I had the pleasure of interviewing Vincent James, who along with his wife Joann, is the founder of the national non-profit Keep Music Alive and two international music holidays: Teach Music Week and Kids Music Day.
They are also authors of the book series “88+ Ways Music Can Change Your Life”. Their mission is to get more kids and adults reaping the academic, social and therapeutic benefits of playing music.
Vincent is also a recording artist and founder of LoveSongs.com and has written dozens of custom songs for clients all around the world.
Thank you so much for joining us! Let’s show everyone you’re a normal human being. What are your hobbies, favorite places to visit, pet peeves? Tell us about YOU when you’re not at the office.
“Hmmmm…my wife and I have a saying “What is normal anyway?” lol. We don’t have a lot of time for hobbies, but we do love to watch some of the paranormal TV shows. Before we started our Keep Music Alive mission, we used to go on ghost hunting trips. Fortunately, I never saw Casper or anything else. Just because I believe doesn’t mean I really want to see it.”
Can you tell us something about you that few people know?
“I once broke my leg chasing a frisbee down a steep hill. You know it’s broken when you hear the bone snap as the slick grass sends your foot into an accelerated spin. My young sons at the time chased me down the hill and were about to pounce ’cause they thought I was faking (this is what happens when you’re always kidding your kids lol). I must have made the meanest face and sound of my life to stop them from landing on me. It took an ambulance stretcher to carry me off that hill that morning.”
Do you have any exciting projects going on right now?
“This October we’ll be celebrating the 3rd Annual Kids Music Day over the weekend of Friday October 5th. This year we’re expecting approximately 1,000 music school and music retail locations to participate by holding events; everything from open houses, student performances, instrument petting zoos, community jams, instrument donation drives and even Kids Music Day Sales on instruments, lessons and accessories.
“We’ve also teamed up with over a dozen musical celebrities who are acting as Kids Music Day Ambassadors. Artists confirmed so far include Julie Andrews, Richie Sambora, Nancy Wilson of Heart, Victor Wooten, Sarah McLachlan, Todd Rundgren, Jim Brickman, Mandy Harvey and more.”
Many people say success correlates with the people you meet in your life. Can you describe two that most impacted your success and why.
“We have been very fortunate to have some truly amazing mentors be a part of our journey. The first would be Steve Harrison from Bradley Communications. I’ve known Steve for nearly 20 years and have been a part of his Quantum Leap coaching program for several years.
“When we first came to the program, all we had was the idea for our book “88+ Ways Music Can Change Your Life”. Through his personal mentoring and dedicated coaching staff, our Keep Music Alive mission has expanded beyond our wildest dreams.
“Steve also personally introduced us to our other mentor, Jack Canfield. Most people know Jack as the co-founder of the 500 million selling “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series. Jack is also the author of many other books and his title The Success Principles has literally become the roadmap for our roadmap. We’ve had the opportunity to hear Jack speak several times and even visited him at his Santa Barbara home. His guidance on our musical projects has been extremely helpful and just having him as a cheerleader has been an inspiration.”
Leaders always seem to find ways to overcome their weaknesses. Can you share one or two examples of how you work outside of your comfort zone to achieve success?
“Probably my biggest weakness is I’m a born introvert. Like many musical artists who are introverts, I’m perfectly fine ‘hiding’ behind my keyboard on stage and singing to thousands of people. But bring me out up front with a microphone in my hand, or even worse put me in a small intimate setting with just a few people and stage fright starts to take over.
“Our mentor Jack Canfield has a similar problem and has developed himself into what he refers to as a situational extrovert. So, I try to follow his lead and practice being more social in smaller groups. Slowly but surely, I’m starting to get more comfortable, but its only happening because I’m intentionally forcing myself out of my comfort zone as often as I can.”
Can you elaborate on this more? Do you get anxiety? What is it about music that makes this go away?
“Yes, I think you could classify it as social anxiety, which I understand many performers suffer from. I feel like performing music helps to melt this away for a few reasons. One is that we’re tapping into something deep inside ourselves…we’re literally feeling the music while we sing and play. We’re in what is sometimes referred to as ‘the zone’, so emotions like anxiety take a back seat.
“Another reason would be just the fact that you’re performing a song and not holding an interactive conversation. You put your heart and soul out there in a song, and the audience responds (hopefully in a positive way lol). But, you’re not engaging in a verbal conversation where social anxieties would tend to pop up.”
The concept of mind over matter has been around for years. A contemporary description of this is having mental toughness. Can you give us an example (or two) of obstacles you’ve overcome by getting your mind in the right place (some might call this reframing the situation)?
“I have learned that you truly have to BELIEVE your dream is possible in order to make it a reality. There will always be obstacles and naysayers along the way, but if you truly believe it’s possible and are willing to put in the work, then the universe will absolutely deliver on your dream.
“For me, the biggest obstacle has always been my own self-doubt along with being an introvert. Now that I think about it, the two are probably related. My method for overcoming these weaknesses is to 1000% BELIEVE that our goals are possible.
“Each morning and night I repeat several affirmations out loud. One example is: ‘I am so happy and excited that Kids Music Day has landed its first big corporate sponsor’.
“It’s now happening before my eyes, but only because I’m channeling my BELIEF into daily ACTION towards achieving my goals.”
What are your “3 Lessons I Learned from My Most Memorable Failure”
“My most memorable failure happened about 10 years back which resulted in me crawling back to the corporate. It was all at once the most humbling and valuable experience of my life. I’d like to say I learned the lessons gained immediately, but like many good things it took some time. Three of the most important things I learned from this were:
*1. Build a strong foundation before jumping into the fire. Boxer Mike Tyson has a quote that speaks directly to this: ‘Everybody has a plan, that is until they get hit’. While it’s very important to have a solid plan, you also need to have laid a strong foundation before jumping 100% into your venture. You need to build a team which includes mentors, possible partners, freelancers and enough resources to weather the storm when unavoidable obstacles present themselves.
“2. Find and learn from the best mentors you possibly can; don’t try to figure out everything for yourself. As one of our mentor’s likes to say, success leaves clues. Our job is to find those clues by observing, asking and seeking out coaches who will help you become the best version of you possible. Consider joining a mastermind group of like-minded souls following their own dreams where you can learn and gain from each other’s experiences.
“3. Learn to Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. We typically imagine worst case scenarios whenever we fear about something. The truth is, those scenarios will never happen 99.9% of the time. Instead, we should think of the positive outcomes that could happen and just go for it…make that call to a possible sponsor, start chatting with that potential client you just met, put yourself in a position where good things can happen. Success in life is a lot like the lottery… you absolutely have to play to win!”
What unfiltered advice can you give aspiring stars regarding how to avoid common mis-fires in starting their career?
“Don’t try to follow the latest musical trends, which we all know usually change every couple of years anyway. Instead, figure out who YOU really are and stick to that authentic vision.
“You will have the most success attracting a passionate audience when they truly believe that what they see and hear is who you really are. The musical landscape has been niched down from four main categories (pop, rock, R&B and country) to literally dozens in today’s world. Each of these niches has millions of passionate fans looking for something new and original to start following and tell their friends about.”
What is the best lesson you learned from your worst boss?
“Probably that there is such a thing as being too hands off when managing a project. One of my favorites quotes came from a book I read several years ago written by CDBaby founder Derek Sivers and its simply this: ‘Trust but Verify.’””
What is one “efficiency hack” you use consistently in your life to keep your time and mind free to focus on your strengths and passions?
“I’m not sure this qualifies as an efficiency hack, but I find it important to take breaks away from the office and technology. I’ve discovered that a short walk outside allows my mind to clear and I’ve often solved some of my biggest challenges this way. I’ve also had some amazing creative breakthroughs for songs I was working on at the time during those walks.”
All actors or musicians have sleepless nights. We have a term we use with our clients called the “2 a.m. moment.” It’s when you’re wide awake and thinking not-so-positive thoughts about your business choices and future. Can you describe a 2 a.m. moment (or moments) you’ve had and how you overcame the challenges?
“My not-so-positive thoughts are definitely night crawlers lol. I used to be all charged up first thing in the morning and ready to conquer the world. By the time evening hit, my self-doubts would begin to creep in and then all one would see in the darkness is my glowing eyes as I pondered, ‘What the heck am I doing??’. Learning to do positive affirmations out loud each night has definitely helped keep those negative thoughts at bay.”
Can you expand on a specific 2 a.m. moment you have had that really had you down and worried? What did you do? The idea here is to show the readers you’re just as normal and vulnerable as they are.
“When the venture failed 10 years ago, I began to submit applications back in the corporate world. This was right as the economy and job market were tanking, so definitely not the best time to re-enter the job market.
“I applied for dozens of jobs in my previous technical field and was getting nowhere. After three or four months with savings dwindling, the fear started to paralyze me just as it did with my own venture. The 2 a.m. moments were starting to get pretty dark as I wondered what I was going to do.
“Then late one night I realized (pre-mentors, which is amazing), that in these moments you just need to trust God, the universe or whatever you believe in and KEEP MOVING. So, I restarted my job search with new energy which resulted in finding a high-paying tech job via Craigslist, which at the time one would never think to find that there.
“The lesson I learned is to just keep moving forward and that is how you can create your own ‘luck’. We have applied this several times on our current venture when things didn’t seem to be going well and it usually results in a positive result before too long.”
Nobody likes to fail, and we sure don’t like to admit we failed. Can you describe a moment when you confided your most closely-held business issues/problems to someone close to you, and how the conversation(s) helped you work through the issue?
“I have certainly had my share of business ventures that have fallen short of expectations. One example was about 10 years back when I was trying to develop LoveSongs.com as an online portal supported by advertising, as well as the custom songs that I wrote and produced. As this venture was failing, I had to explain the situation to my wife, who at the time had her hands full raising the kids and running the household. It was through conversations we had during this dark period that I realized my biggest obstacle was my own paralyzing fear of failure that I couldn’t let go of. It was only through the afore-mentioned mentors in my life that I was able to learn how to keep moving with action despite my fears.”
What about this venture failed and why? Was it a lack of funding? Technical capability? Lack of focus?
“At the time I was attempting to build LoveSongs.com into an online portal supported by advertising and custom love songs. There were a number of reasons that resulted in the failure: poor planning, poor execution of the plan that I did have and insufficient funding.
“However, I believe the most important reason was the fact that I allowed fear to paralyze me and prevent me from moving forward. The human mind is truly amazing; we can convince ourselves of almost anything. We can convince ourselves that we are going to succeed, or we can convince ourselves that we are going to fail… it’s a choice. Once you’ve convinced yourself that you’re going to fail, then you really have no chance.
“The mantra that I have taken up thanks to my mentors is to BELIEVE IT’S POSSIBLE every day and allow that affirmation to inspire you forward into action each day.”
What’s on the drawing board for your next venture?
“Our two international music holidays are ongoing endeavors that are growing each year. They will be our legacy left behind for generations to use as catalysts enabling more kids and adults to reap the many benefits of playing music.
“We are also now searching for inspirational music stories for Volume 2 of our ‘88+ Ways Music Can Change Your Life’ planned for a mid-2019 release. On the performing front I am planning a Holiday Music tour this December in the northeast U.S. and another whirlwind Valentine’s Tour in February that I expect to stretch from Florida to New York.”
What did we miss? Feel free to share any other thoughts or advice on overcoming failure, initiatives you’re currently supporting, any other relevant information you would like to share with the readers.
“My advice to my younger self would be to figure out what you want to do in life, and then focus on just that long enough to make it a huge success. With that success will come the opportunity to pursue many of your other interests.
“I’ve done many things in my music career from songwriting, artist management, recording, studio ownership, show production to be the artist myself, all with varying degrees of success. Now as a music advocate, I’ve finally stuck with something long enough to begin seeing some real signs of success.
“Lastly, FEEL the FEAR and DO IT anyway. Turn yourself into what Jack Canfield likes to refer to as an ‘ask-hole’. As long as you continue to improve your craft and broaden your networking circle, you will be amazed at what happens when you just put yourself out there and ask.”
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
“The best way to find out more information about Keep Music Alive and Kids Music Day is at www.KeepMusicAlive.org and www.KidsMusicDay.org . You can also follow my personal musical pursuits at www.LoveSongs.com . Searching social media for Keep Music Alive and Vincent James Love Songs will usually find us as well.”
This was really awesome! Thank you so much for joining us!
Your very welcome and thank you for a fun interview with lots of neat questions!
Originally published at medium.com