Musicians of New York
Here in New York I find myself swimming in music artistry, with master musicians performing daily and inspiring me to learn more. I want to understand what drives them, why they moved to New York and how they feel it has shaped their career.
“Musicians of New York” is a series where I interview various musicians with the intention of understanding what it’s really like to live and gig in New York. My aim is to learn about each musicians personal attitude towards the music scene, how they survive and their unique approach to their career.
To open the series I had the pleasure of interviewing Sean Wayland – an Australian jazz pianist/composer who resides in the big apple.
1) What’s your favourite thing about living in New York City?
I like the architecture. I like the attitude of the people. I like the work ethic of the people. I like the fact that people aren’t drunk. I like the fact that the media supports it’s local artists properly. I like the fact that the best improvising musicians from all over world come here to improve. I like the fact that the history of the music is respected here. I like the fact that musical equipment is cheap here. I like the fact that there are plenty of clubs and recording studios where improvised music is performed and recorded every day. I like the fact that there are numerous recording studios with a decent piano that can be hired for a reasonable price. I like the fact that I can perform here every month and people will come and see the music and enjoy it. I remember playing to 3 people with James Muller , Felix Bloxsom and Brett Hirst in Sydney. I like the fact that everything is so close and 10 mins drive in a car gets me to the music. There is an unlimited supply of music and musicians to explore here.
2) Do you feel like New York City is where you need to be if you’re a serious musician?
No that’s a stupid idea.
3) Do you feel like you could be the musician you are today if you didn’t make the move to New York?
4) Did you consciously choose what “scene” you’re currently involved in or did you “fall into it”?
I am not in a “scene”
5) What’s your template for making ends meet in such an expensive city? (do you teach, take other work etc)
I teach , do real estate, computer science work . I have done lots of things for money.
6) How much of your time do you spend at your home between touring/gigging?
7) How much of your time do you spend practicing between touring/gigging?
I write music every day for a couple of hours and work on recordings sometimes but I don’t practise it gives you tendonitis which makes you play worse. I did lots of practice in the past.
8) What’s the most valuable career investment you’ve made to get to where you are now?
I was lucky to get myself a regular gig at the 55 bar. I am smart enough to make sure it is usually full of people when I play.
9) What’s the hardest thing about being a sideman musician/musician in New York City?
10) What drives you to work on your craft/skills everyday?
I love music. At the moment ABBA is inspiring me.
11) What are the biggest sacrifices you’ve made to get to where you are as a musician?
That’s a pretty negative way of looking at life.
12) Is there anything you wish you did differently that in hindsight you feel would’ve positioned you better?
I probably should have gone to Berklee in 1987 and then moved to New York and put up with the crime. I would have been more successful as a musician and would have adapted to moving a bit easier by coming here younger.
I wouldn’t actually do anything differently .. I got to play with Bernie McGann, James Muller, Dale Barlow, Jim Moginie, Andrew Gander etc .. Those guys are still my favorite musicians on the planet. I also got to surf at black rock in jervis bay. That’s priceless worth 10000 gigs at smalls.
13) What’s your favourite thing about being a musician?
i get to play music with musicians I love
14) Have you ever wished you weren’t a musician or felt stuck?
15) What are the key things you feel a musician needs to succeed in New York.
luck , humility, youth , luck , hard work , talent, having taste that is fashionable when you are young or being prepared to follow trends
16) If you could only practice three things what would they be?
being kind to others, being optimistic, being resilient,
17) What’s your advice to musicians considering making the move to New York?
18) What’s your mission as a musician/artist?
19) Any other comments or insights you wish to share?
I think Kelly Slater keeps getting ripped off by the judges.
For more information on Sean head to: