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Aspire to Inspire 125: Gareth Emery

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(Original Photo By: Rocco Ceselin)

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle

Those words were spoken by one of history’s greatest philosophers more than 2000 years ago, however, Aristotle was on to something.  Speaking to any artist or person who excels in their field, you realize this philosophy is their common ground.  Those who have achieved success do so through their hard work, which is realized over a long period of time. No one wakes up one morning and suddenly has become a superstar.  A perfect example of this is English-born, L.A.-based DJ/producer, Gareth Emery.  Gareth has been a force in the scene for over a decade, however, he wasn’t always happy with where he was.  In fact, his initial success led to a long period of inactivity, so much so that he wasn’t even getting booked for performances.

“My first track was a really successful record. I was 22-23 years old and it was the last track on Tiësto’s Nyana compilation, which was like the biggest album of the year.  I was playing every club and I didn’t follow it up.  There were two or three years where I failed to write a decent follow-up and my career kind of tanked – the bookings dried up and I got it in my head that I was a one-hit wonder. Every time I read a message board or whatever, people were like ‘yeah, Gareth Emery just made one track, he’s a one-hit wonder, he should give up and go do something else,’ and I believed it.  If you’ve made one hit record and it’s been four years and you haven’t made another one, you’re probably going to start thinking, did I just get lucky?  So, the beginning of 2006, I went three months without a single booking…not one single DJ gig.  And it wasn’t like I was saying no to performances (like last year I said no to gigs to focus on my newborn), there just wasn’t a single club or festival in the world that wanted to book me.”

Andy Warhol said everyone would have his/her 15 minutes of fame. For Gareth for a brief moment, it appeared his 15 minutes were up.  It was at this point in time that he started considering a “normal job” and giving up the pursuit of his musical dream.  After consulting with his parents, more notably his father, Gareth realized he hadn’t been putting in the work required of a world-class producer/DJ.  While the news was a shock at first, he put his father’s advice to work, and it changed his perspective.

“My dad was the interesting one because he was like ‘quit if you want, because you haven’t really given it your best shot.’  I was like, are you joking, I work so hard. I’m on my computer for 18 hours a day, and he was like, ‘well, how much work are you doing?  You’re reading message boards, you’re reading news sites, but how much actual work are you doing?’  I took it really badly, but he was right…I was lazy. I wasn’t working hard, and that was when things began to change.  It didn’t change quickly. I started my podcast back in March 2006, which became a really big thing and eventually became Electric For Life…my current brand.  It probably took a year before I started seeing any improvement and then maybe three years before I made any money.  It doesn’t change overnight. I think that’s the tough thing – there’s no like magic bullet, there’s no magic key to success.”

Fast forward several years and Gareth has just released his third studio album 100 Reasons to Live. One of the many things that make Gareth proud about the album is that it took him two years to produce.  This is half the time it took him to produce his previous album Drive.  The biggest reason Gareth cites for this is because he unplugged himself from social media for an allotted part of the day, everyday, and he continues to do it.  That’s right, a prominent musician turns his phone off at night when he goes to bed…what a concept.

“These devices have improved our lives in many, many ways, but they’re also incredibly addictive because the world in there always seems to be more tempting than the world that surrounds us.  One of the biggest improvements I’ve made in my life over the past two years has been learning when to switch off.  Like, this is just how I do it – my phone is in airplane mode when I go to bed, and it doesn’t come off airplane mode until I’ve done at least one of the things I want to do that day.  Let’s say I want to walk my dog for an hour…that happens before the phone goes off airplane mode.  Otherwise, if I wake up and go on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram, the dog’s not getting walked.”

Gareth is a true veteran in the dance music industry, and over the years his perspective has changed.  Earlier on in his career, he said his fears revolved more around his occupational goals – charting with singles, playing major festivals, but, as he has matured, so have his goals.  Now his biggest fears revolve around his personal integrity as an artist, and being true to his own vision.  For anyone trying to make it in any hyper-competitive industry, it’s easy to lose track of the foundational goals that guide you.  With time and maturity, Gareth Emery has come to realize exactly that.

“Two or three years ago, it would have been conventional artist fears – not getting big enough, not getting to play certain festival stages, not getting to make enough money, not having enough #1 records or whatever.  Honestly, now my fears revolve around not being the artist I want to be.  Now I value personal happiness and integrity above all else. I want to make the music that I want to make, and I don’t want to take career shortcuts, regardless of how successful they would make me. If it’s not the right thing to do it’s not something I’m going to do. So my biggest fear now is taking the shortcuts and the easy path to success rather than doing the right thing.”

It’s this “unplugged” time over the past couple of years that has really allowed Gareth to aspire to and lead a more happy lifestyle.  In fact, he yearns for a world where everyone can turn off for a moment and enjoy each other’s company.  Admittedly, he was at one point a slave to his smartphone and social media, but no more, and he’s a far better person for it.  He brings up valid points about social media and the impact it has on our psyche, as individuals, and as a society.  While it is a medium for bringing people together that otherwise may not have contact, it can be highly distracting. As far as Gareth is concerned, those who can prioritize IRL over URL will have an advantage.  Take note.

“If you are one of the few members of society that realizes turning off your phone sometimes is a good thing, you have a major competitive advantage over the rest of the world.  Because I would say like 90% of the planet is hopelessly addicted to these things, and they don’t even know it. I think at some point when we start realizing how this is fucking with our heads and how they are an impediment to doing actual creative work, we’ll probably start working out the essential guidelines to how often we should use them. However, it’s all so new; it’s going to take us a while to figure it out. You see two people in a restaurant and they’re going out for dinner, but they’re both on their phones.  I’ve been that person. I was like on every social network all of the time. I couldn’t even have like a 10-minute conversation without checking my phone.  So I was that person, I tried the other side, and I prefer it.”

Be sure to pick up your copy of 100 Reasons to Live on iTunes and Spotify and catch Gareth on his North American tour this month.

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