Escape Lessons

The long road to escape everything

“Someone has a great fire in his soul and nobody ever comes to warm themselves at it, and passers-by see nothing but a little smoke at the top of the chimney,” - Vincent van Gogh

We set up our record label on a bit of a whim back in 2015, in anticipation of my 30th birthday. I’ve never been phased by getting older before, but this particular culturally-invented, arbitrary numerical signifier had me taking a cold, hard look at the achievements of my life to date. In that moment of panic, I felt like I should have achieved more by now. Not that I had any reason to be ashamed or anything. But regularly releasing my own music has long been an ambition of mine and, with long working hours and other commitments, I just hadn’t got around to making it the priority I wanted it to be. So that felt like an appropriate goal to help me chase this poorly defined, irrational idea of success.

The label launched on my birthday weekend, with three original albums and an awesome launch party. But once the initial excitement died down we soon realised we didn’t really know what to do with this new entity we’d created. Soon after, we were sucked back into big projects and long hours at work, and our bold ambitions rapidly dissipated. 

Performing at Escapism launch party, July 2015

Performing at Escapism launch party, July 2015

Fast forward more than two years and we're finally revisiting the label with renewed focus and direction. But my experiences in the intervening years have taught me some important lessons: 

1. You’ll do it when you’re ready

  • Crossing the tipping point into action usually happens when you’re in a sufficient amount of pain or discomfort, or when you reach a powerful moment of realisation and are inspired into action. The initial motivation to launch the label came from a belief that I hadn’t achieved what I wanted in my life. That thought, combined with the approaching deadline of my birthday caused enough discomfort to get me started. But, once the label was finally live, I’d surpassed my ambiguous metrics for success and quickly ran out of steam. 
     
  • In the time since, I’ve thought a lot about our initial intention for the label and what it should stand for. I’ve noticed just how many people are going through similar experiences trying to reconcile following the life path that’s expected of them with pursuing their own creative dreams. So, this time around, my renewed motivation comes from the realisation that our quest for escapism through our art is such a universal experience and our label could grow to be an opportunity to explore and discuss this theme with all creatives. Which brings me on to point 2:

2. Define a goal

You need something to give you a direction to focus your energy towards. It’s inevitable that your goal will continue to move and evolve, but it’s easier to adjust your course when you already have momentum. We now have a framework for Escape Everything based around forging your own path and doing what you really want with your life. That’s a useful lens that we can hold up against all aspects of our output. It now drives my musical ideas, but equally influences these blog posts, and our new podcasts - where we'll be talking to creators from any and all disciplines about how they use their own creative output to build the lives they want. Music is such a powerful motivator, source of inspiration or escapism for so many people, it seems the perfect starting point from which to begin these discussions. 

Passion vs purpose

This is a concept I learned from Ryan Holiday. In short, it’s about finding a deeper reason for doing something rather than relying purely on motivation for your own interest. It’s about building laser-sharp focus by seeing how you’re contributing to something greater - externalising the factors that drive your output. As much as what we as artists create should be honest and completely authentic self-expression, watching how things live, evolve and inspire when released into the world is, in my opinion, where the value really is. 

"Passion is about. (I am so passionate about ______.) Pur­pose is to and for. (I must do ______. I was put here to accomplish ______. I am willing to endure ______ for the sake of this.) Actually, purpose deemphasizes the I. Pur­pose is about pursuing something outside yourself as opposed to pleasuring yourself.” - Ryan Holiday

Having a theme that’s of interest to me - a motivation to build my own self-sufficient, independent life that runs right to my core - that I can continue to explore and discuss with people through my work is a powerful motivator. I have no idea what Escape Everything will become - it will continue to evolve as we continue to experiment. But I'm hopeful that the ongoing conversations and opportunity to research and analyse our processes will inspire others as much as it inspires me. 

We'd love to hear about your own experiences and challenges with your creative work. If you have anything to share or questions you'd like us to explore, please comment below or get in touch through the contact page. 

- James Garside