That Songbird

Why did you apply to the Toolroom Academy programme? What was it about the course (and the brand) that appealed?

I approached Toolroom as at the time I was running a music blog and was looking to talk to brands I followed about promoting some of their clothing merchandise. When I saw on the Toolroom site that they ran an Academy course, firstly it was the first time I’d seen anything like this from a really established label and secondly, since following Mark and Toolroom for the last 10 years I knew that whatever they had to offer was going to be professional. I’d wanted to learn to DJ for years and the Academy course turned out to be exactly what I needed. The course was clear that you needn’t have a lot of experience to start and that was a relief – as I didn’t have any with regards to equipment, only a lot of music to play. The course also offered to open doors to those students who proved they’d worked hard to play out a Toolroom Live party at the end of it which to me was a huge goal to work towards.

How did the programme start for you – what did you learn over the first few weeks?

So, we didn’t jump straight onto the decks, we did a lot of theory first. The first session we actually got to know each other, what genre of music we liked, what were our favorite parties and DJ’s etc. Then for the next 2 -3 sessions we were learning about music and how it’s made up. Not just dance music either, all types of music. This was absolutely necessary as when we started to practice playing out, this knowledge really came into play and it’s vital that you know it especially if you are considering production as well. We also went through DJ software such as Rekordbox and Mixed In Key and how they can enhance your DJ set, plus basics like organizing music and actually using Rekordbox, too.

What was it like working with Seamus Haji?

Seamus is a great tutor. I was learning from someone who has real knowledge and experience in what they’re teaching and is still a DJ today. Seamus has a real passion for the art of Djing and it comes across in his lessons. You get 1 on 1 session’s from beginning to end and depending on your experience beginner, advanced or more, he was straight about just re-going over things to ensure you’re absolutely clear on what you’re doing.

Did you feel you were pushed hard during your time with the Academy? Talk us through your weekly timetable and amount of work you put in.

As I mentioned above I never felt too pressured to get through obstacles I faced in the course, we had a schedule to stick to ensure we completed everything within the 3 month period. I borrowed some equipment from a friend as I didn’t have a setup at home and would go home and practice what I had learnt that day over and over to make sure I could do it when I went back the next week. So, for example, we would have a course day on Saturday (7 hours 9am-5pm) and I would practice everyday for the next Saturday session probably about 4 hours a night so I as putting in around 31 hours a week. Sometimes I would have sessions on a Thursday and a Saturday so more hours would be required. I was determined to keep up and show that I really wanted it – so that’s what I did!

What success have you had since you finished the programme?

I mentioned at the beginning of this that I ran a music blog, so I was posting a lot of my progress (in video form) with the Academy online on my social channels. At the end of the course we were provided with software like RekordBox, Mixed In Key and an Evermix recording device so I took the opportunity the record an hour set, putting in everything I had learnt on the course and posted it online.

Doing so I was picked up by ABODE and invited to play as a warm up DJ at all of their Summer garden parties in Summer 2017 at London’s Studio 338. I got a really positive reaction from the crowd which ABODE could see so they offered me to play a peak time slot at the final garden party where I got to play to a crowd of 2,000 people (an extremely wobbly leg moment!) it was without doubt one of the most overwhelming things I have ever done.

Since then I have played for Toolroom and their Toolroom Live! parties, I have been invited to play my first international gig in Amsterdam and have continued to play with ABODE for all their winter parties including Halloween and NYE. To start off 2018 I’ve been offered a set at The Arch in Brighton, my hometown, and that is the club where I found dance music (when it was Digital) so that is going to really mean a lot to me to play there. I’m also now looking into production so 2018 is going to be a great year for me.

What are your plans as an artist now that the course has finished?

Keep going!! And grow. I’d like to try and get a gig every month throughout 2018 and really try and find the parties I love to play at the most. Production is really on my mind too, I’m taking a production course with the Toolroom Academy next. I’d like to think by putting the work in I could have a track out this year. Who knows.

How do you think the Toolroom Academy compares to other educational providers in dance music?

If I’m being completely honest here, I wouldn’t know, this is the first education I have taken in dance music. But one thing I will say is that I knew these education programs existed but I never went through with them because I was never really sure they were right. When I saw what the Toolroom Academy had to offer, who was teaching me and the heritage of the brand – it was a no brainer really.

What does the Toolroom Academy mean to you?

Well it definitely has a special place in my heart now! The team at Toolroom really helped me find my confidence and the Academy has allowed me to start doing something that I could have only dreamed of just a year ago. Ultimately I went from my bedroom to playing in front of 2000 people – in a little over 6 months.

After the course the relationship didn’t just stop, either. I have formed a great friendship with all of the team and they are continuing to help and answer any questions that I have today and will do into the future too, I’m sure. I cannot recommend this course enough to anyone looking to make a break in this extremely competitive industry. As long as you’re willing to put the work in and have a real passion in what you are trying to achieve, the Toolroom Academy is for you.

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