This post is for all emerging acts out there.
This week, I have decided to lend this space to an up-and-coming muso. Because I could never tell the story of what it means to be an independent artist better than that artist himself. Especially that he wrote a song about it, in which he talks about the insecurities experienced by many newcomers to the business.
From the harsh criticism and high expectations to the constant need to multitask and sell yourself – here are ChillCheney’s confessions.
The hate, the ignorance, the negative mindset – these are just a few barriers I come across on a day-to-day basis. I have been faced with heavy expectations: from family, friends and – most importantly – myself. But I know I can’t let that stop me. Not now, not ever.
Being an up-and-coming musician isn’t as straightforward as it seems. From the harsh critics that I have encountered in the music industry to the difficulty of networking with like-minded artists – it has been difficult to break through the Australian music scene.
As an emerging artist myself, I always feel lost, and I’m always uncertain if I’m making the right steps towards where I want to be at. There are times when I don’t feel good enough at all when people criticise me so harshly. Thoughts like “Is this really worth all the time? What if I don’t make it? What if no one will ever like my music?” start racing through my head.
Being lost in the music industry is really throwing everything I’ve got at a wall and hoping it would stick. Growing up with no mentors, no music friends, no support or anything at all has been tough. But I learnt that if I really want this, then I can’t let that affect me.
I’ve been writing and recording music for 4 years. I was such an introvert when I started. I would literally want to just write and record in my room with the lights out and use YouTube beats to practice my flow and lyric writing, while also competing in underground rap battles in high school, where I would get dissed hard. Back then, I had the typical sound of an Aussie Rapper, from the influences of Kerser and 360.
That seems so long ago now. And when I look back at the progress I have made over my career, it literally feels surreal. I’ve grown up with motivational quotes stuck to my book to always tell myself to keep pushing, even when times are tough. One notable quote is from Albert Einstein, “When you cease to learn, you cease to grow. And when you cease to grow, you cease to improve, get better, move forward and just sort of begin to – exist”.
This changed me, and I realised from that point onwards that I can never stop learning. And if I stopped learning music, then I’d stop improving, and I never wanted that. However, being an introvert, it has been extremely difficult to grow and improve in certain aspects, like networking and speaking to like-minded musicians.
For me, music is a creative process, where everyone can share their story. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written a song or sung or rapped before. It may not sound like Eminem or Kendrick Lamar, but the main factor is the storytelling process. And no one can take that away from you.
“I’m a very independent person, I love being alone, writing and doing music and stuff” by Julie Delpy really resonates with me because I feel like I can implement my creative control, and I love being creative. Having this mindset, literally anyone can write a song.
The Australian music scene is vast, and so many talented musicians deserve more recognition. The Sydney Hip-hop scene is also large and diverse. And it’s really inspiring to see up-and-coming musicians, that are so local to me, living off their music and pursuing a career that they love.
But there are also so many musicians in the scene at this stage that you realise that you literally need to do everything yourself if you want to succeed. As an independent artist, you need to learn to do business, produce your own songs, market yourself on socials, create engaging videos, song write, rap, sing… Not only that – you need to stand out, which can be difficult, especially if you were influenced quite a bit by a certain artist.
On the other hand, there are so many opportunities out there to network and develop yourself as a musician! At events like ‘Get Gig Ready’, hosted by MusicNSW, Ryde Council and Lane Cove Council, people can meet up and grow together. There are also several grant opportunities by MusicNSW or the Australia Council of the Arts to further yourself as an artist. I am always willing to find the community I fit in or scout local events that can lead to future opportunities, where I can help to build a stronger community and inspire other young musicians.
Through this pandemic in Sydney, it’s been difficult for me to contact musicians online and to maintain connections in the scene because they often seem disinterested or dry. When everything reopens again, I can’t wait to attend as many gigs and networking opportunities as possible. This pandemic has made me realise how much I’ve been taking these small things for granted. Because they can potentially open up future opportunities, and it is always good to connect with people and artists with similar experiences and background.
This is why I wrote “Laying Low”, which is a song that reflects my growth over the years.
It talks about what it means to be an independent musician, still not having your foot in the door, still lost and disoriented at times. It showcases the negative mindset I have been experiencing in lockdown and the harsh realities of family and friends, only affecting my mental health even further.
However, this song also demonstrates the resilience and will to fight back even stronger. So it would mean the world to me if you gave it a listen.
You can stream ChillCheney’s new single here:
ChillCheney is an independent Indigenous Hip Hop artist from Western Sydney who grew up in a nonmusical family.
His passion for rap was born after hearing 2pac’s song “Changes” at the age of 14. Amongst his influences, he names various styles and artists, such as Eminem, NF, Gnash, 6lack, Phora, Billie Eilish and Lil Wayne.
ChillCheney’s vibe can be described as emotional and dark urban freestyling. The artist’s lyrics indicate that he treats music as an outlet for expressing suppressed emotions. He has released six singles to date.
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