes and internet they could care less where you work.

AU:  What advice would you give someone who is thinking about leaving his or her 9-to-5?

Shelton:  Don’t!  (laughs)  No, seriously, don’t let the fear stop you.  You’re the one that creates that. Listen to the people around you that you trust; they often know you better than you know yourself.

AU:  Last question.  If you left the music industry, what type of work would you do?

Shelton:  Worm-feeder.

Get more information about Shelton “ShelTONE” Garner:

TWITTER:  sheltongarner
NEXT SHOW(S):  Easy Star All-Stars, March 2010 in Colorado


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