Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carly Wilford, a British DJ, Presenter, Tastemaker & Manager of Josh Barry, working in the music industry for 7 years.
Carly is a sweet, down-to-earth lady who’s very passionate and authentic. She always tries to make a change and have a positive impact with everything she does.
On a personal note, I truly enjoyed talking to her as it was the first time (and surely not the last!) that I met someone with whom I have so much in common when it comes to music.
During our conversation, Carly shared her advices and gave her opinion about the industry and its future with a great deal of honesty. Read this now!
Carly Wilford’s debut
When Carly was around 19 years old, she started to do hospital radio: she has always felt the need to give something back to the world and do something for others. She started to visit people in hospitals to take their requests to play the music they asked for.
This was probably a sign for her future career. A sign she wasn’t aware of at the time, not totally.
However, she hadn’t considered working in the music industry and chose a different career path. For many years, Carly worked in a completely different world. That was until her inner voice called her and encouraged her to follow her heart: she had always wanted to be a presenter.
Even if she was earning a lot of money, she decided to quit her job and do her best to make her dream come true.
Carly quickly understood that if she wanted to get noticed in this business, she needed to put herself out there. But before that, she had to pick a field & decided to try out music as it had been part of her and her family growing up.
« I live for all things Music. »
She started filming herself, going to festivals with a tripod and camera and managing to get interviews of her favourite artists.
Apart from this, she ended up doing the Breakfast Show of Rinse FM in London presenting on the station for 3 years and started getting DJ bookings. As she was broke at the time, she has decided to accept.
She learned to DJ and mix by herself a few years ago. However, it was mostly personal as it is a sort of meditation for her and helps her release stress.
Carly has been DJing professionally for over 2 years now and loves it even if she admits that it can be hard at times.
The importance of our circle
Carly wished she had a team and people to help her with her career when she has started. But she recognizes that it isn’t easy when you’re doing something different that no one (around you) has done before.
In other words, it is difficult when you just don’t fit in. Finding people who understand what you do and match your work can take time.
Hopefully, she has a very supportive team now to help her. Of course, she would like to have a bigger team but she’s very grateful and aware that she is lucky having these people by her side.
« Sometimes when you don’t have a big team, help can come from the most incredible places. »
Beside this, her experience taught her that we can get help in expected and unexpected ways: you can get a piece of advice and learn lessons from strangers, people in the street, neighbours, friends, family, etc.
Sometimes we can take shortcuts and learn lessons from others. But there are some things we need to live and lessons we need to learn by our self in order to grow.
« If you look for the little gems and answers around you, then sometimes there are always there. You just have to open your eyes, and sometimes open your ears and listen. »
Her message & advice…
…to all those who work and are willing to work in Music.
« Don’t be afraid to be you, don’t be afraid to be different. I think… This is a really hard thing to say but not everybody has your best interest at heart. And it is important that YOU have your best interest at heart. »
We meet a lot of people along the way: people who have their own agenda and who are focused on their own objectives. This means they won’t always be able to help you.
Carly insists about the importance of connecting with yourself, knowing who you are and accepting who you are. Knowing who you are includes parts you like and dislike about yourself and learning to be 100% comfortable with those parts.
« A lot of people don’t know who they are, even if it sounds silly, easy and simple. » She even admits that for a long time, she didn’t know who she was. Letting go and self-acceptance have helped her and have changed the whole path she was on.
Taking some time to figure out what makes you unique and what you love is also essential. Because doing what you love brings you happiness. And it isn’t just about your career but literally everything: hobbies, friends, family, etc.
« Do the things that keep you alive and make you feel brighter because that really helps ».
Then, things become easier because you become authentic and real. People connect with you thanks to that.
Contrary to what one might think, we can be really lonely working in this industry. That is why Carly says you should be fearless, not be afraid to do your stuff on your own & not be afraid of being alone. You should appreciate spending time with yourself even if it can be uncomfortable initially.
Her biggest mistake
Carly used to ignore her intuition and be worried about people’s thoughts. And it put her into many uncomfortable situations until she finally listened to her inner voice.
She says that it is important to really learn what your gut instinct is telling you and listen to it. As it is always guiding you in the right way.
The good & the bad sides of working in the Music industry
Still with honesty, Carly openly shares the pros and cons of her work and more generally, of working in music.
She starts with the pros saying there are many positive things: working in this business is exciting, things are always happening. You meet amazing people. It is also rewarding: you can make massive changes if you’re doing things right and with integrity; you can help new artists and watch them grow.
And if you’re doing this because it makes you happy, then, you spend most of the time with a smile on your face just like Carly does.
She continues with the cons and warns that working in this industry is exhausting both physically and mentally as the rhythm is almost non-stop: jet lag, late nights, lots of pressure, travelling, eating differently and in different cities and countries, etc.
There are also a lot of people who come at you and want things from you and to preserve yourself, you have to learn to say no.
Furthermore, lots of temptations you need to manage, are put on your shoulders: parties, alcohol, meeting guys or girls,… and this never stops. You can burn yourself out — and Carly confesses that she has nearly lost herself in it at times. Some can come back from it, but some don’t.
In this situation, you only have two options: you let it control you or you control it. That’s why understanding your body & mind and finding your own balance is essential for both your mental and physical health.
In short, Carly says that you can have extreme highs and extreme lows. Some moments you can feel you’re on the top of the world and some you’re at the lowest.
She adds that there is no secret. If you’re looking for longevity, you have to work at it, be patient and perseverant as there aren’t always shortcuts or quick wins along the way. It is not always going to happen overnight. There can be blood, sweat and tears.
At some point, she was broke and couldn’t afford to buy tickets to take the bus. But she didn’t give up because she knew these tough times wouldn’t last and that in order to succeed, you have to fight through them.
Despite that, she still does things for free because she really loves what she does, she’s not in the business just for the money. And this isn’t the case for all people.
Dealing with stress: Carly’s methods
She has started from the bottom in this industry. And as she was building her career, she has always made sure to approach people with integrity and the best interest at heart.
Carly has met many celebrities as Tom Cruise, Russell Brand, Eve and Usher to name a few. However, to avoid stress when meeting a public person, she reminds herself that this is her job and they are on the same page. Seeing herself as an equal of the people she meets is also part of the process. After all, we’re all human.
She is more of a supportive kind of person and is fighting the press tendency to tear people apart. She’s doing her best to avoid this. Instead, she wants to show support, give her help, join hands with the others and back each other up.
« Nerves are good because they mean you care and they keep you on your toes. »
To overcome her stress, she works a lot with energy, she meditates (grounding), she does breathing exercises, visualises things going well and prepares herself. If she has an interview, she researches and plans questions. If she plays a set, she makes sure to have a broad spectrum of music. Preparing helps take away the nerves as it gives you a certain level of control.
Have faith in yourself, be focused and a good level of self-confidence help you learn to manage your nerves. Surrounding yourself with the right people helps too, because if you are alone you’re probably going to over think when having friends can distract you and help you release your stress.
Her last tip: « not getting drunk helps a lot too! » 😀
Success in the music industry nowadays
As I said many times, it is important to multitask and be flexible nowadays and Carly totally agrees. She even says that doing one thing now isn’t enough. As a musician, you can just make music but you need to have an awareness of social media, business, etc.
And most of all, you have to get involved creatively in your projects like FKA Twigs and Jamie XX who do more than just make music. This is super important nowadays because record deals are hard to get and not everyone can. « There is a lot of work to be done before getting a label, look at Skepta, Stormzy, etc. »
« I do believe that if you really want to do something, achieve something you can do it. »
She knows what she’s talking about as she has seen and met a lot of people starting from zero as she did herself.
You need to work hard to get into the business as success won’t always happen overnight, what is great is that it gives you a lot of control over your art.
Her thoughts about the industry
« It is really exciting and changes rapidly. »
Carly feels like the industry is really disruptive and that the people who were holding it are losing touch.
Then, it is up to you to choose how to react. You can either be scared about it or write it and make your mark on it. And Carly has made her decision.
She thinks that the people who are going to do well are the ones who can evolve, pick themselves up, bend, change, be innovative and come with new ideas and not be afraid to try things.
With Digital Age, the masses have taken control over the Music Industry. « We are the media now. People can help breaking artists to the radio by telling their friends and telling their friends, etc. Many artists chart with no radio play thanks to this. Before, only mainstream media had control over everything. »
She adds that the way we can see music and communicate with one another about music are still changing. There is no clear path and nobody knows the answers even though many think they do…
One of the many things she likes about the Music Industry is that people are helping one another and building a foundation of collaboration which is really important.
And SISTER, one of the projects she has founded, is a good example of that: SISTER is a radio show and also a collective and movement which demonstrate that people can work along with each other — men and women.
As everyone listens to music on a daily basis (radio, streaming, etc), Carly thinks it is the responsibility of each person in this business to use this incredible power to share positivity and great messages.
About the future of the Music Industry, she truly believes that the best is yet to come and that even if the future is uncertain, it is super bright.
Quick Questions with Carly Wilford
1/ Your favourite artist or band ? The XX.
2/ The first concert you attended ? New Kids On The Block!
3/ The latest you attended ? Glastonbury or actually, it was my own gig on Saturday! Haha…
4/ Favourite music genre ? House music, uplifting and soulful house.
5/ Your favourite song at the moment ? « Music is the answer » by Joe Goddard.
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