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Ryan Kershaw - Ryan Kershaw Newsletter Interview

30 Jul 2017 // An interview by Shade

How did you become involved in music?

My earliest musical memory is stumbling around the house when I was in my first few years of life, singing Cum On Feel The Noise by Quiet Riot. I remember always being fascinated with the term 'Rock n Roll' and my big brother had a great music collection. My fathers cassette collection wasn't bad either with Pink Floyd and Led Zep, but it was when I got into Guns n Roses for the first time that it literally changed my life. After I won $8 on an instant Kiwi ticket that my Mum let me scratch,  I bought my first cassette - Iron Maiden's debut album with Paul Dianno on vocals. That was in my player every day but it was GnR that made me pick up a guitar and stumble my way through songs from my first guitar teacher like Love Me TenderThe Deer Hunter and Peter Posa's The White Rabbit. I'd run home from school and learn songs by Black Sabbath by listening to them and trying to copy what I heard. 

I started my first band when I was 12, and all of the bloody crazy roller-coaster ride would start from there! I was just obsessed and I knew from 8 years old that there was nothing else I was gonna be when I grew up - there was only one thing for me to be and that was a musician! Still gotta grow up but I'm doing the music thing...

If you could perform with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

That's a tough one. Sometimes the reality is not the same as the fantasy, so performing I'm not sure. I'd love to talk lyrics with Eddie Vedder, or have Dave Grohl smashing the shit out of the skins but then there's Danny Carey or Jimmy Chamberlain on drums too - or trying some twisted stuff with an orchestra or Les Baxter, or playing jazz with Bill Evans or Chet Baker... the list goes on. Now I'm picturing Motorhead back in the day or Pantera, Janis Joplin or Tommy Emmanuel. There's just too much good music. There's also some friends that passed away that would be special if we could have them back again.

Which one of your songs are you most proud of, and why?

I'm pretty critical of my own songs, but there are a few that I can't help but get into each time I play - Recovery Positionor Slip Away. Even though I wrote them at a young age, I was honest in my lyrics when I wrote them so they still resonate with me. I think my latest tracks are probably the ones I'm most proud of though because in the past there were too many things I didn't fix/change when I should of. I recorded Round Her Little Finger when I probably should have put that money towards one of my unreleased tracks that is more 'me' - like Slow Motion. I always regret that, but with these latest songs: Make It Go Away and Inspiration, I recorded them more or less how I heard them in my head. I also went through a lot leading up to these songs: My old band breaking up, being ripped off in the Music Industry, facing prejudice, witnessing abuse of a neighbour, sickness and death in my family and my partners family, moving to the other side of the world, and getting MRI scans after my whole body started aching and I lost the ability to control my guitar playing like I used to. All that shit and I still did it as a self-managed artist. I wouldn't call it proud, because there are probably bigger forces at work and the other option is to give up; but at least I can say that the pessimistic bastards that judged me for no good reason can say what they want: I know where I've been and the work that I've put in and I made those recordings anyway and stuck true to my vision as a musician. They can say what they want.

How would you describe your music to someone who hasn't heard it before?

Well I used to call it 'buzzy music'. There was an article in the local paper when I was a teenager, and they typed it as 'fuzzy music'! ha ha. It was kinda like taking the stoner aspects of Syd Barrett era Floyd and mixing it with the riffs of Black Sabbath or Nirvana. If you listen to The Buzz Tapes, it sounds totally different to When I Die, and that sounds different again to The Lunar Sea E.P. In truth - my music covers a range of styles from classical to country to jazz to folk - but because of the way I look and the fact that yes - I did grow up on metal and rock, I'll always be looked at as a rock/metal musician. I'm not whining about it - it's just interesting that I was recently introduced by someone in the NZ Music industry as a metalhead, when if you look at my releases - half of them are acoustic! Bottom line is that I'm a musician and I play music and write music. Better that they have a listen first - then I'm sure they will label it anyway!! Probably as 'What is this shit'. Ha ha!

What can we expect to see from you in the next year?

I'm releasing a book on making your living through music tuition, called Make Money Teaching Guitar. It covers every aspect of tuition - from the finances, to branding/marketing, to social media, to dealing with tricky clients. I am also releasing two new singles - one is called Make It Go Away - it's kind of an existential crisis song, and the other is called InspirationInspiration was written partly at a Tommy Emmanuel guitar camp in Australia, partly in Italy after being inspired from my Nana who unfortunately passed away, and partly in Ireland.

What NZ musicians or bands would you like to see more of, and why?

Arc of AscentHis Masters VoiceEd Cake, Sean Clancy... because they are all talented, true to themselves and play good music. I also have a few of my guitar students from back when I was teaching guitar in New Zealand in bands:The InquisitionSilent TortureGodzilla takes New York. Kieran Anstis is a former student too, and is now marketing manager at Music Planet. They are all good guitarists and nice people so it would be cool to see them all do more as the years go on.

What local albums have you been enjoying recently?

I have been playing a lot of tracks that I've listened to for a while to be honest.Orgiastic Blasphemy by Skuldom, Wheelsby Peter Posa, Mars by Crafty and For the Love of It by Salmonella Dub - so it's mainly tracks. The full album by a Kiwi artist that I've been listening to the most this year is Fantastica by Russ Garcia. Pretty buzzy and I love the cover art!

What is your favourite NZ venue, and why?

Totally depends on the gig - from a jam on the side of the road or the cuzzy's garage, to Vector Arena - if the artist is good and there's a good vibe with everyone there - I'm in! 

Have you got any tips for dealing with nerves before a gig?

Well I've tried the drinking until you can't put your pants on, and that doesn't work. It depends on the person and what you want from the show. For some people it'll be a ciggy or a cone and a glass of JD's and coke, and they keep it random and  not choreographed... for others it will be revising the show in their head, warming up with vocal zone, a major scale ostinato sweep and limiting their interaction with the crowd beforehand. My recommendation would be the vocalzone and warm-up. The main thing though, is you just get up there and do it. You deserve to. That time on the stage is yours and it doesn't matter what the negative voices think because they are not up there... you are. Own it. 

Where do you get your inspiration to create music from?

Life, death and consciousness. And a a lot of the time - unconsciousness! ha ha

How do you balance your music with other obligations; family, job etc?

I've been at both ends of the scale: I've been unemployed and on the dole with not much going on, and I've been making a living from music successfully and too busy. They can both be hard or limiting to a musicians enjoyment. A few years ago when I first got into personal growth, I got obsessed with turning my life around and being productive. It was cool: I created a music festival, wrote my first book, taught 60 guitar students, studied 5 major courses, organised practices and shows with my band, moved house, and tried to balance that with my relationship with my partner. What happened? I burned out. 

A lot of us have this dangerous thing of saying 'yeah good - busy mate'. Well I guess it's okay to be busy, but it's so easy to get too busy and that's not productive at all. I've overcommitted before to projects where I'm helping out, and in the end it just dilutes my productivity and my enjoyment of the project.

I strongly recommend studying time-management. You might not think it's very Rock n Roll, but get over it - time management is used all of the time in music - for tours, for show deadlines, for due dates with album artwork etc. 

I use a few simple tricks and good habits to make sure that the morning is my time, and that means I can do more with my day without burning out. If anything it allows me to use my creativity more because I'm aware of my tendency to over-do things, and as a result can change my path before things get too insane. Here's a link to my tips for managing your time in ways where it helps your musical endeavours:



Managers generally take 20%, agents 10%. Anyone with a few dollars behind them can send you to the States for example, but what are you going to do once you get there, and if they are taking 50 percent for everything, you might be getting ripped off without knowing it. Start with the basics - learn what managers generally get, learn what a publicist does and does not do, learn about songwriters rights and royalty procedures. If you don't bother, you can easily end up with a dodgy agent taking your money and essentially getting you paying to play, and left with no money for other areas of your music project. Starting with the basics of what percentages are the industry standard for people that you work with is a good grounding for not getting ripped off as you go, and will also see you a little more confident in situations where business propositions are made with your music. If you leave it up to someone else to learn that stuff, you'll get shat on! End of story. 


There are so many organisations out there, with which you can learn more to help yourself be more prepared for a career in music. Here are a few: The Music Managers Forum, Independent Music New Zealand, APRA, The New Zealand Music Commission. BUT... BUTTTT..... It is so important that you don't DEPEND on these organisations, or funding, to make your music go forward. The most helpful thing you can do is manage yourself in a good way, because even if you work with a great manager, one day - because life might happen - they will be gone and you'll be back to YOU again. It always comes back to you. So what are YOU doing to improve or learn, or enjoy what you are doing? None of these organisations guarantee anything, but they do provide a lot of useful information and the chance to meet some good people. I used to attend every seminar I could at APRA. It didn't matter if I was stuck in traffic on the way back from overseas an hour beforehand, or if something terrible happened at home, or if I felt uncomfortable. I would always step out of my comfort zone and attend the seminars and that is a big part of what helped me do what I do - I always considered myself a student, and I didn't rely on funding to make my music. If you are pissed off with no one helping you, but you can count on one hand the amount of rejections you have had in writing, then you haven't tried hard enough. 


I remember when my band Paradox won our regional finals for the RockQuest back in the day. I felt more relieved than excited. We had worked so hard to achieve it, and it was a kind of 'tick off the list' thing. Don't get me wrong - I appreciated the event and everything else, but sometimes it can be easy to get into a snowball where you are just chasing achievements to feel validated. The thing is - it's all a process. What if you win that award - there is still life after that award. So I'm not saying to disregard achievements, and I always recommend setting goals, but it's so important to enjoy the process, otherwise it can be all chasing. In day to day life for example, you know how easy it can be to sit down for a meal and totally rush through it because your mind is thinking about the past or the future. Try instead to just focus on that meal, and you'll enjoy it more. The same goes for making music. It all counts - your first demo, your fans will want to check that out later, and the memories surrounding that time of your life will be just as valuable as physical products, distinctions or other peoples perceptions of what you did. So, have your goals but enjoy the process as you are in it. 


I've dedicated a big part of my life to is helping other musicians. I have many articles available, as well as books, audiobooks and courses that I'd love Muzic.net.nz readers to try. Most of them include a personal growth element, and also cover practical tips and strategies for a career in music. Here's a list:

The Musicians Confidence Course

Music Thinks Advice Columns:

Notes of the Guitar Poster / Guitar Goals Poster

Use Your Buzz To Play The Guitar (free workbook)

Use Your Buzz to Play The Guitar Audiobook

Use Your Buzz To Play The Guitar Book

Use Your Buzz To Play The Guitar (full online course)

Make Money Teaching Guitar Book

Linkedin Articles

More can be found on my music education website: ryan-kershaw.com  including interviews with musicians and info about the one-on-one coaching and tuition I offer for artists.


About Ryan Kershaw

Ryan Kershaw a guitarist who was first known in New Zealand for his psychedelic guitar playing in a genre he called 'Buzzy'.

Ryan Kershaw is a musician and music educator, author of "Use Your Buzz To Play The Guitar" and creator of the Musicians Confidence Course. He has helped to strengthen the music education community in New Zealand by bringing organisations together including Music Education New Zealand Aotearoa, SmokefreeRockquest, and IMNZ. He is the founder of the New Zealand Underground Festival, which provided New Zealand underground musicians with a platform to connect with the industry, and currently writes for The Guitar Association Of New Zealand, Audioculture and Muzic.net.nz. Consultations are available with Ryan - email: [email protected]

visit www.ryan-kershaw.com for more info on how you can get help for your music

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Ryan Kershaw


The Buzz Tapes
Year: 2012
Type: Album
The Lunar Sea
Year: 2011
Type: EP
Yesterday's Gone
Year: 2009
Type: Album
Little Green Dragon
Year: 2008
Type: EP

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