Quitter to Winner

Friday, July 30, 2010

INTERVIEW: Singer sonwriter Shawn Levesque on chasing your dreams

Now seems to be the time for Shawn Levesque to make a go at becoming a working singer. He talks about what lead him to this path, which included leaving a job working with disabled youth.

Shawn, what have you been up to since you left your job in April?

I left a job working with severely disabled/medically fragile children. The job itself was challenging as the students were not able to talk, but they sure could laugh. The best part of my day was getting a student in who was having a hard day, for health reasons or what have you, and turning it around for them by making them laugh. LAUGHTER is medicine. Unfortunately I left due to the caustic work environment, I don't want to get into details but it was a very unpleasant place to work (the staff not the students). Since I left, I've been working on music, busking, practicing, writing and growing two large organic raised bed gardens. I'm also job hunting A LOT, and making time to reflect and make some huge decisions in my life. For instance I'm focusing on finding work in Boston, where I started my musical dream.

Many people claim they're "bored" without a job. I don't get a sense that you have that problem. True?

True for sure. I wouldn't say that I'm bored. I'd say that I'm a little stir crazy as I wish I could contribute again to a child's self-esteem and belief in themselves, as I have a history in working with at-risk youth and neglected children. But the dichotomy of that is that I'm busy writing music as I really want to be a singer songwriter for a living, like Melissa Ferrick or the plethora of other performers out there traveling and singing for a living.

How is your CD coming along?

I'm still not at a place financially to get back into the studio but I have been writing and practicing. I set up an account with Kickstarter.com, which is a great site to get your name out there for funding for all kinds of creative projects. I'm hoping to raise enough money to get both the recording done and to purchase a CD package through Discmakers that includes tee shirts, down load cards, 1000 CD's in cases and posters. I have some great rewards for donations including the donator’s name in the liner notes ($10.00), a digital down load of my CD ($15.00), a physical CD with lyrics of my songs ($25.00). Or all of the above with a t-shirt ($50.00).

I've been really lucky to have my friend Maria McNeil sing on what I've recorded thus far. She's an amazing Berklee educated singer, an amazing musician and a really sweet person. I've also had my friend Dave Buerger lay down some bass to a few of my tracks. I'm hoping to have him come back in and lay down some hand percussion along with me to some of the tracks as well.

Is teaching still in your long-term plan?

I feel that by nature I'm a teacher, so in some way it will happen. Whether it's as an elementary school teacher, a guitar teacher or a mentor. Music teaching is a huge part of my personality.

Describe your ideal work/career situation.

Touring, as I LOVE to perform and I love to travel. I don't need to be famous, I just want to make a living doing it. I have amazing role models in the folk and singer songwriter community who didn't go the major label route and have made their musical dreams come true. They maintained their creative freedom, which is very important to me.

What websites/books/self-help hoo-ha have you turned to for insight/tips during your time off?

I'm a HUGE advocate for therapy. I know this isn't a website/book etc, but I have friends from college come up to me years later and tell me that their lives have improved from seeking help via therapy. I see it as a kind of self-care. I also recommend and have used "THE ARTIST WAY" written by Julia Cameron. It's a self-help journey that helps you work through the creative blocks and crap that's still in your head from childhood. As a friend once said to me "Why you lettin’ them nasty voices have say in yo head? They ain't paying no rent". The Artist Way helped me with that a lot and turned me onto “artists dates.” For instance you may be working hard on a project but you're not moving anywhere. An artist date is alone time spent doing something that you find to fulfill you, that makes you resonate at a higher frequency if you will.

Imagine you're a motivational speaker (complete with headset microphone). What are three career tips you would have in your flashy Power Point presentation?

1. Do what you love. We've all worked jobs to pay bills. At some point that starts to wear on you. Life is too short to work a job that makes you mentally drained and in turn physically ill. Your job is the majority of your waking life. If your job is unbearable, then the rest of your life is going to suffer as well. Go after what you LOVE.

2 Never give up. We are the person that is most capable/powerful to let a dream die.

3. This may seem in conflict with #1, but there are times where you HAVE to take jobs that aren't ideal. There are merely stepping-stones as long as you go after what you love.

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