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Turning Your Passion Into Your Profession

By Justin Gray (Songwriter/Producer/

Do you find your passion, or does your passion find you?

This was a strange week.

As some of you know, my 17-year-old daughter is not only an aspiring producer and songwriter, but she happens to be exceptionally good at it. Her career has started to take off, and her future looks extremely promising. I can’t imagine a 17-year-old Justin making professional records on a laptop in a bedroom. We had to shlep our drums, guitars and keyboards to an over-priced recording studio in the basement of a Roti shop in the sketchy part of Toronto. Funny side note…After my first session, our engineer asked me if I would like my song mixed down to a DAT tape for an extra $25. I didn’t have the money, so he dropped it on an old Type 1 cassette I happened to have on me.

Some of you are asking…"What is a DAT tape." Others fondly remember cassettes and having to use a pen to rewind them if they ever became un-spooled.

Anyway…back to our regularly scheduled blog

This was a strange week.

It happens to coincide with a very unique point in time. The proverbial fork in the road…my daughters' higher education vs real-world education. USC vs go and see...what’s out there.

It would be hypocritical of me to not support her! After all, I dropped out of journalism school after my second year at university to do exactly what she wants to do. Become a professional music maker. Follow her passion.

Traditionally college for most people is the logical next step. All her friends are leaving home to start the next chapter of their lives, but very much like me, and traveling on the same unpaved path, she is ready to experience life head-on.

It’s hard for our parents or even other parents with kids the same age as ours to really understand that her calling goes so much deeper than economics 101 and pledging a sorority.

But what happens when your passion is so palpable that literally, it is the only thing that you can think of? It’s your food, your water…your oxygen?

Nobody who made it didn’t jump into the deep end headfirst trusting in blind faith at some point. What’s the saying??? You can’t expect full-time results from part-time commitment. Input = Output.

Here are five challenges that every dream chaser, path paver, and goal-getter deals with on the daily.

The Road Less Travelled - Everyone is a failure until they are not. Every day we plant the seeds that we hope will grow. Most won’t. Taking that path that so few choose to take is incredibly daunting and beyond intimidating. "Normals" don't get it. You work for yourself, there are no sick days, and every day that you write a song that doesn’t materialize into anything more than a demo can be seen as a wasted day. But in truth, it’s not. Every day is an opportunity to learn, grow, and expand your creative community of collaborators. My daughter came home from a session visibly upset that she and an artist that she really wanted to work with that day failed to finish a song. In fact, the artist came in the room as if preordained to set up a failed session and said "I’ve written a lot lately, and I just don’t have any more ideas." But what happened is they made an emotional connection and undoubtedly will get back in the room again on a different day when everybody’s fresh, and creativity is flowing. A much better outcome than just another mediocre song.

Just When You Think You Have It Figured Out, You Don’t - Too many times do you feel like you are in a creative flow and a zone where everything is possible? It is so easy to get discouraged when the best intentions don’t come to fruition. This happens at every level. Even if you are a beginning songwriter or seasoned old grizzled veteran like me, what you hope happens, and what actually happens, seldom intersect. And more often than not, the unexpected can transform your journey. My daughter is just now starting to learn that words carry weight, and sometimes what others say with the best intentions and promises don’t get kept. It’s an unfortunate casualty of building fast and deep emotional connections with our collaborators.

Staying Motivated - Everybody is an expert when things are going well. It’s so hard to stay motivated when things are seemingly sideways. How do you wake up every day trying to relight that fire and find that passion when you are not getting the results that you’d hoped for? That’s when passion kicks in. Passion is the fuel in your creative gas tank. Passion is the intangible that keeps you picking up that guitar or priming that pen. Passion is that thing in the middle of the night that wakes you up with a perfect melody. If you’re having trouble staying motivated, stop pushing. Stop chasing. Your passion will find you.

A Setback Is Only a Set Up For a Come Back - Setbacks happen. Songs that you expect to get cut…don’t. Sessions that you bank on happening, don’t. Things change, and rolling with the punches is a big part of how you handle these things. When things shift on you, or rugs get pulled out from underneath you, it’s important that you don’t take them personally. It’s the nature of the game and it's the same thing that everybody has to deal with.

The Emotional Toll of Making It - It is so hard! The ups and the downs, the roller coaster, and the emotional tonnage can sometimes be too much to bear. Being a songwriter is not a choice. Being creative is not a choice. It’s a passion that runs deep in our blood and through every single one of us. As bad as it is to say, we have to learn to maintain that undying sense of belief while tethering to some form of actual reality. Every day I write a song. I know undoubtedly in my heart that that song will amount to something. More often they do not. But that doesn’t stop me from running on adrenaline and self-belief. I see my daughter in the way that she works. That same fire is in her heart. I hope she never loses that. I have it. I’m assuming it’s been passed down.

The Coda: Your journey isn’t judged by steps, it’s judged by distance. So maybe today you’ve taken a step back but in a month, think of how many steps forward you will have taken. If you’re going to go for it… Go for it! Let your passion lead you.

See you next week…and keep writing them hits


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