with Benjamin Fair of Ex-Easter Island Head
Name: Benjamin Fair
Bands: Ex-Easter Island Head (current)
QRD – How old were you when you first realized you wanted to be a professional musician?
Ben – From before I had even learnt to play an instrument, probably about 8 or 9. I can’t claim really to be a full time professional musician. I also have to work a day job in a music venue!
QRD – What are a few highlights of your musical career?
Ben – A couple of things that stick out for me are playing a live session on 6Music, Playing at Latitude Festival, hearing myself on Radio 1, getting our album reviewed by The New York Times, writing for & performing with BBC Philharmonic Ensemble.
QRD – At what age did you decide you wanted to become a father?
Ben – Quite quickly after meeting my wife, Georgia, when we were at university. I was perhaps 21. We married & had my daughter, Poppy, when I was 24.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your family has had on your career?
Ben – I think at first there was an impact because it took a long time for me to find a balance. So, I’d say rather than having a family being the cause of that, it was more that I struggled making it work. If I’m being honest, I’m still not there & sometimes make the wrong decision, but I can say that trying to put my family first has really helped me focus my time. I don’t have the luxury of sitting at a piano all day, so the time I allot to do that I’m stricter with myself, quicker to make decisions on whether an idea is worth exploring. Rehearsals are more structured to get the most out of them. I’ve also found how to say no to gigs, if it isn’t the right opportunity, & I’ve found that can really go in your favour.
One negative is that I had wanted to study music more. I really wanted a PhD, but family finances just wouldn’t permit. I had to find work & be at home, which limited options of making money solely from performance. Hence the day job I have.
A positive is that I’m more realistic about work. Having an extra reason to justify doing some endeavours you are asked to do as a musician, is great. It makes it easier to be black & white about agreeing to projects.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your career has had on your family?
Ben – Again, any negatives come from me not getting the balance right. It can feel like a bit of an impasse if you let it. You need to invest a lot of time into both music & family life & when you’re giving one the attention it needs, the other suffers. My wife, Georgia, is incredibly understanding & supportive. If I’m away from home on tour, she is a one parent family for as long as I’m gone or in rehearsals in the weeks leading up to it. Having a child means I would never have been able to tour without Georgia agreeing to be sole parent while I’m away. It’s such a big thing to agree to. A couple of years ago I had a five week European tour that I just had to say no to. I suppose the other negative impact is that I could be more financially secure if I’d had a regular job.
A positive I think is that my daughter sees me creating & being passionate about creating. I think she values creativity & sees & understands the work that goes into it.
QRD – Has your daughter effected the music you make &/or listen to?
Ben – Not so much in what I listen to, but I think I write differently now. I probably strive a little harder for an emotional impact these days, but I don’t know whether that is age or fatherhood.
QRD – Do you think being involved in music has made your daughter different than her piers?
Ben – I don’t think it makes her different than any of her friends. Poppy enjoys music, she plays clarinet & piano. A lot of her friends play music. Poppy likes that we both play music & it’s something we bond over & discuss. A few years ago I left a long-term project to work on some other things & Poppy got a little upset, which I was taken aback by. When my parents left jobs to work elsewhere, I was never upset, so I think Poppy views it as more than just work in the way that I viewed my parents’ jobs.
QRD – Have you had problems with the lack of steady money from a musical career providing the security you feel necessary in your household?
Ben – Absolutely. As I’ve said, I still need a day job & it’s a circular problem. The less time I’m working on music, the less money I’ll make from it & the more time I need to put in to the day job which forces more out-of-office hours to work on music, impacting on my family. Unfortunately the rent needs paying though!
QRD – Given the limitations having a family has on being a touring musician, would you have toured more earlier in life if you’d known?
Ben – No, having learned to say no to gigs has been a really positive thing that happened. If anything, I wish I’d have gigged less, concentrating on proper opportunities. I wish I’d played fewer, but more important shows.
QRD – Do you think being a father or a musician has a greater impact on your community?
Ben – I’d guess being a dad, but I suppose both impact different parts of the community in their own way. If I help out on school trips, it isn’t going to have much of an impact on the arts community. On the flip side of that, I play music largely in cities other than the one I live in, so it’s hard to see how that affects my local community. I feel part of a music community; but I think because live music is predominantly a night time experience & that that community is spread across various cities, it makes it hard to compare the two.
QRD – Would you rather see your children eventually become a musician or parent?
Ben – It really isn’t a cop out to say I just want her to be happy, so whichever leads to a fulfilled life will be good by me! The two aren’t mutually exclusive.
QRD – Both family & music seem like things that will take up as much of your time as you’re willing to put in. How do you end up dividing your time?
Ben – It’s a lot of small savings here & there. I arrange to rehearse with the band while my wife takes my daughter to karate classes. I don’t rehearse or plan anything music related on Tuesdays, as my wife goes to some classes that evening. Lots of little things like that add up overall. I’m really lucky to have such an understanding partner. I’ve missed family parties & events because I’ve been working & she’s been really supportive about it. She also let’s me know when the balance isn’t right. I also have pretty thoughtful bandmates, who know that I have to plan a bit more when it comes to taking on time consuming projects. They know that something that takes up my time also effects my family.
QRD – What does your daughter think of your music?
Ben – She sings the songs I write around the house. I think we have quite similar tastes really. She likes some music I liked as a kid & I think the type of music she listens to, I would have liked at her age. When I play her things I’ve written, she’s always supportive about them. The most fun we have with music is either bashing stuff out together on the piano or dancing to other people’s music the radio.
QRD – Do you think you could ever do a musical project with your daughter?
Ben – Absolutely. We’ve written some silly songs together for family members. We both like changing the lyrics to famous songs, so we’re almost there.
QRD – Any words of advice to young people?
Ben – I find the toughest part is touring. My dad wasn’t a musician, but he worked away from home a lot & I don’t think it had as much of an impact on me as it did my mum. The practicalities of parenting three kids meant it was a hard slog for my mum while he was away. I suppose you can only base things off your own experience so that’s what I think of when considering a tour.