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Ryan Kershaw - Interview with Ryan Kershaw

10 Nov 2019 // An interview by Mike Alexander
Ryan Kershaw has done unspeakable things to the guitar. He’s made it wail and scream. He’s throttled it, made it blister and distorted its voice with feedback and made it sound loopy. It has reverberated under his touch. And in gentler moments it has been plucked and fretted and taught how to sing. He’s combined that knowledge with his life experiences to mentor other musicians, giving seminars and online courses and has been the driving force behind various concert events. His second book Make Money Teaching The Guitar is now available as an audio book. Mike Alexander interviewed Ryan for Muzic.net.nz, and here's what was said:

What’s so great about the guitar besides the fact that air drumming and air piano just don’t look as cool?

Ha ha! Well, the guitar is easier to take around than say a piano or upright bass. It doesn't mean it's better, but it does make it easier for spontaneous music-related conversations or jam sessions with random people! On the instrument, you can play both melody and harmony ideas and because there is a pretty rich history with the instrument now, an almost unlimited number styles are out there to learn from and share with people. You can play some slow jazz if that's your thing or crank up the amps and get into high energy punk or metal... or jam along to EDM, electro-swing or Industrial. It's just such a versatile instrument and a brilliant thing for connecting people and creating awesome memories.

When did you know it was your instrument of choice?

I wanted to be a musician since a very early age, but I was 10 when I started getting a few lessons and working on the craft.

Has it seen you through the good and bad times?

Well it's seen me through some awesome parties, family functions, performances, friend's marriage celebrations, school trips, New Year's road trips, radio interviews and TV appearances. It's also seen me through substance abuse, clinical depression, mental health issues, heartbreak, unemployment, the death of friends and family... so yes. It has been there when I was congratulated on my playing and encouraged by friends, and it was also there when I was shown prejudice in the industry by those that could have made a difference. All through the ups and downs, the guitar has been there; as something to share, to love, to be frustrated with, to learn from, to humble me, to grow through and to bond with other people.

Is your new book Make Money Teaching The Guitar aimed at teachers or students or both?

The book was actually released in 2016 but has been reissued online in audio book formats. I wrote it for anyone that would gain benefit from reading it or find it helpful. It is primarily, as the name would suggest, a book for music teachers or those that would like to teach their instrument as a career - but I've had all sorts of people get the book for their own creative endeavours; an older lady who was in retirement and wanted to start her own venture as a healer, self-employed labourers, teachers in other fields, and students who wanted to have the best grounding possible as they start to do their own thing. The lessons and suggestions in the book can be applied to artists too - as there is info in there about getting onto TV and radio and putting on events as well as website advice and the creative sides of what you are doing.

Although the title would seem self-evident, what is the book about?

I'll be very blunt: I don't know how long I have on this earth. As far as I know, I haven't got a chronic disease, but I have lost a few friends and family over the years and have had a few things happen personally which has highlighted this fact for me and put a few things into perspective. I wanted to share, and still want to share what I have worked so damn hard over the years on - which is my music and teaching guitar. I can't take anything with me when I go... none of us can; so, there is no point in holding on to anything, including knowledge. It should be shared for the benefit of others. The book, Make Money Teaching Guitar, is a complete blueprint for a successful career in teaching music; from branding and setting up with equipment, to financial advice and systems, to social media and marketing... right through to dealing with/learning from difficult students and avoiding burnout. It is all there. There is no point in hoarding this knowledge with me to the grave, so it is all up for grabs, it's just up to the aspiring teacher or musician now to read it. If they know about it there is no excuses for saying "there is no help out there". It is all in the book.

Do you think it’s a money maker, so to speak? Could it be the new Rich Dad Poor Dad or Think And Grow Rich for musicians?

I think my book Use Your Buzz to Play The Guitar, which I released in 2012 is more along those lines, combining personal growth with music/guitar creativity. As far as money goes - Make Money Teaching Guitar will help people to earn a great living in teaching music should that be what they want to do, and should they put in the work on the exercises. Nothing comes from books if we don't put our acquired knowledge into action. My motive for writing the book however was not to make money or to have money be the main focus for the reader. The title is actually a cheeky reference to my past. I started teaching at 15 years old and my friend's parents would always ask condescendingly "Oh, can you make money doing that". I found it a bit funny that they should ask me like that, because they wouldn't ask that to the electricians I knew, or people working at the supermarket. It wasn't so much the question itself but the way they asked it... and it was always the first question, rather than "Oh, that must be fun", or. "it must be nice to help people learn music". So, the title is a cheeky reference to those days, and it just happens that yes you can earn a great living teaching guitar, but more importantly you can help a lot of people and meet some really nice humans too.

There are moments I've had with teaching, such as a young metal head that reminded me of myself at his age, turning to me as he walked out the door and saying "Excuse me Ryan, I just wanted to say thank you because you have helped me with guitar and you have helped me with school too". And the family I met through teaching who invited me over to their house to make me dinner and share how one of my songs helped their daughter. That kind of stuff is truly priceless and it just eliminates any worry of being judged in the NZ industry over the years. I mean really, after those genuine things - why would it matter. Those moments that happen when you care about teaching are gifts, and when they are happening money is not on the mind.

You have been an inspiration to a lot of musicians in New Zealand not just through your music but also your workshops, courses and consultancy work. Is that as rewarding as playing?

Thank you, that is surprising to hear but I'm very happy even if a few people get inspired to continue in music through seeing or being involved with my music. I pushed really hard to get more of the self-development side of things going in NZ and to share honest views on the independent music world in New Zealand amongst the industry; and I found that it was like pushing you know what uphill for so long. So again - if one or two people are motivated to keep going through the challenges that they face then that is a good thing.

A lot of musicians are born with a dream to enter a system that they know nothing about. If you find that your dream was largely smoke and mirrors, and that people aren't willing to help, then I think it is important for the health of those coming after you to you to try and share what you have learned along the way. Actually just as I was about to send the answers to this interview, I paused for a quick break and listened to part of an audio book called Tuesdays with Morrie. This morning I had been listening to an interview with Morrie Schwartz , who was dying at the time of the interview, and decided to listen to a small bit of the audio book involving the same person. Anyway, there is a lot of wise lessons to be listened to in the audio book, but a quote from Morrie that I really relate to artists or teachers trying to do something new early on really struck a chord with me. Here's the quote: "The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves; and you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn't work, don't buy it".

Without a doubt, helping others in the music industry is just as rewarding as playing for me, and I've been doing it since before anyone in the business side of the NZ industry knew me anyway. I have a massive fondness for truth and honesty in music and in people that I talk to. To me, with so much of the mainstream music world resembling WWE wrestling, I just love it when people get off their arse and actually give a shit about their learning. Then to see them have breakthroughs and set up habits that will help them in other areas of life is brilliant, too.

What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?

Well I can't remember what the best piece of advice was, but if you close your eyes, ask, and listen... I think you'll hear it. And that isn't me being religious or being an over the top idiot... that's the truth.

The audio book for Make Money Teaching Guitar is available here.
Make Money Teaching Guitar is available for purchase here.


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: ryankershawpresents@gmail.com

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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