A successful singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, Brent Walsh was born and raised in Fremont, California. After attending California State University, East Bay, and maintaining a 4.0 grade point average for the duration of his short tenure, Brent decided to pursue his life-long dream of becoming a professional musician. In his late teens, he and some friends formed a band and began to play live gigs around the Bay Area of California. As the band’s popularity grew locally, it was scouted by record labels and signed to a deal not long thereafter. In short order, Brent and his bandmates embarked on a number of well-received tours of the United States. After that came tours spanning multiple continents.
However, like many musicians, the year 2020 led to a number of hardships and difficult decisions, and Brent Walsh has had to rethink his options on how to make a living. In the past few months, he has taken the first steps to become an entrepreneur. He lives and works in the SF Bay Area to this day.
Tell us a little about your industry and why you chose to be a professional musician?
I don’t feel like I ever really chose to be in the music industry. I feel like it kind of chose me. I played trombone in band class until I was 16 years old, then I picked up a guitar. At the same time, a good friend of mine also picked up a guitar, another friend picked up drums, and we formed a band. I honestly did enjoy school and education, and I had some different ideas of how to spend my life, but after playing music and being in a band for awhile it became very clear to me that it was what I was meant to do. So, I don’t know that I ever really chose it, I just never stopped doing it.
What surprised you most when you started your career and what lessons did you learn?
I learned how important it is to make music that is really true to myself, music that is not for other people but that other people still enjoy. I also learned how difficult it is to build a fan base. It’s just something that happens slowly over time. And, you know, I went through a number of setbacks; getting signed at 18 years old and then getting dropped, then getting signed again at 21 years old and then that label going bankrupt. The music industry is not an easy place to forge a successful career. You have to persevere and fight through all the setbacks, and there are usually a whole lot of them.
What is one piece of advice you would give someone starting in your industry?
I addressed this a little bit in the previous answer, but make music that is for you. I would say don’t get bogged down on trying to hop on any trends because by the time you hop on them, they’re going to be gone anyway. Just make music that is true to yourself, that you want to make, and hope against hope that enough people eventually gravitate toward it that you can actually have a career in the industry. Then, start developing your fan base locally first, and once that reaches a certain point you can branch out into the rest of the nation. It really helps to build something from the ground level up. Just build something locally and expand outward slowly over time.
How would your colleagues describe you?
Hard-working and passionate. And I would hope they would describe me as fun. I think I’m a guy who tries to keep things light and have a good time while I’m doing whatever I’m doing.
How do you maintain a solid work/life balance?
I just kind of make lists and plan. Personally, I have a really large social quota. I need to be able to spend time with my family and friends and go on hikes and play basketball, and just generally do all the things that make me happy. So, that’s why daily planning is so important for me. If I make up my schedule with 8AM to 5PM set aside for work, then I’m not working after 5PM. I’m going to enjoy my personal life. Obviously, though, when my new business picks up, I’ll have to structure things a little differently. As a new entrepreneur, if a business contact calls me, I’ll have to respond immediately, regardless of the time of day. But for now, it’s easy for me to just set my own schedule.
What is one piece of technology that helps you in your daily routine?
I use Slate Digital a lot when I create music. I use it for my plugins and just in production generally. There’s also a website called Splice that’s great for samples. A lot of people make sample packs and post them up on Splice. If I don’t have an idea for a song that starts with a vocal, guitar, or piano part, sometimes it helps to log on to Splice and find something that sounds inspirational. Usually, I can start riffing off of that.
What is the hardest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
Honestly, it’s how difficult it is to maintain a music career monetarily speaking. Even when I got to a pretty established point, it was pretty hard to make a decent, livable wage. Especially living in a place as expensive as the Bay Area. People might be surprised to hear this, but it’s very possible to come home from a successful tour with not much money to show for it. That can be disheartening.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
There are few different answers for this. My mom, I think, has been my biggest role model. My family went through some hardships, and the amount of work she put in raising me and my brother while still achieving the level of success in her career that she did was just amazing. Her empathy for other people is incredible, too. And she taught me how to be a good person. My mom is my biggest inspiration.
On a more career-oriented note, there’s a band called Coheed and Cambria that kind of do their own thing. They’re extremely unique and they slowly made their way into being a huge band. They have always inspired me to blaze my own path, to do what I want to do. More recently, there is a singer in a rock band called Anberlin. His name is Stephen and he’s been giving me a lot of guidance not just with regard to the music industry, but also with life in general. He’s a really intelligent and kind person. We went on tour together, and even though we didn’t get to know each other super well on tour, ever since then the amount of support and advice he’s given me has been really impactful.
What is one piece of advice that you’ve never forgotten?
Simply don’t give up. If it’s what you’re passionate about or what you feel like you’re meant to be doing, don’t give up. I don’t remember who gave me that advice or when exactly it happened, but that’s something I have always remembered.
What does success look like to you?
That’s an interesting question because it’s always changing. At one point, it was getting signed to a record deal. At another point, it was to tour the United States. Then it became touring the world. The bar is always changing. I guess the bar for me now is simply to make music that impacts people and to expand what I do in my personal life and business life to include things outside of music. Until this point, music has kind of been my entire life, but now I have other interests I want to pursue while also maintaining a music career. So, I would call finding that balance a big success.
What is one piece of advice you would like to leave our readers with?
I guess my advice would be try to maintain a proper work/life balance. Try to make sure that you leave yourself time to work on bettering yourself as a person, and to grow your relationships, whether it’s with family, friends, clients or whomever you value in life. Cultivating interpersonal relationships makes a huge and positive difference no matter what industry you’re in. Even doing little things, like sending personal notes to people—although it might seem like an old school business strategy that people have largely abandoned—can have a lot of impact. If you have a correspondence with someone and you really appreciate it, taking the time to send them a personal letter saying so can be a really valuable and rewarding experience. Little interpersonal things like that really make a difference, I think.