The life of full-time musician Owen Korzec
Owen Korzec takes every day seriously and is always assessing his direction and fulfillment of his career goals. He is a passionate full-time musician, recording artist, session musician, band member and songwriter. Artists on the Move is engaged with Owen on many projects, and he will be joining the coaching/consulting team this month. He is currently working on a duo project with Artists on the Move singer Stephen Sifflard, is writing for the Artists on the Move blog and is working on tracks for our artists. Going forward, we will also engage with Owen on songwriting and recording sessions with our artists. It is rare to see a musician with a focus on all aspects of the business from the creation of music to booking tours to educating himself on the business management side of the DIY entrepreneur world. He is humble and most don't know he plays drums, bass, keyboards and guitar, along with many other less popular/unique instruments like the Japanese Otamatone. He welcomes all challenges and there is never any doubt he will get the job done.
When did you start playing music?
I started playing music when I was five.
What was the first instrument you played? The first instrument I played was piano. My father brought home a Yamaha keyboard one day that had a lot of different sounds on it, and that was the true beginning of everything for me. I had a little bit of exposure to musical instruments before, but this was an instrument where I could now plug in headphones and obsess on as much as I wanted without bothering anyone.
What instruments do you play?
I play drums, piano, guitar, bass, and I sing. I also play a little bit of cello. I can also play orchestral percussion, stuff like tympani and mallet percussion, which I haven’t really touched since college, but I do miss it. Then one final weird instrument I play is this Japanese toy instrument called the Otamatone. It’s hilarious because even when you try to play it well it sounds ridiculous.
What are you recording/sound engineering qualifications/experience? It’s mostly been about the experience and self-education for me. I put together my own home studio in this big barn/loft kind of room above our garage, and mostly work there, learning recording, producing, and mixing over the years. I’ve been mostly self-taught, because I just found I had a knack in many areas of it, from the artistic taste of what makes a recording sound good, to learning the technical detailed stuff involving acoustics and frequencies, to the people skills of working with other musicians in the studio. I started by recording friends and bands I was in, and then produced my first solo album all by myself, and then began recording for clients more regularly. It's been exciting to see some of those clients’ records getting decent attention in the local music scene.
What are some of your career highlights? Highlights come in different forms! I also feel like I’m just getting started career wise! I would start by saying that my favorite thing I’ve ever contributed to is my band Nervous.’ debut album Cosmic, which I played drums on, wrote and sang a couple songs on, mixed, and co-recorded and produced. That album has just really resonated well in our local music community and touched people’s lives, and I’m so grateful for that. There’s a song I wrote on there called “Uncomfortable” that I just keep hearing so many good things from people about, like that they’re going through a tough time in life but that song’s going through their head helping them out. As a full record, Cosmic is not only made with some of my best friends and favorite musicians, but they put me in position to showcase all my strengths too, my drumming, my songwriting, my mixing, etc., so I feel like who I am is really obvious in the sound of that record. My debut solo album Glow is a similar way because I recorded all myself, so that was a real personal highlight too.
Other highlights come in different forms, like finding some steady cover band gigs. I played with a band called Wildfire for four years and have been playing with the worship team at Hope Lighthouse Christian Church for several years. With music careers being notoriously unstable, it’s definitely a milestone and huge help when I can find paid music work that matches my skills, recurs regularly, and that I can count on for a long time. There are also “bucket list” highlights, like touring for the first time with Nervous. and going all the way out to Colorado. I always felt like touring was something I had to at least try, and it was awesome to discover that I truly enjoy it and want to do it more.
How long were you at Berklee and what was your take from it?
I went for two years and it was great. I especially learned a lot about songwriting, including bringing some musical theater influences into it actually, since I was building a new interest in that kind of music at the time. I ended up leaving for a combination of reasons. I was nearly burning out, and was starting to worry about the cost, what classes I could get into, whether a music degree is worth it, etc. I got a lot of information overload on music as a craft, but didn’t feel I was becoming aware about the music industry and how to navigate a career in it, or even networking well while I was there. So initially I was just going to take a semester off and see what happened, but I decided I just liked working hands on in music and figuring things out on my own. There was plenty to keep learning through the internet, working with coaches, and working in the field - much more than I took away from Berklee actually.
After what I went through, my understanding is that the only really special thing a music university offers that could ever justify the price is the incredible community and environment. Go to make the most of that specifically, or don’t go, because everything else you can learn or access for a fraction of the cost.
What are you up to today? Nowadays I’ve been really studying the entrepreneurial path to music. Most of my music journey has been mainly about working on the artistic skills, but in shifting into a career on it, I realized that’s only half of what holds up a music career, and navigating business, networking, and marketing is the other half. I’ve had a pretty hard time narrowing down into a focused music career that can really take off, because I just love doing so many different things in music, so it makes it tricky to commit more to a focused niche that is authentic to me and get to the next level of growth. So I’m studying with a business coach currently and working a lot on that kind of stuff.
Why do you love songwriting?
I love songwriting because it is so healing. I feel like a great song can inspire a person to rise from their lowest lows to their highest highs, because that’s what it did for me. When I hit my worst time in life, experiencing depression and burnout for the first time in high school, I’d put on headphones and wander around at night listening to “Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2, and just felt this beautiful sense of hope that I couldn’t feel in any other part of my life at the time. Even with so much stress in my life, I could listen to an uplifting song and be inspired and dream, and feel that my future could be way better than where I was in life then. I think that’s what really hooked me into songwriting. I write songs because of that opportunity for deep inspiration and personal transformation connected to it. I also love songwriting because the way it heals can be personal and/or public. On the personal side, when I’m dealing with something emotional or tough, or even physical sickness, songwriting is something I do to heal my own emotions. It’s so important to express what you feel, and songwriting is this incredible way to get out of your own way and figure out what your true feelings are, both within the words of the lyrics and the sound of the music.
On the public side of songwriting, when we share a personal song with others, it probably hits them personally too. People feel less alone. A great song can convey feelings in ways conversation can’t, and is also a way to reach more people with your message even if you aren’t able to sit and talk with every one of them for a long time.
What are your short term and long term goals?
Short term, I’m mostly working on growing my business doing session work, and working on cultivating the right strategies for building my music career in general. One of my biggest challenges in the past handful of months is preventing myself from being overwhelmed, because I have welcomed in a lot of different music opportunities. Between my solo project, my band, cover gigs, and my studio work, there are a lot of trade-offs to decide on to make sure I can keep myself and my career growing in a healthy way. I’m currently working on a routine to separate work hours from restful hours, and establish my priorities, and that’s really helping my streamline things and reduce that overwhelming feeling.
Long term, my goal is to be a really excellent indie songwriter and producer, and just really make music that uplifts people in an incredibly powerful way. I’m also really interested in approaching my music career in a sustainable way where I’m doing what I love, making a living, and making good friendships, and over time I want to help people I’m working with figure that out too.
What is your advice for any upcoming artists?
I would say, first of all, whatever you are doing, music or otherwise, the foundation of success is building a healthy, positive mindset, and truly taking care of yourself. It’s so important to keep perspective on what’s most important to you. I believe you do your life’s best work when you follow what you really enjoy and find meaningful, because you’ll always find your own inner strength to keep going at it through any tough times. And don’t let other people’s opinions sway you from that inner drive that’s truly yours, not even your closest friends and family. Incorporating advice is great, but no one can understand you as well as you do, so you have to trust yourself even more. Do what you know is right for you, and don’t be afraid if that changes over time, because we are meant to evolve. The next thing I’d say is try to learn from musicians who you want to be like, and try to learn about what they have done to get to where they are. If you have role-models whose lives seem similar to what you’d like, and you study the plan that got them there, that will really help bring you insight on how to build your own path.
I would also recommend, more than anything else, investing in coaches or mentors, and choose them carefully. It’s the best investment you could make as a musician.
Anything you wanna add?
That’s it from me. Thanks for the interview!