A musician playing the guitar

Working with self doubt

As a musician, self doubt can be the biggest hurdle to get through. It often manifests as that nagging little voice in the corner of your mind, forever there, chipping away at your confidence. So many musicians give up, not through what other people have said, but through what their own mind has been telling them. Self doubt is the toughest criticism you are ever going to face, not just as a musician, but in any creative field. We’re always going to think other people can do the same thing a lot better than us, and that by putting ourselves out there for all to see, we’re just going to make a fool of ourselves.

Every musician behaves differently when handling self doubt. Julian Graham, a Blues Rock artist who is currently studying at UWL in Ealing, took the route of honing his confidence and self-determination in order to beat it. “When people say  it’s not going to be easy, they were more right than you would have ever thought” he says “so self-doubt comes with that. I think you just have to be so self-determined and confident in your artwork, that everyone else thinks you’re a bit insane. Sometimes people take it too far and get arrogant, whereas there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Confidence is saying “I’m a good musician,” where arrogance is, “I’m the best musician ever.”

Before heading to Ealing, Julian took himself to Florence, where he played in the many pubs and bars across Italy to get himself heard and throw himself in at the deep end. Hearing of Julian’s backstory and foray into the world music which started at a young age, it feels like this initial experience is what also helped him to gain the confidence to pursue music as a career, conquering the demon of self doubt. “Like many people in school, I found it really hard to find a group. I wasn’t the most popular kid and the only people I really connected with were in music groups. I played trumpet, marimbas, steel band, etc. I found that everyone was just enjoying life, it made total sense to me! They were creating art out of thin air! I also realised that songs, more than anything, have the ability to last in people’s minds. Who wouldn’t want to live forever?”

Even during the toughest moments of creating music, where self doubt can be at most virulent, Julian values the difficulty and embraces the hard work that goes into it. “It involves a lot of waiting” he explains, “A lot of pen-finding and a lot of swear words. It’s hard work! It’s the craziness of what I imagine a Michelin star restaurant goes through. The only difference is I’m Gordon Ramsay and the food is my guitar and pen.”

Julian imparts simple, yet worthy advice to anyone looking to throw themselves into making music their career. “Sometimes you’ll be the only one who believes in yourself. That’s part of it all. The difference between other people and us is that we can write a song about it – and that song can change everything.”

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