Time is not of the essence as long as you’re moving forward. I remember people constantly pressuring me to make it in a heartbeat & feeling really insecure & sad when things took time. I would be dead or hooked on drugs if I had been famous by the time I was 20, so don’t get frustrated, things will work out for you at your own time, just don’t stop moving forward.
As part of my series featuring the rising stars in the music industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ian Guerin. Ian is a chart-topping RnB/Pop recording artist, songwriter; producer that has topped has the BEAT 100 U.K. Chart thrice due to his unique lyrical and melodical style. A 9 Time BEAT 100 Award Winner, and an Akademia Award Winner, Ian Guerin stepped into the scene in 2010 with the release of his debut single Bubblegum; his debut album Madsexy dropped on August 29th, 2012. His presence as a musical force was cemented by four-time award-winning, Best R&B/Soul Song of the Year Cry, UK #1 single Roll the Dice, and four time award-winning UK #1 single Free Time; which was recently released in the United States. Ian’s sophomore album “Irreplaceable” was released on March 22nd, 2019 to rave reviews.
Thank you so much for joining us Ian! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I actually do have one of those memoir–worthy stories on how I got to this career path. I was 9 years old, I was at my aunt Mitzi’s house, (she has no children so she spoiled me on weekends when I’d come visit) & she had a small karaoke machine & a few records. We started singing in front of her bedroom TV & I remember her saying: “Sweetheart your voice is golden; we’ve got to do something about it.”
About 2 months later she told me she had a birthday present for me, so she & her husband at the time picked me up early one Saturday & took me to a recording studio to record a 9 cover song demo I had previously rehearsed & that was the moment. The moment I entered the booth & I started doing the first song I figured, wow! This is so much fun. The next day my mom got me my own karaoke machine & I never stopped singing again.
I can’t remember wanting to sing professionally before that experience, but my sister, my cousins & I did do dance shows for our parents at the family town house & I do remember being able to mimic every different vocal type of the music I heard as a child; from Aqua to the Spice Girls, I could play all the parts.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your music career?
I have a couple of interesting moments I can remember. One was definitely when my former advisor started using Prince as an example of a career path similar to mine & he said: “there’s this artist I’ve worked with for 25 years & he’s always wanted to be independent, his name is Prince…” & of course I love Prince. Radio hosts, journalists & critics often relate my vibe to that of Prince & I always knew we have similar vocal styles, but I never thought I’d work with someone close to him, let alone that what I felt about his personality & mine would be noticed by someone else. It’s interesting because his energy seems to follow me wherever I go, even though he always seemed so collected & I always feel so unrehearsed. I don’t want to be anyone but me, but I’m glad people notice cause it means I’m truly being me at all times.
Another interesting thing that’s always a highlight is timing. It sometimes feels as if the things that happen were already written somewhere.
I remember reading about Bing Crosby’s assertion about the microphone the night before recording ‘Chapter II’ & having that radically change the way I performed it for the album.
Then I remember having an ex reappear in my life just as I was running out of ideas for the second half of the album. I didn’t want to make an album with 2 meaningful songs in it. I wanted every song to have its own feet & I owe that accomplishment to timing. She came back just as I was going to pull out the fillers, & walked away just as I finished my recording sessions; no album tracks were required.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
The most exciting project I got right now is the promotion of my new album “Irreplaceable.”
I waited so long to showcase these songs, & to spread their message across, that the chance of talking about them, what I’ve learned & how I’ve changed since the beginning of this era is thrilling to me.
I had to endure so much & I wizened up so notably that every time an article comes out & I read it, I can’t help but to smile recalling the many times I stayed up all night anxiously thinking how I wished the world would hear my point of view. Now is that time, & I want to be here for it. I’m not in it for the fame & all good things come in due time. My present is “Irreplaceable” & I love it deeply.
I’m also writing my new album & having a blast imagining what it’ll be like when the new songs drop, & getting anxious about wanting people to hear them already; just as I did with Irreplaceable, I fantasize a lot about that time, but only for fun.
The video for my upcoming single got me excited too. It’s about a topic we don’t board very often in music videos, but it just makes sense, so people got to stay tuned for that; cause it’s nothing like what you’ve seen in the previous ones nor is it your usual.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
One of the most interesting people I’ve come across is a former Virgin VP who I met back in 2012. At the time he was the Co-CEO of a music management agency I was looking to be picked up by, but he was in the process of creating his own, so he heard my album (I had left Madsexy at his office) & decided to call my sister & me to get together & chat. When we arrived at the meeting one afternoon he was reading his Billboard magazine & sipping coffee at the restaurant’s porch. We greeted each other & started talking about my career, my music & my influences & I happened to mention Janet Jackson, who he had worked with at Virgin.
“I used to work with Janet,” he said. He then proceeded to tell me that one time (I guess around 2001) that he had just landed in New York & he got called back to LA because J requested an emergency meeting because her upcoming album hadn’t made the LA Times Top 10 of most expected releases of the year. He told me that they explained to her that they hadn’t sent the album over to them because she was adamant it remain top secret, & that they couldn’t include an album they didn’t know was coming out. He told me Janet then realized it had been her own fault & that she then said it was ok & that they should try & get a whole piece on the expectation about her release. It was then & there I learnt that outlets don’t just do articles on you for being you; of course that happens, but I learnt I could get featured by anyone I wanted if I just tried & reached out for the right person. It was a real game changer for me over the next few years, because I went off looking for my own features every time I had a release coming up. Of course I now have an amazing team, but I’m proud of the features I got over the course of the next few years thanks to that anecdote.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
That’s a tough one, because of the “history” element. I got to say the person that inspires me the most is my mother; she built herself from scratch & taught me that whatever I see in my mind I can hold in my hands. However, when it comes to people in history I got to say all the outcasts inspire me.
Henry Ford, Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama, Chris Gardner, Sigfrid & Roy, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Quincy Jones, Tommy Mottola, Criss Angel, Walt Disney, Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine, Tony Bennett, Simon Cowell.
The thing they all have in common is that they either had no means to make it or they were told they wouldn’t & they still made it.
I remember Simon appearing on a list called “Potential Nobodies Who Became Somebody,” & that story about Criss Angel’s first illusion being to quote: “make people believe he was somebody.”
All of the above, & I’m naming merely a few, have stories that taught me that there’s no ceiling if I believe in myself.
Even Latin singer Nicky Jam, in whose Netflix story I worked in as a transfer assistant, is for sure an inspiration; Sia & Ellen, Wendy Williams, & everyone who was a misfit & got to have a voice. I’ve honestly always sought of myself as an outcast, so they taught me it’s ok to stand out if you can’t blend in, & to have a dream so big that it can’t help but to come true.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I definitely use my platforms to create awareness. I don’t know how much “good” I’ve done, but I’m certainly not waiting on massive fame to make a difference.
I’m very an advocate for environmental issues & animal rights & I consider myself to be awake; therefore, I never miss the chance to use my platforms, them being the stage, social media, my interviews or my one on one chats, to keep that conversation going in order to push people to join the action. I’m no role model yet my merchandise is packed in recycled bags not plastic packets. I try to make people aware or to make them make small educational changes. I think the only role my success has played at this point is that I’ve earned some respect, & when people respect you, & you have something to say, they shut up & listen.
I’m not at a point in my career where I can make mass donations or open a school or advocate in partnership with huge associations, but I’d be foolish to wait for that in order to do something; so I do what’s right in my everyday life: I lead by example, I call injustice out, I try to teach awareness, kindness & right-doing; even if nobody else is doing it. Cause right is right even if nobody is doing it, & wrong is wrong even if everybody is.
It’s a lifestyle for me really, throw your leftover apple back in the dirt as fertilizer, give people who are looking for a dog a list of shelters & breed rescues, send them a horrible puppy mill video, smile to the person in the car next to you, have a kind word for someone feeling down. I do this every day, & I’ve started to believe the reason why I need to succeed in music is to really be able to have a mayor platform to spread this word, & well my success, mayor or moderate, got me this feature & now 50K plus people get to read this question & get to thinking, so yes, I guess I have.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the biggest amount of good to the biggest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would start three not one, but I’ll cover two now.
The first would be regarding animal rights to freedom & habitat. This includes banning the invasion & destruction of natural habitats for human development such as: home & commercial construction as well as any sort of urbanization. It’s important to stop thinking about expansion & start thinking about conservation; hence animal’s rights to freedom. This term encompasses banning breeding, selling & keeping animals that require cages as pets: birds, rodents, lizards, insects, fish, small wild animals, prairie animals, & any creatures that require cages or permanent enclosures, off limits.
My second movement would be one that creates awareness about the human carbon print. People need to know that there’s a direct link between population increase & global warming, as well as one between population increase & life quality. I don’t think people are aware of that, so my movement should include free, legal & safe abortion for everyone & awareness campaigns about the human carbon print. It’s important for people to know that this planet can no longer hold this many of us & other species deserve to live here too. I think education makes a difference & if people are educated on the subject, they’ll make wiser choices. I get a lot of heat for this thought, so I just want to disclaim that I’m not against having children, I’m against irresponsible adults.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I’d tell them not to wait for that “big break” to showcase their talent. Showcase it every time you get a chance, cause that big break might not come if you don’t do so. Desyple, a friend, producer, rapper, & host always says: “shut mouths don’t get fed,” & I believe that.
Don’t spend more money making your music than promoting it, if you don’t promote it no one will hear that amazing record you made. Plus, music doesn’t have to be expensive. The quality comes from knowing how to use your resources in full. You don’t need that orchestra; you need a few string players, to know where you want to go, & to make the music you’re meant to make at heart.
I wanted to be Michael Jackson, but I ended up being Ian Guerin; he fits me perfectly, there wasn’t one of those before me, & there’s room for both our music (MJ’s & mine.)
Last but not least, get a producer. I know producing yourself is a trend cause being talented is vogue, but think of your favorite band or artist & even they have a producer in the room with tons of experience helping them out. “No one has ALL the best ideas.” — Tony Bennett.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
This is a fun one.
- You’re not going to be an overnight success. It takes hard work to be an overnight success. Or at least it did before social media. The perfect example is that I stopped promoting ‘I Heart’ to be with my girlfriend & thought all I needed was to keep her, because as soon as I got back to promotion my song would blow.
- You got to the music you’re meant to do not the one you think you want to do. I made Madsexy to be a pop star & that pop star hearth-rob persona didn’t sit well with who I truly am even though Madsexy is a good body of work.
- Listen to the Do’s & avoid the don’ts when it comes to following your path. Advice is good when it’s to warn you from potential setbacks not when it’s about preventing your failure. “Preventing your failure” will often come in the form of lines like: “he did it because he is him.” “You got to be realistic.” “What happens if you don’t make it?” & “There are more chances of you winning the lottery.” You won’t win if you don’t play & failure comes with wisdom.
- Time is not of the essence as long as you’re moving forward. I remember people constantly pressuring me to make it in a heartbeat & feeling really insecure & sad when things took time. I would be dead or hooked on drugs if I had been famous by the time I was 20, so don’t get frustrated, things will work out for you at your own time, just don’t stop moving forward.
- You’re good enough; your dreams aren’t bigger than you & no one in the history of the planet was born a household name, except for royals. I truly wish someone had told me that, because I’ve would’ve taken chances earlier.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Tony Bennett; because his stories, advice & approval would give me life, he’s my all-time idol, & hearing him speak would be the most fulfilling, enriching & delightful experience of my life.
Mariah Carey, because I think our hearts & minds are so much alike & we would have a heart to heart & laughs, maybe write something together, but only if our creative visions are aligned, if not friendship would be cool, I just know that even if sounds cliché.
Tommy Mottola, because he is one of the most brilliant people in the industry, he redesigned the music industry, saved it from an early demise & just the stories, damn.
Quincy Jones; he worked with Frank, Michael, Stevie, Ray, he is Quincy Jones! He’s THE music. I was going to say, Quincy Jones without any because, because it’s Quincy Jones!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
They can follow me on:
Streaming Services: https://songwhip.com/album/ian-guerin/irreplaceable
Thank you for these great insights. This was very inspiring!