The Best And Worst Career Advice I Ever Got

Release date: 26th October, 2021

Hello and greetings from our post-lockdown future. Thanks to everyone who has gotten vaxxed and helped get us out of the void we’ve been stuck in since June. It’s almost surreal readjusting to the freedom to be spontaneous. Last night, an impromptu drink with a mate somehow led to me getting up to sing with an old friend at one of my favorite bars. It’s the kind of night I’ll never take for granted again.
I spent a lot of time during our four months (!) of lockdown reflecting on my life in music so far and all the decisions I made that brought me to where I am today. It’s been fifteen years since I started gigging professionally as a child, and that time has seen a lot of people come in and out of my life – triumphs, pitfalls, sage advice and crazy bullshit. I’ve learned a lot about how to trust, and what’s motivating the lessons and stories people are trying to push onto you. I thought it might be useful for some of you out there for me to reflect on the best and worst career advice I’ve ever received.
When I was 20 and getting ready to record my debut album Love & Lovely Lies, the opportunity to work with a well-known and respected producer suddenly presented itself. I was excited and nervous. I knew that working with this person could mean a slew of new opportunities and contacts at a pivotal time in my career.

As conversations ensued about the direction we wanted to take with the recordings, the producer told me that of the eight demos I’d sent, he felt the songs could be re-written and whittled down to four. I remember him saying that two of the ballads could be re-written and melded into one song. I was heartbroken. These songs were so close to my heart and while the idea of making some small changes here and there was totally fine to me, the idea of completely re-writing the eight songs I’d chosen to best represent me as an artist making her debut was a devastating prospect.

I thought about it for a few days, agonising over the decision. The producer had hinted that if I wasn’t willing to re-write the songs, his interest in the project would likely be over. I had no bargaining power whatsoever, and very little confidence in confrontation. Although I mulled it over for a few days, I think I knew fairly quickly deep down that I could never rewrite these songs. I was proud of them and I knew what I wanted, so I told the producer.

He promptly withdrew his interest in working with me on the record, and I went on to co-produce the album with someone else. I doubted myself, worrying that perhaps I’d forgone some wonderful opportunities by backing myself and my songs so fervently, but after the record was finished, a funny thing happened. It caught the attention of Lost Highway/Universal Music Australia, a record label with a stable of artists I deeply admired, and they offered me my first ever record deal.

The album is imperfect. It’s a warts and all snapshot of exactly who I was at that point in my life, and even though it has flaws, I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. It was exactly the record I wanted to make at that time, and I’m so incredibly grateful that I backed myself under such frightening circumstances. That was a moment I’ll always look back on as being a pivotal point in my career, because it set me on the path of always putting the songs first, having a fierce sense of self, and trusting my gut instinct. Being asked to change my songs at their very core was some of the worst career advice I ever got, and I’m proud that I had the wherewithal to recognise that at the time.

I’ve had a few excellent pieces of career advice over the years, but one of the best had to do with forming a team. Someone who mentored me very early on in my career is a man I’m still lucky to call a friend, John Walsh. I met him when I was about 19, with no record label, no agent, no publicist – I was a team of one. John came into my life at an incredibly important time and gave me some of the best advice, friendship and encouragement I could ever have asked for. He wanted to help me find full time management, and we approached plenty of people, many of whom were either not interested or unable to take on more clients. And let’s face it, I wasn’t earning enough to make a manager interested solely from a financial perspective.

What working with John made me realise is that you should never have to convince someone to believe in you. When it comes to building a team, even though patience can be frustrating, I’ve learned it’s far better to meet the right person because they come along organically than to force a relationship too early when you’re not ready, or the other person isn’t entirely invested. John and I met with some managers who were great at their jobs and lovely people. But something just didn’t feel right to me, so I held off. I kept managing myself with John’s help for longer than I would have liked to, but I knew that unless things felt absolutely right in my gut, it wasn’t worth pursuing.

Months later, I had dinner with my friend Jeremy Dylan, who had made all of my music videos to date and who I absolutely loved working with. Jeremy mentioned he’d just started managing Americana legend Jim Lauderdale.

I told him how I’d been looking for someone, but nothing felt right. I’d been talked into trialling working with another more established manager, and the experience was so unpleasant it temporarily put me off the whole idea of management. The conversation ended without any commitments, but the next day, Jeremy called and said he wasn’t sure he had the bandwidth to take on another client, but he’d be happy to help out until I found someone else.
That was almost four years ago, and Jeremy is still my manager. As soon as we started working together, it made total sense. I trusted him wholeheartedly, and knew his goals were for me to achieve my own goals for my career, not to make me conform to some vision he had for who I should be.
So much of making a career for yourself in music comes from working your ass off and beating down doors, but other times you really do have to let things happen organically. When it comes to building a team, I feel it’s important to trust your gut and never feel like you’re trying to convince somebody to believe in you. I get emotional thinking about the fact that only a few years ago I was doing everything by myself, and now I have a whole team around me I absolutely adore and who I trust to make my vision for my music a reality.

I know I keep telling you how much I miss you all but it’s true. If you’re in Sydney, I have a real live gig coming up in a few weeks with Jay and my mate Lindsay, both from Frenzal Rhomb, at Crowbar in Sydney. I’ll be opening up solo and even though it’s an acoustic gig, I am so pumped to be playing an honest to god live rock gig for the first time since May. The 13th is sold out, but you can grab your ticket for November 12 if you get in now. Tickets are available here.
With the future looking bright again, I’ve rescheduled my Joni Mitchell tribute 50 Years Blue to Saturday 22nd January. You can grab your tickets here.

Be safe, and I love you!

IC x