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The Handpan as a Career With Dan Mulqueen

What does it take to make the handpan your career? Over the last few years, Dan Mulqueen has turned his hobby into work and he is now happily doing music full-time. An inspiring conversation to take the next step, wherever you find yourself on that spectrum.

Pre-order Dan Mulqueen's new album Indiegogo or on his website.

Podcast Transcription:

Sylvain: Hey! It's Sylvain and this is the handpan podcast. Your handpan: what's it for and who's it for? Today, I sit down with my good friend Dan Mulqueen to talk about playing handpan as a career. It's a story you don't hear often on this podcast. And while you absolutely don't need to turn a hobby into work, it is a path that some choose to pursue and that literally all of us experience in some way. Playing handpan for someone is very different from playing for the sake of self-expression or for therapeutic purposes, for instance. It introduces a whole new set of challenges and rewards, and we get to learn from Dan who's walked that path. And actually, this conversation, as you'll hear, is very timely. So, here we go.

Sylvain: Well Dan, it's been awhile. How are you?

Dan: It's been a long time, man. I'm good. How are you?

Sylvain: I'm great. I'm really excited to chat with you today cause I feel like it comes at a very interesting time in your life and I've got a lot of questions to ask you. So, um, yeah, I'm excited for our chat.

Dan: Yeah me too, man. It was funny when you like when you asked me to be on, I was like, man, this is like, like if ever there was time to talk about what I'm doing, I think now it's probably it. So...

Sylvain: Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, tell me what's going on in your world lately.

Dan: Yeah, man. Well we were talking online. I mean it's, um, like the, the short of it I guess is like I used to, so I was always doing music. Um, I guess for people who don't know, like usually when you're a musician, especially here in the States, um, you really have to keep like a day job or you know, something to sustain yourself. Um, so yeah, I had a, I had a day job for like six years, seven years, um, in the radio industry. I was a video and audio producer there, and, uh, yeah, like lost my job, uh, in like early November. Uh, so since then, I mean, it kinda just, I was like waiting to be upset about it and never really came. And I was like, you know, this is kind of like kind of a blessing in disguise, I think. You know, I, I'm like, I've never been more happy than I am now, but, uh, yeah. So I lost the job and then just kinda took all the momentum and kind of just, you know, kept it going. Uh, you know, instead of doing music, when I come home every night for four hours, I get to do it all day for, you know, 10 or 12 or whatever, whatever it is. So, yeah, it's good man. Uh, but yeah, that's kind of the short of it.

Sylvain: Were you planning on going full time anyways?

Dan: Yeah, so that's, that was my, that was my plan. Um, eventually, but, you know, it's kinda like you could plan and plan, especially with like a big, you know, life change like that. Like there's never going to be like an opportune time to do it, you know, it's kind of like you always have, like, there's always going to be kind of like a leap that needs to be made. So this kind of happening was, um, you know, it was kind like a forced my hand a bit. Yeah. Um, so yeah, and it was, it was strictly for budget reasons why I got let go. So it's not like there's any like blips on my, you know, Hey, this guy was a jerk or he punched the HR lady. There's nothing like that. It's like, it was strictly a strictly budgets. So, um, so yeah, it's kinda kind of looking at it as like a little, um, yeah, like, uh, like a forced hand type situation I guess.

Sylvain: Well, it's surely a significant event and there's something that you wrote to me as we were planning this conversation that, um, I kind of want to go back to and touch on. You said, I'm really going at this music stuff like my career and there's a lot to unpack. Um, and maybe the question would be like, when did that shift happen from a hobby to a career? It sounds like it happened before you were let go. What are some of the events that kind of put you on this trajectory?

Dan: Yeah. Um, and you know, we've, we've known each other for a long time and you have kind of an idea of how kind of crazy I get sometimes with like, you know, things being a certain way and like to a standard that I set for myself. But, you know, with the professionalism part of it, it's like I was kind of forced to do it because, you know, keeping, you know, a regular 40 to 50 hour week, whatever, sometimes more. Um, you know, time is not exactly like free, you know, like, so if I work at let's say a 10 hour day, like when I come home and say, okay, well you have to eat, so plan, you know, 45 minutes to eat, you know, let's plan 30 minutes for technical practice, let's plan, you know, two hours for composition, practice an hour for, you know, producing whatever music you're working on. Um, so in that sense, like the scheduling and kind of keeping myself to it, uh, I've been kind of doing it that way since I can remember. Um, you know, kind of like setting time and sticking to it, uh, just out of necessity, but kinda, yeah. What I, what I meant like when we were talking was kind of like, you know, when you're at a, you know, career or any sort of job or whatever, there's a certain, you know, you show up every day at, you know, at the, at the time you're supposed to, you have a list of goals for that day or the week or whatever. Um, and so there's, there's a lot of stuff that I'm working on, so kind of putting timelines on things and going at them, you know, real professionally, um, but also still like a lot, a lot of fun, but just kind of having a sense of, you know, I'm not just winging it, you know, it's not just like, Oh, this will come out whenever it does or, you know, I hope such and such happens. Like, no. And like you kind of have to make that stuff happen and, and really have a plan for it to happen for some of it anyway, so.

Sylvain: Right. Yeah. And when you have a job, you, you show up at 8:00 AM every weekday, whether you feel like it or not. And, and if we only play music when we feel like it, um, we don't necessarily build the habit that, uh, produces the results that we're looking for.

Dan: Exactly. Yeah.

Sylvain: And that's what you're talking about, to sort of plan ahead and set deadlines and set up goals.

Dan: Yeah. And it's, I was, you know, the thing that I tell, like when, you know, some people have reached out me and how's it going and blah blah. And it's like, it's at one point, it's like, really, it's kinda cool, um, to be like, you know, any like it's, it's a little scary cause it's like, well, you know, bad things could happen, you know, and you could fall on your face. Sure. That's with anything. But, um, you know, kind of like when you're self employed or just you, whatever it might be. Like now anything good that happens or anything bad that happens, kind of all falls on me. So it's like, there's no, like, you know, so-and-so was so hard to work with or such and such as a horrible thing to do at work or blah, blah. It's like, well, if I don't like something that I'm doing, then let's change it because that's not good. You know? Like, it's kind of all falls on me now. So it's, um, there's no like, safety net, you know, it's like, if it, if it goes bad, it's, it's my fault, you know?

Sylvain: Yeah, that's true. And on the upside you get to make executive decisions. Um, yeah. And, and I think we under the model of, of, you know, a corporate job, we're so detached from what it looks like to make decisions. Yeah. Um, that it's, um, it's a huge transition. It can be totally liberating. Uh, a little bit confusing too, cause you, I remember it took me some time to really take ownership of that. Yeah. Um, and stop looking at others approval or, uh, stop comparing myself because now I had the freedom to create my own recipe. Right.

Dan: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. That makes a lot of sense, man. Like kind of to go back on it too, it's like, it's all in the mindset of it too. I guess. It's just like, you know, Hey, listen, this is gonna this is happening and it's, you know, it's your responsibility to now. And um, I think that was, that was a big hurdle to get over. And I think for me, I kind of started to get over that hurdle of it. Like, I would say probably two years ago when I started to get invited, invited to do the festivals and shows and whatever, because, you know, I had a, you know, I was like, I was kind of mentally prepared to lose my job before it actually happened. Just because, you know, you take off so much time and you know, like I'd be lying if I said, you know, when I, when I was there, I, you know, it was, my head was never really there. I was always like, man, you know, last night at 3:00 AM I really hit a stride and then I was up at seven to go to work. And it's like, you know, my, my head was still at the studio back home and you know, it's not like I was a bad employee, but I was certainly ready for them to be like, Hey, listen man, something's... You can't take two months off anymore. You can't, you know, you can't, you know, be daydreaming or whatever. Like, um, I got the work done for sure, but it was just like, you know, I was certainly not like as engaged as I was, you know, three years ago or you know, before that. So.

Sylvain: Yeah. And I think what I like about that statement, uh, you know about making this music stuff your career is that you are more committed to your craft, to your music, uh, than you were to your day job. Like you were more experienced at it, you've done more networking in, in that space. Like if we looked at it purely from a human resources perspective, I feel like someone would tell you, dude, you, you, you've set up your life to be a full time musician. This is what you've invested the most of your life in. This is what will return on investment as opposed to kind of coasting on this a compromise.

Dan: Yeah. Yeah it was, it was kind of cool cause like in the beginning like when I was, you know, cause I got hired my, my job kind of right out of college. So it was kind of my loose plan to not be, you know, obviously when you're 18, you have no idea what you want to do. But I was like, you know, I didn't want to make music my full time thing because I was really worried about, you know, if it's my job, you know, it'd be stressful and you kind of grow to hate it. And I just loved it so much that I didn't want to really want to put that strain on there. Um, so my idea, I was like, all right, well I don't want to be playing all the time, but how can I be really close to the action and kind of, you know, kind of build these tools that are gonna help me in the music industry. So that's kind of where I came into like the video production, audio production. Um, and then when the radio element came in, it was like, well, now you still get to do all this production stuff. Um, but you also get to interact with people from the labels and you know, booking managers and touring managers and all this, these people, you get to see how it's done at a very, very high level. So, you know, there's experiences and conversations that I've heard. I'm like, man, you know, this is like a college course, you know, for, you know, they're talking because we're coworkers. But I'm hearing it as somebody who's, you know, like in class, you know, I'm like, man, if they're doing it this way, then here's, this is the standard. This is how everyone's doing it. This is how I need to do it. Even if I'm, if I'm not signed, if I'm not, you know, touring the world or whatever this is, this is how I want to compose myself and, and get stuff done. So I took a lot away from that. You know, I liked the industry, uh, just for right now, I think, uh, you know, I, I couldn't like when, when the news came to like, you know, Hey, you're no longer hired here. It's like taking another interview to go to a different company. It was just like the most unattractive thing at the moment, you know, it was just not right.

Sylvain: You know, I've used the illustration before, everyone's got a story, but not everyone gives a Ted talk. Everyone's got a story, but not everyone does public speaking. Yeah. And within the context of the handpan, um, in this community, everyone plays the handpan, but not everyone does shows. Right. What's been your motivation to perform to put your music out there?

Dan: Um, man, I, I for a long time, like I've been, I don't know, I put my first album out in like 2014 um, but I've been playing since 2009. So I think for me the, the reason is the reason that I keep performing is because I actually feel like I'm bringing something to the table whereas like the first six or seven years I was, you know, full like just learn only mode and stay closed door and kind of work on your craft where, you know, now I'm still learning every day and trying to improve every day. But it's like now I feel like when I perform, it's like I actually have something to bring an audience and something to kind of show for all of my years. You know what I mean? It's like, um, like motivation to do it. I don't know like where, like where it comes from I guess originally. But the reason to like keep doing it is to, cause I, you know, I do the shows, I just kinda feel like, um, you know, like it's all your practice at home. It's just kind of like on steroids. Like it's that much more intense and you know, try not to mess it up and try to get like perform the songs the best that you wrote them. I think it's, it's a really like powerful experience to do and especially like in front of people, whether it's 10 or 10,000, you know, it's kinda like, you know, the don't screw up factor. The remembering the like, remember all your parts, the, you know, and actually try to give people something to walk away with, I think is, for me it's kind of like addicting, you know?

Sylvain: I love that. And I'm really glad that you are confident in the value that you're creating because it takes a lot of humility and courage to say, here's something I've made. It's good. I want to share it with you. Right. That's risky. Yeah. Um, it's, it's safer to hide. And you know, that's a realization I had some time ago. It is more than just playing out of self-expression. Um, there's, um, there's a whole set of practices and disciplines that comes with, uh, creating something for someone as opposed to just yourself. Right? So when I, when I see you play, when I, when I hear you perform and I've had the chance to see you live, you know, a number of times, um, and I see you flying over that amazing riff or fill or, uh, that crazy beat. I see that in the moment. It's kind of like watching Michael Jordan fly in the air, you know, and, and you're, it's amazing. I mean, you're really creating some, some magic on stage. Um, but what you don't see in that moment is the hundreds, if not thousands of hours practicing at home, away from the spotlight. Yeah. Um, tell me about kind of that, that dualism between the attention and the performance, but also the kind of the grueling, uh, rehearsal at home.

Dan: Um, yeah, I think like, I think that's kind of, that's part of, you know, it's, I like we were talking before like the job, like that's part of the job. You know, I don't think the audience should, should see your, you know, like, Oh, that guy has been, you know, like if I'm on stage with something, it's very rare that I'm doing something that I'm not totally comfortable with. It's like, you know, I don't, I don't ever want to get on stage and give like, you know, like my B effort, you know, like whenever I go up there, it's like this stuff has been, you know, washed out the rifts have been, you know, worked over the fills have been, you know, that's where they are. Obviously there's, there's room for improv, uh, improvisation. But, you know, it's like when I'm on stage, it's kind of like, it's more, it's like a show and tell. It's like, you know, you know, like I pulled the curtain back a lot, like with what I'm working on and stuff, like, especially in videos and on social media. But when it comes time to actually play, you know, I don't want it to be like, Oh, that, well, that's something that, that's, that's totally new. Maybe that's not quite ready yet, you know? Or it's like, if that's coming, if it's, if it's here, then you should be ready to play it. And at a, you know, passable level, you know, and, you know, we as performers, everyone makes mistakes. I am not, you know, not that crazy with it, but it's just, you know, my mindset going into it, it's kind of like, you know, yeah, you do your hundred hours and your thousand hours and, you know, don't expect anyone to give you credit for it because that's what you're supposed to do. You know, you're supposed to show up ready and prepared. Um, you're supposed to show up with stuff that's intriguing. So if you don't do that, then it's not going to be, you know, for the, for you and for the audience is just not going to be a pleasurable experience. You know, it's like I'd much rather, you know, do one show every three weeks and be super, super ready for it. Then, you know, one show a night and just give like mediocre, like, you know, not quite ready performances. Um, but that's, you know, it's just kinda how I approach it and I'm kind of crazy about stuff like that just because I put so much time in. Um, but yeah, that's kind of like, for me, it's never been about like, let's show, let's show people that like I've done, you know, however many hundreds of hours of practice. Like I want them to really understand how hard I worked and blah, blah, blah. It's like, well, if you just play good and you know, have compositions that are kind of exciting and, and you know, things that leave a crowd entertained, then that's not even a factor. Then it just, Hey, that was a good show. You know, that that was, that's kinda what it boils down to. You know, that's kind of, you know, the, the tip of the iceberg and then everything under the water, you know, that's, that's what you do at home, you know, that's kinda how I look at it.

Sylvain: Yeah. And I like that you have clarity over this because, uh, creating a good show is accidental. Yeah. It probably rarely is. There might be prodigies that can just improvise. Yeah. But what you're doing is creating an experience, right. It, you know, especially today, I feel like in our, our connected world, uh, of on demand content, I don't really like the word content on-demand art. Um, you know, why do people show up to a concert? And I think that, um, it's to experience something in the here and now. Yeah. Um, but a concert is deeply experiential. Yeah. It's something you feel. Um, and, and actually I would argue, like I'm just fascinated about this, this theme of the stage, as I mentioned earlier. Yeah. Um, so I mean, this is kind of a half baked thought, but bare with me, I think it'll make sense. I would make the case that this stage is a super natural setting. And what I mean by that is, um, if we think about it first, you're, you're elevated. You're literally on a pedestal. Like you're, you're higher. Um, second the lights, so if you and I walked down the street outside, the sun hits us from a specific angle and that's it. That's there's natural light on a stage. You have multiple sun's shining at you in different colors. And so it's this bigger than it's like Photoshop on a, a real physical object, right? In real time. Um, and then third, I would argue, um, microphones, neither the human voice nor our musical instruments are capable of projecting sound to these large audiences where these big spaces and so amplification, uh, creates a bigger than life of more than naturalist supernatural experience. And which by the way, interestingly, I think in our, our modern world, all of that, the magic of the stage can be abused. Like you look at totalitarian dictatorships, uh, that, that use that powerful, compelling experience to indoctrinate people. Um, you know, broadcasting the, the leaders face on a giant screen, this bigger than life, supernatural experience, but when applied to the arts, this powerful, compelling experience, it adds to the magic and man. It's worth doing. And I know you recently you've had some really cool experiences performing on amazing stages. I was wondering if you had like, memorable, um, uh, times that, that come to mind when you think of that?

Dan: Yeah, I mean it's like, to kind of jump off what you said, I mean like a lot of that stuff like keeping it in check, it's like, yeah, like there are stages where it's actually off the ground and there are lights and you know, if you get lucky, there might even be more than four people in the audience. But there's also a lot of shows that are not like that. And that's kind of like, like, you know, when you're young and music and stuff, it's like you can get on those, you know, in front of, you know, your aunt, your uncle and three of your friends and that's your show. But I think when you put more time into it and sort of like put the content out there, more people are going to be interested. So it's like you kind of have to cut your teeth on those ones that are not. So, you know, you're not so you know, totalitarian with your face on the billboard type. Like thanks for uh, yeah, you're gonna that's my stage plan for the next tour. By the way, it's going to be a huge bust of my headshot. But no man, I just think it's like, it's, it's interesting because you know, that's kind of the image that you painted with microphones and stuff. Like that's even, that is like a level to it, you know, you have to work to get to even there. So my whole thing about being prepared, it's like if you're lucky enough to be on a stage with lights and microphones and an audience, like you better have something to say or something to show for it because there's a lot of rungs underneath that ladder that are just a room with no mic. And you know, people who are, it's next door to a bar and the bar is not open for another 45 minutes and they're just looking for somewhere to hang out. You know, like, so I think for me it's always been kind of like, if you're on that stage, it's not by accident and you shouldn't treat it, you know, like you don't care about it because you should

Sylvain: Playing for someone. It's risky. Right. We talked about that. Yeah. Um, but we are relational beings, whether we're extroverts or introverts and most people's relationship to music is to experience it. Right. Um, so there's something kind of universal, uh, but also, uh, extraordinary about sharing your music.

Dan: Yeah. For people to experience her art. And I think there's different, like it's almost like, um, it's not like an expectation, but it's more of like a, a style thing. So it's like, you know, there's plenty of people that put on great shows and they don't compose. They, they will improvise and create something alive on the spot. Um, and the audience loves it. They love it. And I think that's cool too. I, I've, I'm a fan of that stuff as well, but I think when you have, you know, when you, when you take years to build yourself up, um, on a certain thing, you know, like I love compositions and, and you know, really precise stuff. Like I want it to be close to the record. That's just how I approach the, the, the, you know, my show is like, but I think there like how you were just saying like, there's a space for, you know, if people are into live improvised music, that's still great. Sure. But I think if you're, you know, if you're like, Oh, you know, Dan's up next, like if I were to sit down and say, you know, here's, you know, 20 minutes of something improvised would be like, well, that's, that's not, that's off character. You know, that's not how, that's kinda not what I'm, that's not what I do, you know, that's just not, it's just not the, that's just not my thinking toward it.

Sylvain: Yeah. And I think there's a setting for each type of play.

Dan: Yeah. 100%.

Sylvain: Um, that's why having jams is a great thing. Um, jamming around the campfire, right is awesome. Yeah. But you probably don't play the same way in front of an audience.

Dan: Um, you certainly don't do your compositions at a campfire. You don't want to be that guy. Everyone listen to me. Yeah. Yeah.

Sylvain: Um, okay. So right now you're in this phase of, um, essentially becoming a professional, approaching this music thing as a career. Yeah. So what, what does that mean? Uh, what does it mean for 2020, for instance?

Dan: So, um, 2020 for me is kind of like, um, it's a new album year, uh, uh, U S touring year. Um, uh, I'll be in Japan is how it looks for right now. Uh, in Europe. Um, maybe a second, like a rerelease, um, really split a different version of the, the album I'm going to put out early in the year. Um, so yeah, there's like a lot of like milestones that I want to hit in the year. Um, and it's kind of like now is, um, you know, I had these plans that would have been like, you know, 20, 20 slash 2021 because I was doing it with the other career. You know, as you know, I've kind of mentally, I've, you know, when people ask me like what I do, I've always said, you know, musician first, you know, it's like the only thing that I've ever really been like the radio job and stuff it was great. You know, it served its purpose and I learned a lot and all that stuff. But the only thing that I've, you know, it seems like the only thing that I've ever really enjoyed talking about, um, or thought, you know, Hey, this is something actually worth talking about has been the music. Um, so it's kind of all those plans for the next two years. I've kind of consolidated until the next, you know, six months because I just have the time now. And it's like my thinking is if I've done all that I've done so far and it's not like I'm looking back proud. It's just like, you know, I'm looking back like, okay, well you've managed to put out, you know, three records and tour here, here, here and here. And that was with the other thing. So now if you don't have the other thing, you know, and you keep that same kind of intensity, um, you can get a lot more done and have a lot more cool stuff. Um, you know, happen if you, if you make it happen. So, um, yeah, 20, 20, the main thing, uh, to get back to your question is kind of, um, the, the main thing is, is the album, it's kind of like if I, if I miss my deadlines, which I'm, I have them taped to the side of my computer monitor as like a reminder of like, you know, stop watching those YouTube videos and get back to work. But, um, yeah, like as long as I hit, that's kind of the main, the main thing, um, is the album early next year and then, uh, an East coast tour, uh, doing a couple of things on the West coast. Um, and then I'm back here for maybe like a month, which in that month I want to drop like a second project and then there'll be Japan, hopefully Europe, um, back over to the UK. And so, yeah, man, it's just a lot and it's all riding, I feel like on the next, um, real really like seven, six or seven weeks to finish this album. Um, but yeah, I mean that's, uh, I feel like I'm saying it more for me to be like, okay, album, album, album, like stop procrastinating this. But, uh, yeah, so a lot of stuff, man, it's, it's, um, kind of to tie it back to the first thing of like keeping it, you know, professional, it's like, it sounds like a lot if you say it like in the same sentence and back to back and all this stuff, but you know, you have, there's 12 months in a year, you know, it's like, if you're going to do this full time, you should fill those months. And, you know, I don't want to just be like, Oh, if I made my rent for this month, so I guess I'll just chill now. Like there's no, I've never really relaxed with it ever. So, and again, that was with the job, so, you know, why relax with it now. Um, you know, just keep up the intensity, keep up the inner creative flow of it all and just kind of keep it moving, you know? That's kinda how I have, it's kind of how I operate. Yeah.

Sylvain: Do you expect your relationship to the handpan to change as you take this thing full time and make it a professional, uh, pursuit?

Dan: Um, I don't know. I would like to think not, I mean it's not, I mean it's going to change for sure, but I like, um, I don't think it's gonna I hope anyway, it's not going to be any like resentment or whatever. Like I, um, you know, now it's like when I'm, you know, I have it in my schedule, it's like, okay, you know, the, the, the days of the week where it's, you know, three hours, four hours, really intense technical practice, like no composition, just straight technical stuff. I'm like, you know, if there's one thing that's, that would be like the equivalent of like, you know, doing like an Excel sheet for three hours, you know, at work, you know, that's, that's maintenance, you know, that's what you have to do. It's like if there's one thing that's going to get annoying or tiring, it would be that, I think. But for me it was like, man, sweet, I get to wake up and it's technical practice. And then I have lunch and then I go back to the composing or, you know, it's just like, it's the stuff that I'm really excited for. Um, so I, I mean, I hope it doesn't change too much, um, because I think where I'm at with it now is, is really kind of comfortable and it's, um, uh, yeah, there's like a certain intensity that's there, but it's also like, It's more of like how exciting this is that I get to like, you know, play all these beautiful instruments and, you know, share them with all these awesome people. And, you know, I think that, I hope that doesn't ever go away and I don't think it will, but, um, but yeah, man, I don't know. I mean, there's, I know certain drummers that tour like full time, they're like, man, the last thing I want to do when I'm home is, you know, do paradiddles or not, you know, if I, if I hear a click track for the next, you know, if I don't hear a clue track till the next door, I'll be fine with that, you know? But, um, so I hope that doesn't happen. Um, I, I, I sincerely don't think it will, but, um, you know, I guess nothing's impossible, right? Yeah.

Sylvain: I think it's interesting because the handpan being still so new, there's not a lot of us in the, in the handpan community in the loose handpan community who have, um, who have made that decision to, to make it their full time gig.

Dan: What about like for you though, like when you, like now, I mean you're obviously, it's, it's pretty intense for you. I mean, this is everything you're doing right. Did it change?

Sylvain: Yeah. So, and that's the reason why so much time lapses between podcast episodes. I don't know. I mean, it's, it's a, it's a fine line. Um, you know, for me, I, I try to always reconnect with the original spark. What got me into it in the first place, which, you know, I've, I've coined as the tagline of this podcast being the simple joy of creating, um, and it's the, it's this key word, this, this phrase that, that brings me back to my first impressions of the instrument to a sense of wonder because handpan are awesome. Yeah. Even just as an object, it's just the coolest, uh, the sound they produce. So we should really never get tired of playing them.

Dan: Yeah. It's kind of funny that you say that. I mean like when, you know, I don't mean to keep going back to it, but when all the news happened with the job and, and taking this new kind of, you know, approach to the music that I've been doing, you know, it was like, it was also exciting for a couple of days and I was like, man, this is so great and great and great. And then there's always like that little, you know, if the volume level was turned, it would be at like a two. And it's just this little voice of like, Hey, what if everything fails? And so for me, like what you were just saying, like back to the simple joy of it, it was like, you know, I was so excited to do all this stuff and I still am. It was just like a momentary whatever. And I had like one of my, like my first um, SPB that I have is this D minor from like 2011 2012 and I just kinda sat down and like I have like I think 12 or 13 handpans here in the studio and I just put them all back on the rack and just sat down with like a classic D minor and it was just kind of like this like, alright, everything's cool. Like you're good. Just this is just remember you get to like, you get to do music for a living. Like that's so sick, you know, like stop, stop stressing and stop complaining. It's like this is, this is the cool. Even if it's just for until you run out of money or fall on your face or whatever or just don't like it anymore. Like the fact that you even get to do this for this long with this instrument, it's so cool. So like, you know, put that little, that little voice down to zero. It just keep going. You know,

Sylvain: Your album handwriting is phenomenal. I mean it's just, it's so well produced. Um, I don't know if you worked with a producer to arrange the parts or to write any of the music for, I mean, amazing. Thank you man. Um, it just flows very well and uh, it's, it's so easy to listen to, um, which is significant because you're kind of known as the guy who lays down crazy.

Dan: Well thanks.

Sylvain: Uh, but there are incredibly mellow tracks as well on that record. Um, you've got some software instruments and some beats, you've got vocalists and I'm assuming other instrumentalists on some tracks. So it's just kinda, it, it blows me away to see like how far had been music has gone and in such a short time lapse and also like that. I know you like that we know each other and um,

Dan: Yeah, we've known each other for a long time, man.

Sylvain: Yeah. Yeah. So I think we were first in touch, uh, in 2010, 2011. Um, I was, I was gonna move to New York and I think we exchanged a few emails saying, Hey, let's get together.

Dan: Yeah. Yeah.

Sylvain: Uh, it never happened cause I was, I was totally Mia. I was, this was the year that I had proposed to Jill, so...

Dan: Excuses, excuses.

Sylvain: But yeah, for like a couple of years I totally like disappeared from the face of the world.

Dan: No, but I think the first time we actually met was probably in hang out, I think U S like in 2014.

Sylvain: Yeah. 2014.

Dan: But, uh, yeah, we'd known each other for quite awhile.

Sylvain: Yeah. It's, it's cool to see, to look back and to, to see the journey. Um, and so we're all at different points in that journey. And I think there's probably a lot of people listening who are not at that stage. And I would argue they probably don't even need to be, but if they wanted to go there, if they wanted to, um, work hard to create music that will be recorded, that will be performed in front of an audience. What are some, some tips that I've helped you that you would want to share to someone who wants to get started?

Dan: Uh, that's a good question, man. Um, but I think like the only way to do it, I mean, it's not going to, it's not poetic, it's just to try, you know, just to do it. You know, it's like the, some of the earliest recordings that I have, um, on handpan on drums with whatever bands I was playing in growing up, it was like, you know, they're not good. You know, like they're, they're just, especially, especially the early handpan stuff, I'm like, this just, it's just kinda sucks like, but it's like, and it's not like the, you know, downgrade yourself, but it's just like, man, you have to start somewhere. You know? It's like, you know, if you're, if you're running a mile the first time you run a mile, it's going to be the slowest you ever run it. You know? It's like if you're, I just, there's not really a way around it or even like to keep it in the hand pan community. Like how many times do you see like a builder whose best instrument is their first one? It's like never, you know, I don't think that's ever happened. Maybe Victor or whatever. The SPB, I'm just kidding. But, um, nah, maybe, but I think it's like the, the easiest way. I don't think there's much like to do except just to, just to try it. And um, as far as like, you know, advice to, to like get to new levels. I think the levels are kind of just like what you create, you know, for yourself. I mean, how somebody, like, you know, somebody, their goal might be like, listen, in one year I'm going to play at an open mic in my town, you know, for them on the ladder, that's, that's rung ten. Like that's their goal. You know, it's just like, you know, I think the, the worst thing you can do, especially in a community like ours is compare yourself to other people because it's so small and it's just like, you know, you need to try to, you know, just if there's ever been a, uh, like a, a genre or like a, like a time to like stay and not stay in your lane, like to, you know, but create your own lane and kind of do your own stuff at your own pace. I think like, cause now it's like, there's not really like a, you know, we don't have, uh, you know, the Beatles stick, there's no led Zeppelin in our genre. You know, everybody's kind of like, you know, you're kind of making your own path with it. Like there's no, you know, like there's not really a standard. Um, so you know, whether you're playing in yoga studios or coffee shops or, you know, touring the world or whatever. I just think like you just have to kind of set a goal and you know, work toward it and whether it's, you know, rung 10 for you and rung three for someone else, like all that doesn't matter. You know, it's just kind of like setting out and doing it and you know, just sticking to your plan. That's, you know, and then as far as recording, I mean it's, it's, especially now, man, it's so easy to record stuff, to record ideas at least if nothing else. And um, you know, I think just to just to try it and to actually hear yourself through speakers, it's like, it's kind of like, you know, you can kind of tell yourself, you know, I've, I've come this far, or like, Oh, I, I like this song or I don't like this song. And then you hear it when you're not playing it and you're like, man, that's really bad, or that's really good. Or like, I didn't expect it to sound so good. So in that sense, I think like my advice would just be to like, you know, just do it, you know, just, just start. Even if it's your cell phone and then putting into garage band or in tried to mix it or whatever, like just that, just to hear yourself and to really get like an outside opinion on it, you know?

Sylvain: Yeah. Thanks so much for sharing these tips. It's, it's very, it'll be encouraging to, to folks looking to kind of pursue.

Dan: I hope so man. It's like, I mean, it's couldn't be easier than now. You know, it's everyone. I mean, you can, your laptop can double as a studio like probably right now. As you listen to this, you just have to download the right program.

Sylvain: Yeah. Well man, thanks again. I'm going to close us by saying this and again, it's super simple, but you're a very good player and I'm glad that you're sharing your art with the world because it would be a shame if you didn't and we would miss it if you didn't do it.

Dan: Thanks man.

Sylvain: So keep at it, my friend and for the record, okay, I've got to clear the air. This is the elephant in the room. This whole conversation.

Dan: Oh no.

Sylvain: I'm very envious of your beard.

Sylvain: And yes, if you didn't know: Dan rocks a big red beard. It's an awesome look. So, what about you? What's your handpan for? There's no right or wrong answer here but if you're ready to share your music... you can step into a whole new world of experiences with your handpan. Playing for someone can be scary but it might also be the most joy you get out of playing the handpan. I stumbled upon this quote recently that said "art isn't art until it's experienced by another". Wow. I don't know what you think but maybe, just maybe, try to play for someone and see it goes. Or maybe that's not where you're at right now and that's okay too. In fact, I would argue that even if your music were never heard by anybody else, never recorded, never performed, you would still be better off creating music regularly. If you're interested in checking out Dan's new album, it's coming on March 1st and you can find all the details at or in the show notes at Thanks for listening to this episode of the handpan podcast and talk to you in the next one!

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