Being able to focus on music, even if just for a short amount of time, had always been cloud talk. While we both enjoy teaching, we wanted to know what it would feel like to be “full-time” musicians. We put so much of our energy into teaching that it was sometimes difficult to “be in the moment” at shows because our minds were often still in the classroom. It seemed like an impossible and quite scary idea to leave our full-time teaching jobs halfway through the year, not have a guaranteed paycheck for seven months, and still pay the mortgage, a car loan, bills, and buy groceries. The idea of taking a leave came up many times in conversation for a few years and we still have multiple budget sketches to prove it, but we always came to the conclusion that we could not afford it… until that one time. We’re not sure exactly what it was that turned impossible to possible. Perhaps it was the inspiration from friends and colleagues who did something “out of the box” or maybe we found an error in one of our budget sketches, but one day we made a goal to save for year, take a leave, and focus entirely on music.
It is interesting to look back – what once seemed so difficult (budgeting and saving) seems so easy now. We have absolutely no regrets about taking this leave and it was one of the most liberating things we have done. We were able to play 55 shows in Ontario and Atlantic Canada (thanks to our agents Terry Hart & Christian Gallant), meet a whole bunch of incredible people, write 8 songs (new record perhaps?), travel the country, and experience it all together. There were so many highlights including performing at the Jack Richardson Music Awards, playing five shows in PEI’s Festival of Small Halls, returning to Home County Music & Art Festival and Back To The Garden Roots Music Festival, and being honoured with CHRW 94.9’s Local Juried Album of the Year Award, the JRMA for best Folk group, and the regional top 10 in CBC’s Searchlight Competition.
We hope to inspire others to take a break from their norm or take a risk to do something that seems impossible. This is certainly not the end for us, but instead a new beginning. We will return to teaching with fresh minds, a renewed energy and passion, and we will continue to conquer the music world as “weekend warriors.”
We were initially worried about eating “on the road” for seven months as we figured it would be expensive, unhealthy, and probably not very good. To our pleasant surprise, we were treated to meals that were delicious, healthy, and made us feel like we were on a foodie tour of sorts. We want to share with you some of our favourite venues and “bests” in Ontario based on their food (not including house concerts or festivals).
Best Food: The Branch Restaurant & Texas Grill (Kemptville, ON) – http://www.thebranchrestaurant.ca/
The food was so good at this venue, that we had our agent book us for a 2nd performance during our tour (it wasn’t the only reason – besides incredible food, they have everything else going for them: really nice staff, a great ambience, and an attentive listening crowd).
Healthiest Food: Magnolia Café (Guelph, ON) – http://www.magnoliacatering.ca/
This restaurant specializes in vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free dishes. Magnolia was another venue that we returned to during our tour (including a residency in July) and we always felt great after every meal. Kevin was so inspired by their delicious noodle bowls, that he has since been making them regularly at home.
Best Dessert: The Black Angus of St. Mary’s (St. Mary’s, ON) – http://www.blackangusofstmarys.ca/
To be fair, we did not have dessert at every venue we played at and we can honestly say that we didn’t have a bad dessert anywhere, but the chocolate peanut butter pie and the coconut cream pie at The Black Angus are at the top of the list.
Best Coffee: The Bicycle Café (Flesherton, ON) – https://www.facebook.com/thebicycle.ca
The food, the dessert, and the coffee are fantastic at this venue. We had Maple Lattes the first time we played there and longed for them for months until our next performance.
Other venues that deserve mentioning for their food:
Rocky Raccoon Café (Owen Sound, ON)
The Dam Pub (Thornbury, ON)
Bruce Wine Bar (Thornbury, ON)
Sharbot Lake Country Inn (Sharbot Lake, ON)
No Grants, No Label Money, Just Old-Fashioned Saving…
How are we able to take an unpaid leave from our jobs for 7 months to focus on music? No grants, no label money, just old-fashioned saving.
After totaling up our monthly expenses, we figured out what we would need to save each month for a year to ensure that all of our expenses would be covered during our leave. This initially seemed impossible, but by making many small changes to our lifestyle, we have been successful in reaching our goal.
Simple ways to save:
Plan your meals. This is by far the best thing we do to save money, time, and avoid stress every day. Each Sunday we sit down together and decide what to eat each week. We usually plan meals that create leftovers for lunch the next day and we buy items that can be used in multiple meals. If we know something is on sale that week, we incorporate it into our meals. By planning our meals, we don’t buy extra food that we don’t need and we aren’t throwing out food at the end of each week like we used to. We also plan cheap meals – eating oatmeal with frozen blueberries for breakfast is healthy and costs just pennies a day.
Change grocery stores. As much as we loved shopping at Loblaws, our grocery bill was always very expensive. By switching to Freshco, we have cut our grocery bill in half! We still occasionally shop at Loblaws though to use up our PC points and get free groceries. It usually ends up being $40 of free groceries a month. Other ways we have saved at the grocery store include only buying on-sale items, “no-name” products, or the lowest price products, buying in-season fruits and vegetables, and not buying organic (this was a difficult change, but most organic foods cost more so we had to sacrifice). When products that are non perishable go on sale, stock up! Coupons – love them. We signed up online for various coupons to be sent to our house and as sad as it may sound, a lot of excitement comes from handing over a few pieces of paper and seeing $10 drop off of your grocery bill! It is even better when you can find multiple coupons for the same product. We can see now how people can become extreme couponers (we’re not there yet though). Our next step is price matching 😉
Eat/Drink smart. We used to buy milk in the carton and bought both 1% and 2%. Now we have amalgamated our milk (2%) and buy it in bags. We get more milk and it’s cheaper.
We make our coffee/tea at home. When you figure a large tin of coffee that lasts for over a month is the same price as two or three cups of Starbucks coffee, the savings really add up. Baileys for our coffee used to be a staple in our fridge, but now it’s just a treat when we go home to our parents’ houses. The biggest way though that we eat/drink smart is not eating out at restaurants. We can no longer justify spending on one meal what we spend for an entire week of food. When we go on road trips, we always pack a lunch or a snack to avoid stopping for fast food. It’s healthier and cheaper.
Clean smart. Vinegar and baking soda can replace so many household cleaning products. They are much cheaper, more effective, aren’t hazardous, and are environmentally friendly. We clean all of our mirrors with vinegar and it actually works much better than Windex. For the bathtub and other surfaces, we use vinegar and baking soda combined. We used to swear by Swiffer, but those refills add up. A broom does the trick, doesn’t cost us anything, and is better for the environment.
Drive smart. Carpooling to work is another change that yields major savings. Since driving to work every other week, I have cut my gas bill in half. I also make a point to fill up my gas tank when gas prices are low, even if my tank isn’t empty.
Barter. In the summer, we often shop at markets where bartering is an option. We even traded CDs for sausages and Kevin currently exchanges guitar lessons for haircuts and private yoga sessions.
Stop buying clothes. Most people have more than enough clothes and we are certainly no exception. Buying new clothes used to be a regular occurrence and now it’s been 17 months with only one shopping trip. The boredom with my clothes was easily solved when I took part in a clothing swap that allowed me to get rid of my unwanted clothing in exchange for what felt like new clothing.
Other ways to save:
-Save the soaps and shampoos & conditioners from hotels.
– Call your cable company to lower your monthly rate (surprisingly easy to do)
– Use appliances like your dishwasher and washer/dryer during non-peak hours
– Take advantage of rebates and offers. We regularly get two free movie passes because we save and mail in the tops of m&m bags.
Most of the changes we made not only save us money, but are healthier, and are better for the environment. Saving money is a lifestyle and one that we now find easy to maintain.