Behind the music
Chris Sheehan
Director at Karousel Music
3rd June 2014
Behind the music

No one pretends life as a songwriter and musician is easy. I’m 35, and I have debts from my four records like the A-Team van has bullet holes. But for many it’s the only choice, because it’s what we were put on earth to do.

The Bench ConnectionIt was eight years ago when I had my first doubts about life as a musician. I had just spent eighteen months as part of folk duo The Bench Connection. Though we couldn’t pay our bills, (or some days eat) we laughed for nearly 2 years. Despite a great review in Q, a double page in the Sunday Times Culture Section, 4**** in Mojo, a piece in the Metro and the Manchester Evening News; sessions on 6 Music and Radio 2, and a slot at Glastonbury, we knew that with no funds to tour or promote, we were doomed to be someone’s car boot sale discovery in 2022. What we’d have done for the emerging excellence award then to help us to the next stage. Or even the hardship support – heaven knows we would have qualified. My writing partner ended up selling his last guitar to survive. Even the Sunday Times referred to us ‘living off chocolate biscuits’ (they were Rich Tea, actually!)

The litany of trials and tribulations still makes me laugh today, it’s really quite funny – when I work with artists now through our CIC, Karousel Music, they all know I’ve been through what they’re living.

Chris SheehanRecord deals that went south; the studio flood; the being held up alone at gun point mid take by kids in masks who stole microphones and accidentally kicked the hard drive, destroying 3 weeks recording for my solo album (while it was being backed up!); the label going bust; the Glastonbury mud; the publisher being bought and the A&R guy getting moved/fired the same week he’d signed my writing partner’s half of the other album I’d just spent a year on (my third)… the day before I was due to sign.

But none of this put me off, strangely. Us musicians are a resilient breed.

It was as I stood in a bar in Soho listening to my school friends telling me about their week. A Doctor, a couple of teachers, a policeman. Everywhere I looked I’d see firemen, nurses, mental health workers. Years of knocks as an artist and the financial stress weaved a thick black scarf for the soul, and it started to strangle.

I confided in my GP friend that I felt I was giving nothing to the world compared to the others and her answer was: how do you think we survive after a day of giving people horrendous news or injections, or a nightmare class? What do I do when the person I love shuts me out and breaks my heart? None of us could live without music!’

Chris Sheehan 2Check every online profile out there, it’s the one passion everyone lists: Music. There are some amazing, life saving charities out there, no question; but to help musicians in extreme hardship is to help people essential to society’s heart beating.

Our rich musical heritage in this country is a gift to be proud of, and we owe a debt to those who’ve given their all to giving us life’s finest medicine.

When Help Musicians UK saved my former writing partner from homelessness after a heart attack, I knew it was a charity I would champion the rest of my days. 

Here at Karousel, we’re proud to be associated.