Tim Penner on finding your own success in the challenging electronic music world.
It’s early 2011. I’m sitting on my porch with Robert Mason and Tim Penner, chatting, laughing and talking shop in the balmy spring air. We were small town kids with big city dreams. That night, I gave Tim the vocals for “Forgive Me” and so began a musical trip no one expected. When I met Tim, he had just gone through a period where he was about to call it quits for music, just as I. He was caught in the vice of being “so close, yet so far.” something that plagues and cripples many artists. Rather than quit though, Tim decided to take a year’s sabbatical from work to make it or break it. He was determined to lock himself away and create, just to see.
Now here we are, years later and Tim Penner is one of the industry’s most rapidly rising names. Tim makes it a point to connect with his fans and listeners, not only on a musical level but also an emotional level, never forgetting where he came from, that place of almost giving up. Time and time again, he puts himself out there, honestly, in his Slideways Sessions shows and his ever motivating, Tim’s Toolbox videos. I caught up with him to ask him a bit more about finding his sound and place in the industry, despite the odds.
“I struggled for so many years to find myself in music. The hardest part wasn’t just finding my own creative style, but also where I would fit into the industry. One of the first things I realized was the huge gap between what I wanted to make and what I was knowledgeable to make,” says Tim, candidly. He goes on to explain of the ongoing battle in our heads between the sounds we want to make and the sounds we actually can make or recreate in the studio.
“Being an artist in the electronic music world isn’t the same as learning to play the guitar or drums. We’re in a different category because not only are we required to create melody and percussion, but we also need to master the technical procedures and requirements of an audio engineer and producer.”
This is no easy task to learn! For many years, a young artist is isolated from true creative liberty by the extent of his or her own technical knowledge of sound design. Becoming a master of your craft and knowing how to make the music that you’re passionate about is directly connected to so many other factors. It’s easy to be discouraged when the music you create isn’t what you intended it to be, but this is all part of growing as an artist. So how did Tim work it out for himself since it’s obvious in his current sound that he is well on his way to becoming a Master of his craft.
“With discipline, practice, and passion, your mastery of the studio will develop into pure audio manipulation. What seemed impossible will now bend at your will. It’s an eye opening experience when you realize that you finally understand how to make the music that you love.”
Finding yourself doesn’t end with discovering your abilities through music either. These days an artist needs to be a well-trained mercenary that can enter into any situation and be fully prepared. Not only do you need to make great music, but you also need a firm grasp on marketing, branding, and social skills. Tim not only focuses on these things, but has also had to learn many other creative arts to ensure he always has control over his career without having to rely on others. Graphic design, video editing, and web design are valuable outlets that can only give you an advantage in finding your success. Be the master of your realm and take advantage of anything that will help you reach your long-term goals. The industry has changed… and the more knowledge you have in your arsenal the better. But nothing comes easily.
“The biggest mistake someone can make is to believe that their dreams are unattainable.”
“The second mistake is believing that they are entitled to them. The music industry is so much harder than I imagined when I first started down this path. I’ve never worked so hard at anything in my life. Time and time again I’ve faced frustration, emotional breakdowns, and discouragement while I attempted to make my way up the mountain. There is nothing easy about what we do. But, as I grow and learn to develop my own professional skills, I realize that it’s because of this very struggle that we earn respect from our peers. No one will simply hand you respect on a platter. You need to fight to attain it in the same manor that our mentors and industry heroes have before us. Don’t expect success.”
Tim’s Tips for Getting What You Want:
If you want something bad enough:
1) Make a plan
2) Strategize the steps you need to take
3) And then work your ass off until each part is complete.
How you stand out is completely in your own hands. Don’t leave your success to anyone else.
Once you reach one goal, make a new goal. Each of us has a different end-goal in sight, or maybe we have similar goals, but different paths to get there. Competition with others is futile; the only person you are competing with is yourself. Yes, you should be recognized for the work you’ve invested into your career. Yes, people should hear your music and appreciate it for what it is. Yes, you are an artist trying to make it in an extremely diluted market. But again, we are not entitled to our dreams being made manifest if we don’t back it up with honest, down and dirty hard work.
Knowing Tim would (as always) have some positive insight to share with new artists, I asked him what he would tell a younger version of himself, the one I met years ago, to the Tim Penner that almost didn’t happen. His answer wasn’t surprising because it’s the same one he gave, many moons ago on my porch – as the determined dreamer that wasn’t ready to give up.
“When you’re discouraged, keep going. When you’re let down, get back up. When the distance seems impossible, look back and see just how far you’ve come. It’s a long road. Keep moving forward.”
You know, we all hope for those moments in life when we look at one of our friends and say, “I remember him/her when…” and that night on the porch is a special one. One where we all put on new hats and forged a bond to head into the great unknown together. Needless to say, I am sure I’m not the only one that’s thankful Tim made the choices he did with his musical career because our scene just wouldn’t be the same without him. He has found his sound, he has found his place and the only thing that can shake his foundation now are his own PHAT BEETS!
Listen to Tim Penner now on FRISKY’s Artist of the Week: