In this instalment of our Featured Alumni series, we catch up with Guitar graduate Dan Blackwell!
Hi Dan! Tell us a bit about your background, and why you want to work in the music industry?
Throughout my life, music has always been a refuge for me. I always felt like a misfit as a child and music was my escape into other worlds and other ways of life. I started learning guitar and writing songs when I was thirteen, I left school two years later and set myself up as an independent guitar tutor to support myself until I came to ACM.
My desire to work within the music industry doesn’t come from lust for fame or overnight success, I just want to live a creative, happy life and see the world!
Tell us about what you’ve been involved with since leaving ACM?
After I left ACM, I pursued a career as a composer as I have always been passionate about Film/TV & Video Games. I started out by teaching myself Logic Pro and practised scoring clips from existing media. I had to think outside the box to start bringing the work in so I focused on contacting businesses, podcasters and photographers to sell bespoke music for phone hold music, theme tunes and portfolio slideshows etc.
I set myself up with a website and business cards then went to as many industry networking events as possible. Through networking I landed myself a position with a business based in New York called Soundtrapper. I worked from Guildford and I was sent briefs via email to compose music for adverts such as Oral B, Laura Mercier and all sorts of other products.
To expand on my streams of income I used my skills with Logic Pro to produce demos for Artists. From this I worked with Singer/Songwriter, Billy Lockett, which quickly evolved into a full time position with him as a session guitarist, producer, songwriter, roadie and sometimes when necessary, a Tour Manager. After touring the UK for over a year with that project I felt I was ready to take off on my own personal venture and bring everything I had learned together into an original collaboration project called ‘4bar Collective’ in 2013.
‘4bar’ tours the world recording musicians from various cultures and backgrounds to create original music that is released online to promote artists and raise money for charities that vary depending on the theme of the song. I have worked with over 200 artists since then and have come on a long way as a Composer, Producer and promoter of music and happiness!
What are your aspirations for the future?
With 4bar Collective, I am now preparing to head out to Kabul by invitation of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. After 30 years of Taliban rule and the outlaw of composing, performing or even listening to music, Afghanistan now has its first ever all female orchestra, ‘Zohra’.
I composed an original classical piece for Zohra with my resident producer Tom Biggs titled ‘Sister’. We will be recording a performance of the piece in August along with a documentary to promote gender equality in the Middle East and raise money for the women behind the project. After this current Sister project, I intend for 4bar Collective to keep on growing in popularity and continue to help up and coming musicians of all backgrounds and bring people together through music. Outside of 4bar I continue to pursue my career as a composer and through my projects’ worldwide recognition I intend to supply music to large scale productions.
How did your course prepare you for life in the music industry?
The biggest thing I took from my course at ACM, was the importance of collaboration with other creative minds. It set me up with a great network of talented friends. You cannot make it alone in the industry. You can be the most talented musician in the world but if you never leave your bedroom no one will ever know about you!
Do you have any advice for those looking to get into the industry?
It is very tough setting up a business that follows a previously well-trodden structure, such as a carpentry or a gardening business. If you want to support yourself as a musician, you will have to work ten times harder. You have to be prepared to fail again and again. If you can keep on pushing forward, stay open to new directions, put yourself out there in every way possible and have a solid work ethic so you can make it in the music industry.
What motivated you to come and study at ACM?
I wanted to throw myself completely into the world of music and get the education/experiences I needed to make a life for myself!
What was the best part about studying at ACM?
My favourite class at ACM was Music Culture. It opened my mind up to other genres and cultures which in turn had a huge effect on my creativity. When I came to ACM, I only really listened to Rock, Metal, Blues and Country. Very soon after that, I was exploring Hip Hop, Dance, Funk, Pop, Classical, Reggae, Ska, Jazz, Gospel.. I could go on and on. I learnt to take on as many influences as I possibly could and it completely broadened my horizons.
If you’d like to be a student at ACM to kickstart your career in the music industry like Dan Blackwell, please call our Admissions Team on 01483 500 841 or visit www.acm.ac.uk/open-days/ to book a place on an ACM Open Day today.