PEOPLE OF WATERBEAR: SIMON LAWSON – ‘THE ONE ASPECT IN MY LIFE WHERE MY ANXIETY DIDN’T WIN WAS WHEN I DECIDED TO PLAY LIVE’
I come from a very small village outside of Reading and I was never surrounded by musicians. I thought I was going to be a footballer as I had the chance to play for Reading Young Royals, however, a few obstacles and injuries got in the way of this. But looking back, I was interested in music before I even knew it. My mum was into the sound of Motown and I wouldn’t go to bed unless there was music playing when I was young. Primarily, I wanted to be a drummer but there was no way I’d have been allowed a drum kit in my house. So I picked up a guitar instead. I studied music GCSE and A-Level, however during my GCSE’s I was told that I would fail at music as I couldn’t read it. We could never afford guitar lessons when I was growing up, so everything I know is self-taught by ear. My tutor was very strict and ‘old school’ with how you grasped an instrument and scrutinised the way I had learned, however, I worked hard studying my theory and I passed.
Unfortunately, my A-Levels didn’t go as planned. I used to help look after my grandfather during this time but he sadly passed away the day before my music A-Level exam from bowel cancer. I was very close to him so naturally, I went into quite a dark place after this; I wasn’t focussed on anything, especially my music. My mum moved away shortly after this to Tenerife – she has muscular dystrophy so for her, moving somewhere hot was good for her. To top things off, the day before my mum moved away, I was made redundant by my retail job which was my only source of income. This was a scary time for me, which made me focus more on what I needed to do to get by from day to day and keep myself alive, rather than what I wanted to do. At this point, I very much believed that I would just be a bedroom guitarist.
Anxiety has always affected me in my life and often stopped me from doing things that I wanted to do. I think this might be why I like rock and metal music so much; to me, it’s a way of letting things out. I also felt like I fitted in with the ‘outsiders’. So at 21, I was working in retail and sales however, I started to write songs using a USB recording interface. I was never one of those guitarists that just wanted to shred, I was much more intrigued by the melody. I started to write soundtrack styled music, which was picked up for a short trailer for Reading’s 48 hour Film Festival. I spent a couple of years doing this before I realised that all I wanted to do was play live. Thankfully, this was one aspect of my life that didn’t get affected by my anxiety.
I played alongside a few musicians but the bands that were formed never really lifted. However, my bassist and I continued to write and we put out a guitar and bass playthrough on YouTube and so many people wanted to get involved. This is when ‘Transients’ was born in 2017. The band started to move forward really quickly from then, however, I began to suffer quite badly with panic attacks with my day job. One day I came home and just burst into tears because I just felt like I had nothing left. I then saw a video by Damian Keyes talking about this new college that had just opened up. So, from the support of my girlfriend, I quit my day job and sent WaterBear a speculative email, not expecting to hear anything back due to my poor grades, etc. I spoke with Bruce and he could see how passionate I was about music and gave me an offer. This blew my mind because for so long my anxiety and lack of confidence in myself had put me off ever pursuing a career in music. A plan was then made for my band with the help of Bruce and WaterBear, which then turned into our first EP. Our first show turned out to be a headline slot, which was very unusual for a brand new band – and it ended up selling out! I’d never played in front of people before which was huge for me.
So, now I’m here studying at WaterBear, I was in the first-ever BA pilot group and I’m going into my second year. What’s great is that if I’m having a bad day, the flip learning that is offered at the college means that I can still be a part of it and not miss out too much. Transients have gone on to play Breaking Bands festival and BLove festival to name but a few and the band is picking up fast. To top it all off, I ended up coming out of my first year at WaterBear with 3 1sts and for someone who was told when they were just starting that they wouldn’t succeed in music, this was a boost for me.
I feel like I have a lot to give in regards to the business side of things. I’m interested in building campaigns, however, I’m not entirely sure yet. Whilst I’m studying, I want to look at ways to expand my skillset with lots of different income streams and have a portfolio career.
My advice for anyone that’s been in or is in a similar health position to me would be to just talk to someone. Look at all of the options that are there, look at places like WaterBear and come and talk to the people and see what they’re offering. There are a lot of things out there that are available that people don’t necessarily know about so, just don’t let it win and keep going.