This is the first “Living the Dream Story” which shares stories of ‘ordinary’ people following and living their passion.
I thank Ben Watts for sharing some of his story with me as a tool for inspiring others to live their dream.
Earlier this month I had the privilege to sit in a ‘shed’ in Loxton in South Australia and let life and time fly past.
I was listening and watching, 30 year old Australian musician (guitarist and sound engineer/music producer), Ben Watts, jam with his high school mates.
The ‘shed’ is a sound proof room on a 10 acre block in remote South Australia, built by a proud and supportive dad, for his aspiring son. Eight years earlier Ben was a mechanic living and dreaming of so much more.
For the past five and a half years Ben has been living in America, first to study a dual arts degree – music performance and audio engineering – at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles (where he won most outstanding student for audio engineering) and now as a touring musician.
Ben currently lives in Nashville, USA, working as a recording engineer and backline on tour with one of America’s biggest Country music acts, Lee Brice (http://www.leebrice.com) while also playing guitar for Terra Bella www.terrabellaofficial.com and Tyler King www.tylerkingmusic.com.
Ben was recently home in Australia for two weeks visiting his family and friends. Ben said, as he looked out over the property, “I look out and I get sentimental”. “I can do what I do because of the love and support of my family”.
I was surprised and amazed how fast time passes listening to the music and watching people in their passion.
Passion I have learned is a commitment and a love. It is not time. When you are living your passion time stops while at the same time passing so quickly. Time doesn’t exist.
I asked Ben 10 questions about his life and journey. I hope you enjoy the story.
When did you first start learning guitar?
In year 7 was when I first played a little. I had a couple lessons and learnt to play “Come as you are” by Nirvana. I didn’t play properly again until I was 19.
I had played state hockey from 12 to 18. When my body wouldn’t let me play sport anymore, music become an outlet.
What has been the journey for you since finishing school?
I quit high school during year 12 to do a mechanical apprenticeship. At the time I enjoyed sport and cars and I wasn’t passionate about going to uni.
When I couldn’t play sport anymore and I started guitar lessons all I would do was go to work and come home and practice for 5 hours every night. I had a great teacher. I practiced and jammed with him every night for a couple years before moving to Adelaide (from Loxton) to progress my guitar lessons.
When I was 21 I moved back to Loxton to work in the local music business. I taught guitar for three years, with 60 to 70 students, and played at night in pub rock bands.
When my Aunty passed away, I decided life is short and I needed to chase my dream.
I applied and was accepted into the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles.
I left Australia with my girlfriend and two guitars and a suitcase.
When we arrived we hired a U-haul in LA, went to Ikea, and decked out our place.
MI (Musicians Institute) was awesome.
When I finished at MI I then bounced around a few audio engineering studios in LA. I started filling in for Terra Bella which turned into two years of touring up and down the West Coast.
It was really fun. We must have played in every pub and club in California. We supported a lots of acts that came to California.
We (Terra Bella) then decided to move to Nashville 18 months ago, and through networks I am now touring with Lee Brice.
What have been some of your biggest obstacles?
Visa’s! I have been lucky that family and friends have supported me. That has made it a lot easier.
There was also one point I got really home sick – about two years in. But I stuck it out. I have made such good friends who have supported me a lot. I have moved house 5 times in the past 5 years.
But it’s all worth it.
How did you fund your dream?
Before I started playing guitar seriously, Dad and I bought and completely restored a 1969 XT GT Ford Falcon – it was my pride and joy. When the time came to move to the States, I sold it.
I get tunnel vision.
Have you ever thought about stopping?
I’ve thought about taking a different path, and where that would lead me. But it doesn’t take me long to re-focus and feel good about where I have been and where I am going.
What is your biggest goal?
I want to win a Grammy award.
If you don’t set yourself the highest of goals you could possibly reach in the industry you are in, why bother?
If I don’t win a Grammy award – I will have fun trying.
What is the biggest lessons you have learnt on your journey to date?
Overwhelmingly at the end of the day, being a good, reliable, honest working person is valued more than having all the talent in the world.
The music industry doesn’t baby-sit people. You have to be switched on, look after yourself and be good at your craft. Talent is still talent but it is not the same.
What is a normal week for you now?
I’m doing around three shows working for Lee Brice.
We take off Wednesday at midnight. Get on the bus and sleep while we travel to the first show.
Get up, work from 9am to 2pm. Have the afternoon off until show time. By the time the show finishes it is usually around 12midnight or 1am.
We sleep and travel by bus to the next show.
Sometimes it’s two shows, sometimes 4 and we get home on a Sunday night.
What is your Big Why? Why do you do what you do?
I love it!
I love playing. I love being on stage (although it’s not the be-all). I would love to spend the rest of my life in the studio making albums. In the studio you are constantly creating.
With everything you always get a little bit better.
What have you enjoyed most about your visit back to Australia?
Spending time with my family.
From what I witnessed from watching the guys in the ‘shed’ and listening to Ben during our chat:
1. Life can be short. Enjoy your life. Live your passion. Live your dream.
2. There is a time for practice. There is a time for perfect practice. And there is a time to be free and to be as creative as you can be and enjoy freedom and fun with your friends.
Love and Light,