Jeff Steinmann: Welcome to the How to Quit Working show. Today, I’m going to be talking to Jason Wells. Now, who says that you can’t make money with music or art or something creative like that? Well, unfortunately, a lot of people say that but Jason Wells is here to prove that wrong and tell us exactly how he went from working this $20 an hour job in a factory that bored the life out of him to doing exactly what he loves working on his music and developing his music career. Jason, welcome to the show.
Jason Wells: Well, thank you for having me.
Jeff: Glad to have you hear, Jason, because I love having musical people on the show because I love busting myths. And one of the big myths out there is that musicians don’t make any money.
Jason: It is possible to make money being a musician. It’s not easy, but it is possible.
Jeff: Sure, sure. Well, nothing worth doing is easy. Before you started making money as a musician, you were working some jobs and were making 20 bucks an hour. Tell us about that.
Jason: Yeah. Around this area—I’m in Indiana, and around this area, it’s mostly factory work unless you got a degree and you’re a doctor or a lawyer. And I wasn’t that so… but the job that I had, it was one of the most sought out factory jobs in the area. It was a very nice job, very good job as far as money goes and all that. But I just got to the point where I hated every minute of it. I was looking around and noticed all the guys that were there for 20 years, 25 years, they all hated their job, too. Only reason they were there is because they were in so long, they had to stay now. You know what I mean? Just because they’ve stopped so much of their life into this place, it’s like well, they can’t quit now.
I’d only been there eight months. To get a job like that, I had to work my experience and I had to get—gain a lot of experience and a lot of work experience and so finally… I finally arrived where I could have a good enough resume where they would be interested in me. And I got there and it was just… well I mean, I never was happy with any job. Just never. I always wanted to work for myself. But I thought, well, I never give myself enough credit to be able to do it really. And a lot of that is believing what everybody else was telling me or settling for what you think you have to do and all this kind of stuff. So, I finally got to that job and thought, okay. Well, this is going to make me happy. This is going to be it. This is going to be a good job.
And I got in there and I just hated it. I absolutely hated it. I didn’t like it. I was there for eight months and my kind of jump into a full time career was a little bit different, maybe a little easier in some ways. Because I got laid off in 2008 when all the housing market and all that stuff crashed. And so, that’s when I decided I’m going to make a run for it and I’m going to start playing music. But I was in unemployment there for a little while. So that kind of was a cushion for me to do it.
Jeff: Yeah. Well, that’s cool. Well, I want to ask you a question about your factory job. So, what made you think in the first place that that job was going to make everything okay?
Jason: Money. I thought I’ll be making more money here and that’ll be okay. And it wasn’t. I’m just not… I think I’m not wired that way. I’m not wired the way to go in and do the same thing everyday and all that. I guess I was kind of fooling myself really. I mean, if I was to be honest with myself from the very beginning, I would’ve known that it wouldn’t make me happy. You know what I mean? That the money wasn’t it, but I was trying to convince myself really that the money was going to make everything worth it.
Jeff: Well so, is there a point at which you kind of realized that it wasn’t all about money?
Jason: Yeah. Like I said, I got laid off in 2008 and I got a back up just a little bit and tell this. When I got laid off in 2008, I was laid off for a year and a half. And I was like, it was still kind of like, okay I’m going to go out here and I’m going to do this. But I still didn’t really give myself enough credit to be able to really do it. Just really being honest with myself.
So after a year and a half, I had a chance to go back to work to the same job and silly me, I gave in. There was a lot of other factors in my life, but I gave in, went back to work for four months and then my dad passed away to cancer March or February of 2011, I believe it was. And that’s when I went back, I got off work to deal with all of that with the funeral and everything. I went back to work, like my first day back to work, I turned in my notice.
Jeff: Oh, wow. Wow.
Jason: Yeah. And some people thought that I was freaking out or something, I lost my mind. But I didn’t. What it was was…
Jeff: You found your mind.
Jason: Yeah. Yes. I realized that I need to get off the fence here and I need to quit. I just need to give myself enough credit and believe in what I can do enough to make this decision. I only have one life to live and it kind of hit me in the face dealing with my dad passing away, just kind of be everything that I was dealing with the last year and a half kind of all came into perspective at that point. And that’s really what it was. Since then, that’s what really… and at that point, I did not have an appointment or anything. I walked out the door and made zero.
Jeff: Okay. So you really burned your bridge at that point. So then, you had this realization, you walked out of the factory, and then what?
Jason: Well, fortunately, I had a pretty good headstart from when I was off work. So when I quit, at that point, I just basically went back to doing what I was doing and a whole lot more. I called back a lot of the places that I told them I was going to be working again and had to cancel some things. I called everybody back and I just really ramped everything up at that point and started fresh but I had a pretty good headstart. It only been four months that I went back to work and really stopped doing a lot of things that I was doing so it didn’t hurt too bad. But yeah, at this point, like I said, I was making zero so I had to do something quick.
Jeff: Sure, sure. Okay, so tell me a little bit about what do you do in your business with your music? How does it pay the bills?
Jason: Well, there’s really three major things that I do to earn money. I teach guitar so I have guitar lessons. I do that and then I play at nursing homes. I do like, old time stuff that they like. I do a lot of nursing homes. And then I play gigs. I write CD, I write songs, sell CD’s and play shows and play gigs on the weekends. And I tour. A few times a year, I’ll go on a trip and do it.
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So I’m working on one down south now and twice a year, I go out to—I go west to Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska area. And I’m really trying to do a lot more touring but that’s pretty much what I do. And then, pretty much anything involved with music that I can make some money with. In the past, I’ve recorded some royalty free music for Hunting shows. And a friend of mine, we did that and made a little cash from that.
Jeff: Very cool.
Jeff: It sounds you had a really cool advantage in that you had that year and a half where you had been laid off and were collecting on employment so you had some income and you could pursue this a little bit then. But what were you doing to kind of really get the ball rolling and get this thing off the ground during that period in after you left for good?
Jason: Well, I spend most of my day in front of the computer, emailing and making phone calls. That’s mostly what I do. When I first started, I’ve been a musician for a long—I’ve been playing guitars for like, 20 years. And I’ve played shows and did different things and recorded some music but nothing like this. I mean, this was like a decision to… I’m going to start a music career and take it as far as I can go and grow it as big as I can grow it.
So, I had to find out a whole lot of stuff about… I had to learn a whole lot of stuff about which places to play, how to talk to venues, how to book shows on a more serious level, on a more professional level. So I had to do a lot of it but basically, Facebook has been huge for me. I’ve used Facebook really well and a whole lot and that’s been… I’ve gotten a lot of business off Facebook.
Jeff: Did you use Facebook to get booked at gigs or is that directly to fans to build a fan base and sell your music too, directly?
Jason: Actually, all of that. Yeah. Facebook is really easy for finding venues. You just type in a town and you just—it brings up all the places so you sift through a few, like the librarian, a few stores and then there’s mostly in the list is bars and clubs. And so then you just find their contact information right there. So I do that a lot. So yeah, and then I’ll message them from there, on there, or through their website but then also connect with fans and people find me on there and friend me and they like my page. I’ll post where I’m playing at and all kinds of stuff so it’s been huge.
Jeff: Well, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. So Facebook’s been a good thing for you to kind of build relationships not only directly with fans but also with venues. Well, when you approach a venue, how do you approach the venue? Do you just say, “Hey, I’m Jason. I got some music. I want to play for you.”?
Jason: Pretty much in a more professional way but that’s pretty much what you’re saying.
Jeff: More professional than what I just did? And you’re not going to be hiring me as your agent?
Jason: No, but I have links to basically, the first email, the first contact, I just try to keep it really brief because everybody’s so busy, they don’t have time to read a book about me. But so I’ll just pretty much say, “Hey, here’s… I’m Jason Wells. I’d like to play at your place and here’s all my information. And if you’d like to talk more, you can reach me here.” And I will have links to my website, my press kits, some media links and there’s some TV clips that I post links to and I might put in there some of the… kind of like my resume but just who I’ve played with and where I played and stuff like that.
Jeff: Awesome, awesome. What about building those relationships with fans? What is it about Facebook do you think that allows you to build those fan relationships?
Jason: I think it’s really easy and I’m really accessible to my fans now. Through Facebook, they can write on your wall, they can message you, and nowadays, everybody gets—I get the messages right on my phone and people can share their pictures when they’re at your shows. They can share pictures and tag you in it and just all kinds of different things but just makes everything more accessible. And you’re right there. It’s kind of like, we’re connected all the time. And I like that. I’m that kind of… I really like that. I enjoy connecting with the fans. I enjoy when they come in on pictures and on my posts and on my music and all that kind of stuff. So I really enjoy it and I try to respond to all of them if I possibly can.
Jeff: Okay, okay. So what else besides Facebook has worked for you to kind of get the word out about your music? And the reason that I ask is these questions is because I think that most people think, well, if I want to get my name out there as a musician, I have to have a big record label. And we could certainly talk about that as well. But what else has worked for you?
Jason: I’ve tried a lot of different things. As far as… let’s see. Obviously, any of the social media is good but besides, I use Twitter but Twitter’s kind of weird for me still. But really, any of the social media and all that. The internet really is just huge in that. But outside of the internet, the question is how do I get my name out there and how to get my music out there?
Jason: I do radio interviews like this.
Jeff: Okay, sure. Sure.
Jason: If I have some news, something that’s newsworthy for the area, I will contact TV stations and radio stations. I send my music to radio stations all over for them to play. So there’s… basically, I’m doing everything that a record label would do. Some record labels have a lot of money. Some have small budgets and mine, I have a very small budget but I’m basically doing everything they would do.
Jeff: Yeah. But you’re also giving a much more personal level of touch and attention to everything which I think you’re probably offsetting the small budget that you have. That’s really cool. So now, you said that you send out… you contact radio and TV stations about things that are going on. How has that worked for you?
Jason: Really good. I learned a long time ago that—well, something that always stuck out to me was if you had news, well, anybody that is in the news business, they’re always looking for news. If you make it easy on them, chances are, they’re probably spread your news because always looking for stuff. So, you can’t be like, hey, my band’s—you can’t be silly about it but for example, if I’m going to play out of town somewhere, like say, in March, I’m going to be in Kentucky in Lexington.
So what I’m going to do is I’m going to hit up all the TV stations, the radio stations there, the college, the FM stations, anything and the magazines. If I got all the newspapers, entertainment magazines, everything and say hey, big news, the Jason Wells band is going to be coming to Lexington and doing a show on March 22nd and this and this about me and fill everything out for them. And chances are, that I’ll have really good success with getting some really good coverage on any or all of those. So, just because it’s news, it’s hey, we got an out of town band, they’re coming in their own tour. And he’s got a new CD he’s promoting and all that kind of stuff.
Jeff: Okay. Now, do the radio and TV stations, do they view you differently because you’re not with a big record label?
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Jason: Yes. Yes and no. There’s some things that don’t touch me maybe because I’m not a big record label. Some of the FM stations especially. I would say mostly the FM stations, pretty much the record labels, the major record labels kind of tell them what they can and can’t do. But you ever want some, all you have that one DJ in this little… in this FM station that does what he can to help guys like me out.
But then on the other hand, sometimes I do use other people to send out stuff for me also. I have an agent that’s technically just a super fan of mine, that always helps me out so she will, sometimes, she will call or email as my agent as she is acting as my agent. And that kind of helps out the credibility a little bit, too. So it goes both ways. Sometimes it hurts and sometimes it doesn’t really matter.
Jeff: Okay. But the point is, and the point I want to really drive home is that yeah, there are times when it creates an issue for you in certain situations but it certainly isn’t stopping you.
Jason: Right. No, no. Yeah.
Jeff: Awesome, awesome.
Jason: I’ll keep emailing, I’ll keep calling until they give me a yes or a no. And I’ll just… I’ll stay on. I mean, I’m not that organized but it’s all right around my brain somewhere. And I will stay on.
Jeff: That’s cool. So you’re persistent about it and you’re not afraid to hear no.
Jason: Yeah, yeah. Oh yes, yeah. You can’t be afraid to hear no. You hear no about 90 percent of the time.
Jeff: Oh, okay. Well, how do you get okay with that?
Jason: You just understand that that’s the part of the business and it just… it doesn’t matter what you’re in. You’re going to—sometimes, I think musicians especially, take it way personal but I always use this analogy which my wife teases me because I hate but it’s like a lawn mowing business. You can knock on 100 doors and 90 of them might say no but those 10 might pay the bills.
Jeff: Tell us a little bit about what is your life like? You’re an independent musician. You’re doing what you want. You’re following your dream and your passion. What is Jason’s life like on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis?
Jason: Well, I get up in the morning and drink some coffee and I usually come out here to my studio and start working and do things. I’m going to get through this part and then I’m going to tell you the really good stuff. But basically, I love my life and I love what I do. Sometimes, it gets hectic but pretty much I come out here through the week. And through the day, I’m out here doing things that I have to, sending posters and making events on Facebook and all that kind of stuff and making phone calls and all that.
But since I’ve done this, I’ve really been free. This is the really good stuff. I’ve really been free to… I tell my wife and we had to kind of realize this like, hey, we’re like free now to make our life what we want. If we want to go do this, we can go do this. If we want to take a trip to here, we can just plan it and go do it. I have responsibilities in places I have to be but it’s up to me to schedule that stuff. It’s not up to somebody else to tell me, oh no, I got to work every Saturday from now until whenever. And since I’ve done this, my whole family has been so free and freeing other ways, just in our own life and just in our personal life. Just to be able to free us from living how we taught other people wanted us to live or just that stigma of well, you’ve got to us.
It’s been hard because most people in this area, it’s factory work and it’s everybody doing the same thing everyday and sometimes, it’s a little odd. And also, I’ve been able to teach my kids don’t settle for this job or that job. Don’t just go through school and then think that well, I’ll just get this job and be… no, I teach them to do what you want to do, do what you love to do. Start now.
I have a 16-year old that is an artist now. She has her own business. She goes to art shows and festivals and has her stuff in different stores and she has a website. She’s making very good progress and making good money. That’s what she wants to do for a living. My son is playing guitar, playing music and writing songs, too, so I’m trying to bring him up into that. He’s 12. So it’s been freeing for us and it’s also I’ve honestly been able to teach my kids to do what you love to do when you grow up. And that’s been—all of that combined just makes our life just awesome.
Jeff: How amazing is that. Not only are you living the life of your dreams but you’re also raising children who are going to live the lives of their dreams. That’s so amazing. Now you said something that I thought was really interesting, and I’m going to paraphrase it a little bit. But basically you said you kind of had to step back and say, wait a minute, we’re living our lives the way we want now. We can do whatever we want. Like you almost had to like, shake yourself a little bit, it sounds like, and say, “No. Now, we’re in charge.”
Jason: Right. Yeah. Yeah, it’s kind of like, I always think of this and I have a weird thinking sometimes. But it’s like, when I was working in factories, I would be driving home and I would be like, reach up and to take my safety glasses off because I felt like they were still on my head. And I was like, oh no, they’re not on my head anymore. Yeah, that’s right. I’m driving home. It’s kind of like that. It’s kind of like, oh wait a minute. Wait. We were making our own decisions now. Now, that’s right.
Jeff: Yeah. That is awesome. I love that analogy of like… it’s like, your safety glasses are not on your head anymore.
Jason: Right, yeah.
Jeff: Well, Jason, tell us what’s the biggest mistake that you’ve made on this journey?
Jason: Honestly, I think it was not doing this a long time ago. I think that’s the biggest mistake if that counts for what I’ve made now. And looking back, I don’t know. But I don’t know. I’ve made a lot of errors and made a lot of mistakes but really everything’s just been a learning process. I don’t really know what would be the biggest mistake other than I just try to learn from all of them and do different and better next time.
Jeff: Yeah. Well, and that’s the way successful people view everything. They don’t view anything really as a mistake. But the one thing that you said that I thought was really interesting was you wish you would have done it earlier. And I think that is, if our listeners only take one thing away, let’s let it be that. Now I wanted to ask you a question. So you said you have two kids. Is it two kids? A 12 and a 16-year old?
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Jason: Actually, I have five all together.
Jeff: Oh, okay. Wow. So what are their age ranges?
Jason: 16 and 12 and then six, four, and three.
Jeff: So three to 16. Five kids in there. Now, one of the things that I think really is difficult for people, particularly people with kids is they have mouths to feed and they have clothes to buy and Christmas presents to buy or whatever it is. And I think that that makes it really kind of scary to make a transition like you’ve made with kids. Now you obviously had kids when you made this transition. So tell us a little bit about that process. What was it like to kind of feel like you’re putting in jeopardy the basic needs of your kids?
Jason: Yeah, it’s scary. It really is scary. And when I first made the decision, I was kind of really freaking out but I think really, we’ve never really had a lot of money and so, I mean, my kids don’t go without. They have food and they have clothes. I think really the big thing is, we don’t live like everybody else as far as… I drive a ’97 Dodge caravan that I paid $3,000 for and when it breaks, I fix it. So, we don’t have car payments. Our house payment is super cheap. We have very minimal bills. And so, it doesn’t take a lot to pay the bills and do all that kind of stuff.
So, and really, I’m a secular musician, if you will, but my whole family, we really believe strongly in God and He’s provided for us in ways that I can’t even describe to explain. And I think that’s been a huge part of it that I can’t really deny or leave out is that God has just provided for us in ways—I don’t know, just… the kids need clothes and somebody will drop off some clothes and like, hey, I was thinking of you guys and it’s right what we needed, right when we needed it. Just different things. I mean, it’s always just worked out.
Jeff: Yeah, yeah. Well, that’s awesome. I think one of the distinctions that I see between the way you’re living your life and the way you’re raising your kids and the way I would say most people do is, they may have less materially now but it seems like you’ve put way more focus on doing something that you enjoy and actually creating and building a happy fulfilled life, which when your kids are in their 20’s and 30’s, I don’t think they’re going to be wishing that they had nicer clothes or a bigger house. And I think—I’m not a parent but what I see over and over and over again is I think parents get way too caught up in providing all of these amenities for their kids at the expense of what really is the most important thing about life which is enjoying it and pursuing what you want and getting what you want out of life.
Jason: Yeah. Oh, exactly, exactly. Yeah. We’d all like to have new iPads and all these new, shiny stuff but there’s this thing, a lot of people—and I’m not going to stereotype everybody or point fingers but it’s really easy especially today’s society or something, I don’t know, but it’s just… everybody has to focus on stuff. And life’s not about stuff, life’s about living and life’s about… even if you don’t get to do what you want to do for a living, still a lot of people have it backwards, what we’re here for, what we’re doing.
And I see a lot of people and this is what—I don’t know, the opposite I guess. I’m trying not to stereotype everybody but like you said, everybody just… we have the wrong focus, I think, is really what I’m trying to say is you focus on the wrong things. And kids and people—I can live without stuff but I was miserable not doing what I was designed or made or here to do or what my heart wanted to do, what’s in me, my passion. I was just miserable without doing that.
Jeff: And when your kids are in their 30’s, the iPads that they would have now would be long, broken, and obsolete. The clothes would be long outgrown. But living a happy life is something that you never outgrow. It never gets obsolete and nobody can ever take it away from you.
Jason: That’s right.
Jeff: Yeah, Jason, tell us what’s the biggest piece of advice that you would give to somebody who wants to create a lifestyle like yours?
Jason: Well, I think the biggest piece of advice for somebody who wanted to create a lifestyle like mine or to be independent and self-employed, I would say just give yourself credit that you can do it and really, like really, it comes down to me. What I think is it comes down to what we just said is look at life differently. Look at life. Don’t try to live like everybody else and do what you think that everybody else want you to do.
First, you got to be free from all of that if that’s in there, I don’t know, parents and in-laws and neighbors and other people in your life, your best friend. It’s very impressionable. It’s kind of like the matrix. You got to get out of the matrix and look at life differently and realize that you don’t have to do all that stuff and you don’t have to have all the things that we think we have to have. We can live on less and be more happy with less because we’re doing what we want to do.
Jeff: Amazing, amazing advice. Now, Jason, there’s a song that you wrote that I think really kind of sums up what we talked about. And we’re going to play that now. But I want you to first tell us a little bit about the song.
Jason: Yeah. It’s really, it comes down to… it’s like, basically what it says is another mountain to climb. It’s like, once you overcome one thing, life doesn’t ever get to where it’s easy sailing especially when you’re self-employed or a full-time musician or whatever you are. You never get to this plateau. It’s like, oh yeah, I can see the end from here. You overcome this mountain. You climb and you climb and then when you get to the other side, you got another one and then another one. And they’re always different and you always have to just keep on going and that’s what really where the song came from.
Jeff: Well, Jason, thank you so much for being here today and thank you for letting us use this song. Right now, I’m going to leave our listeners with Another Mountain to Climb by Jason Wells.
Jeff: What great advice that Jason had. And a couple of things that he said that were so important to remember. And the first thing that I think is really important is him talking about rejection. And talking about… he just realizes that nine of those 10 doors that he knocks on, he’s going to hear a no. And he’s gotten really, really okay with that. It doesn’t mean that doesn’t frustrate him sometimes. I’m sure there’s some days he gets frustrated with that and that’s okay. But he understands and he recognizes that hearing no is part of the business. And that’s not just about the music business. That’s any business. Any business that you’re in, you’re going to have to just get comfortable with hearing no and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that. It just means that a great way to look at no is that it means you’re one no closer to getting that yes that you’re going to get next.
Now the other thing that Jason talked about but I think is so important is that when he looks at the life that he’s providing for his children, he’s not looking at it from the standpoint of how much stuff can I give them now. How can I make sure they have the latest tennis shoes and the latest electronic gadgets? No. He’s looking at it from the standpoint of how can I set an example and how can I best position them not to have the fanciest iPads today but to have the best lifestyle and the happiest life that they can have the rest of their lives.
And if you liked Another Mountain to Climb, go over to Jason Wells’ music and that’s at jasonwellsmusic.com and look at everything that he’s got. He’s also got a YouTube channel and has a lot of his music and videos out there. So definitely go take a look at jasonwellsmusic.com.
Now, if you want to create an amazing life of freedom just like Jason and all of the other guests on the How To Quit Working show, do go over to howtoquitworking.com and sign up for the free video training series. It’s absolutely no charge and it’s going to walk you through the first couple of steps to get that business off the ground while you’re still working your full time job without giving up your full time salary. So go over to howtoquitworking.com and get that free video training series. You just have to enter your name and email and it’s all yours. And look at the comments. People are really loving it so far. So head over and check that out and until next time.