Travelling in the Northernwestern Ontario
Nick and family
Provide a brief general introduction about yourself.
My name is Nick Sherman. I am a musician. I am from Sioux Lookout, Ontario. My reservation is North Caribou Lake First Nation.
What does your daily job entail?
I am a musician, so I spend a lot of time preparing to perform. The core of my job is to get on stage and play the songs I wrote myself. My daily tasks are more administrative work such as answering emails regarding potential venues, seeking grants to fund a tour or a new album, partaking in other creative projects, and participating in non-profit initiatives such as this one.
Of course, I also spend a lot of time creating music, so I set aside parts of my day to that. I would rehearse, practice guitar and singing, and write songs. My day to day is pretty busy. I have a family at home. So, I have to balance taking care of family, house and music stuff.
What got you interested in your chosen career?
I became interested in writing music at a young age. I saw a lot of family playing music. They were playing guitar, learning songs, playing old gospel songs or stuff that they all liked. That was my initial interest in music. When I was a teenager, I got my first guitar and really wanted to learn how to play it, so I taught myself.
During high school, I met other people interested in similar styles of music that I liked. That was when I wanted to start a band and get people together. That is another reason I was interested in music because it brought people together. Being in a high school band was fun, but even after that I still wanted to be involved with music. I learned how to write songs on my own and perform on my own, which formed into a career I wanted to do.
What has motivated you?
What motivated me to play music has been being able to tell stories of where I am from and for people who are not able to have a voice. I get onto platforms and stages in front of people to share experiences that we have here in Northern Ontario. These are experiences of myself, family and friends have had. These stories keep me motivated.
Is there anyone in particular who has inspired you?
My family and my own family inspire me to have a career that I love and be successful. So I continue to find stories and be a better musician. I also hope my kids will be inspired and motivated to be creative and do what they want.
How did you get to where you are today?
I wanted to have a career that doesn’t have your conventional schooling. As a musician, you spend a lot of time creating something you are going to present to people. After learning all that then having a small career, which consists of being able to play shows regularly, to write songs that can make it in a television show or documentary, and be asked to write songs and have those presented in other creative spaces. Being able to do all that has taken a lot of initiative to learn new things on my own.
At some point in my career, I learned I should look for opportunities on my own without expecting them to come to me. I had to approach people, break down my fears of getting in front of people or asking for help, and all those things. It took a lot of motivation and people helping me along the way. I also had to acquire skills that allowed me to be organized, work independently and be self-motivated every day to keep on moving forward.
How do you keep developing your skills in your career?
I did go to school for Sound Engineering, and that was more to get me into the world of “sound,” as it is different from music. Becoming a musician on my own was vital for me, but I have always had a passion for radio and recording. Attending school in audio has helped me have a career in radio and put radio stories together, which is a small part of how I would approach music.
It's something that has helped me in my musical career as well because I was able to record my demos, look at my music more critically, and gain more knowledge on how sound and music complement each other.
Any health or physical requirements in your career?
In my career, it is essential to manage your health by being physically active. Sure, you sit around quite a bit writing, travelling in airplanes or vehicles, and so on. It all sounds very inactive, but in reality, you spend a lot of time carrying equipment, amps, guitar cases, drums, and all those kinds of things into the building. You are physically exerting yourself before you perform. Not to mention sitting and doing a lot of inactive things is not very healthy for you.
One example I can think of in my experience is when I injured my knee from sitting in the van for a very long time during a tour. It a very unusual thing, but it happens when you are tall, in a small vehicle for a long time and you're getting older because your muscles and tendons do not work the same.
Another health requirement in my career is to make sure you are mentally healthy. When you are younger, you get into a lot of different lifestyles, and they will affect you when you get older; they affect you when you are on stage and when you want to be creative.
Finding a balance between having a healthy mind and body is critical. Otherwise, you will not be able to play, write or perform music well.
YOU HAVE TO ACHIEVE THE THINGS THAT YOU WANT BY DOING THE WORK YOURSELF. THERE WILL BE PEOPLE THAT WILL HELP YOU... BUT YOU HAVE TO BE ABLE TO WANT IT YOURSELF AND DO THE WORK YOURSELF. NO ONE IS GOING TO INVEST IN SOMEONE WHO ISN’T INVESTED IN THEMSELVES.
What are some things you like about your career?
A few things I like about my career are the things that I love; I get to create music, travel, perform in front of people, play guitar and continuously learn more things about music. So, I spend a lot of time practicing my guitar and learning something new. You can always grow as a musician. I really love getting up there and sharing my stories and stories of other people across the country. I love writing. I love playing. Those are some things I enjoy.
Outside of work, what kind of things do you do to take care of yourself?
Outside of work, I take care of myself by moving around as much as possible and eat healthy food. After travelling a lot, you tend you fall into some bad habits and eating bad food, so I try to balance that out by paying attention to what I am eating. I also try to spend time with my family and being active. We try to make sure we are doing something, especially in the summer when it is a lot easier, and you have more things to do. If I can do something outside of music and have the opportunity to work in radio for a bit, I will go ahead and do that sort of thing. Taking care of myself and family is what I do when I am not working.
What financial opportunities did you use and what was the process?
Part of being a musician or any job really is looking for outside sources to help fund what you are doing. In my early years as a musician, I was being on my own and doing stuff independently, but there are grants in place that help you as an artist whether it would be a musician, visual artist, filmmaker or all those things.
The Ontario Arts Council funded my first album. They helped me get out a product that was very professional, and it allowed me to pay everyone fairly. It’s a massive part of the funding to ensure everyone that is a part of your project gets paid fairly. When you record an album, there will be a lot of people you will have to hire such as a producer, sound engineer, graphic designer, other musicians and so many other people. Just because you are on your own does not mean you do not need other people. It is hard for one person to pay all them.
Going through the process of seeking out who would be able to help with grants and such is challenging at first. The Ontario Arts Council gave me an application to fill out and to help me with it. The form is lengthy, but it’s worth it. So, you have to make sure you have your entire plan well thought out. You have to add everything from your studio time booked, days you are going to be recording, and when the album is going to be released. It is about being organized! You have to prove to the funding organizations that you are prepared and professional. It was a difficult process, but it was an essential and educational process for me to do. Since then, I’ve applied for other grants from organizations that have helped with the other things like travelling, marketing and other essential aspects.
What do you still hope to achieve?
I’ve said before I had a short career so far. I have accomplished a few things I set out to do. But there are still so many things I am striving to achieve. I want to record a new album. I want to connect with a lot more festivals across Canada and play in front of more people. I want to start reaching more audiences in the United States and across the ocean. I want to travel more and to get my music as far as a I possibly can. There are still a lot of goals I set for myself and plan to achieve.
What would you like to share with the youth reading this?
No one is going to do the work for you. You have to achieve the things that you want by doing it yourself. There will be ways to get things done with assistance from others, but you have to want it for yourself, you have to do it yourself. That’s the most important part.
No one is going to invest in someone who is not invested in themselves. If there is anything I want to share is take your work seriously, learn how to do that work yourself, work hard, and you will accomplish the things that you want and the people that want to help you will be there to help you.