Re-Train? Never! Musicians On Their Alternative Life Paths

"I fantasise about owning a food truck all the time..."

UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak has officially turned into that family member at Christmas by suggesting to creatives ‘perhaps you should get a real job’ and retrain for the new opportunities lockdown has created.

This, however, presents the question – what would some of our most loved musicians be doing if they followed government advice at the beginning of their career?

Would Paul McCartney be showing you around studio flats in Liverpool? Would Debbie Harry be taking complaints on the other end of a phone? Would James Blunt be flipping burgers? Potentially.

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Take Gary Powell. His career has seen him jump between drum sets of The Specials, Dirty Pretty Things and most famously, being permanent drummer of The Libertines.

With Powell’s initial jobs including working in a metal press factory, a distribution yard putting kitchenware on the back of lorries, an (unsuccessful) job in sales, and passing to become a financial advisor in the city, it becomes apparent that if he hadn’t stuck to his musical goals we would not have had three pivotal albums from The Libertines nor would we have their new hotel in Margate.

But what would Powell be doing now if old BJ had ordered him to retrain?

“Apart from looking after my kids I do love teaching – especially when it comes to writing and arranging music,” he begins. “If I couldn’t do that, I’d want to do a numbingly boring job so I could pursue my loves at a whim without interruption. I think that is what Boris Johnson is doing, isn’t it?”

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Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods had his fair share of jobs before making it as our angsty, pissed-off father-figure. Including factories, warehouses, pubs, call centres and the local council, Williamson also worked in Little Chef (just take a minute to picture that). “I spent most of my life working low level jobs, so there’s loads [I’ve done]. No disrespect to people working these jobs but I never want to go back and I’m sure they’d agree with me,” he states.

Williamson is constantly exploring working-class life throughout his lyrics, especially in track 'Rollatruc'. “Well that's because I'm not fucking interested, What did you just say? I said what time's break Ollie? Break's at seven o'clock, What shift are you from, anyway? I'm from shift one”. 

When considering what he would be doing today, Williamson suggests his previous job of working in local government in benefits and council tax. “I didn’t mind it actually and it was the most I’d ever been paid. I think it was 16k a year. I might possibly be doing that, but I know there has been lots of redundancies so who knows?”

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Johnny Lloyd, frontman of indie-rock band Tribes prepares to release his second solo-album 'Cheap Medication' along with recently scoring the soundtrack for the critically acclaimed series ‘I Hate Suzie’, starring his long-term partner Billie Piper. With previous jobs including working in banks, restaurants and pubs, Lloyd reminisces:

“I remember being offered a long-term position at the bank and seeing my life flash before my eyes. I’ve always known I wanted to be a musician. It’s been a huge journey with more ups and downs than I can remember but I wouldn’t change it for anything”

If Lloyd’s career hadn’t taken the direction it did, he suggests he could see himself working as a chef, despite not being able to cook. “It has always fascinated me. I have friends who are chefs and the drive / commitment it takes is unparalleled. I fantasise about owning a food truck all the time. I think cooking and writing songs have a lot in common”.

There we have it, if these musicians followed Sunak’s advice, instead of The Libertines we would have a financial advisor; instead of Sleaford Mods we would have an angry council worker and instead of Tribes we would have had a chef that can’t cook.

Music is the pulse of England. It’s what keeps us inspired, excited and what keeps us going. To try and take that away is a crime against humanity and we’re not sure the Government are prepared for the consequences.

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Words: Jasmine Hodge

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