We had the good fortune of connecting with Kevin Teasley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kevin, what do you attribute your success to?
First, I am thankful that Shoutout LA is asking this question and very appreciative for the opportunity to be included. For me, it is a challenge to define the success of a (your) brand without first defining success itself. I believe we must ask ourselves, is success financial security? Monetary reward? Or, is it changing the world or contributing to society? Is success supporting your family or that everyone knows your name? And so on… It is so individual to each person. For me, success looks like being able to financially support me and my family through my musical talents and contributions. Being able to have a product or gift, talent or service that I am able to be self-sustaining through has always been my goal. As well as to be considered among the best in the field.
I contribute my success possibly to a few things. My quality of work, attention to detail, care for clients/artists and perhaps most important, my work-life blend. I haven’t always been that good with the “balance” of it, especially in my younger years, but as I have gotten older, I have found myself being more productive having a more balanced equation. Especially in having a child, you are really blessed to see the importance of time. Being a great time manager (not necessarily based on how long I work during the day) has afforded me the ability to excel in other roles in my life that are equally as important to me as my entrepreneurial career.
Another contributing factor to my success has been my focus of study. Not only did I study music as a college student, but to this day, I study business, management and leadership. You hear some of the greats in business talk often about managing people, managing time, having deadlines, being focused and having project timelines. Let’s put it this way – some people play checkers, but I try to be more strategic in my thoughts and actions, I want to play chess.
Another thing that comes to mind is not to go for instant gratification. If you go into sports or music for the money or fame, for example, you will either not make it as a holistic success or you will likely top yourself out due to your focus not being in the right place for the impetus for doing what you do. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but the truth is, if you love what you do, and put in the hard work and dedication you will undoubtedly make money at it. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but the point is, you have to have an intense love for what you do to make it so you have longevity on your side.
I see people these days more concerned about “looking cool” instead of “being amazing”. I am of the mindset, if you concentrate on “being amazing” at what you do, that will inevitably be seen as “looking cool”. So I always try to focus on being great at what I do. The image will follow. For me, it has been about strategy…. Having a one week plan, one month plan, one year year plan, five year plan, ten year plan, etc. Etc. When you feel a sense of accomplishment, it will keep you moving forward to the next thing.
I always thought of myself as a brand. Never as a singular person, musician or talent. I feel like people misuse the word brand now when really what they are is a persona. At my custom music and sound design company, tonic, we stand for quality of the work. You do not always win the contract for the feature film, commercial, promo or tv show, or artist, but as long as our work is of the highest quality, we know more will come.
In summary, I do not just study music, I study business and business leaders. I follow people who are great with leadership and time management. I stay in tune to what is going on in pop culture, politics, fashion, etc. As my industry is often predictable based on what is going on in the world.
The last suggestion I would make is for people to focus more on team building. Have people in your life and in your circle who you can get counsel from. People you respect. You do not always have to agree with them, but getting their input is invaluable. Another invaluable teacher is failure. Failure can be as much of a teacher as your success. At the end of the day, it is all about adjusting your road map and trajectory, planning the best you can for the potholes and taking it one mile at a time. There is a difference between the popular circle and the winners circle.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I feel what sets me apart are a few traits that many people have individually but maybe they do not have them all together or maybe they don’t maximize them all together as best they can. I speak the language of the creative, the language of the technical and the language of business. Also – I know what I don’t know. I know where to get the answers. Knowing where to go is more important than knowing the answer most of the time.
When working together with people, I have found a strength in understanding everyone’s position, you do not want a business full of people playing hot potato from task to task. I am OCD in a positive way about consistency and attention to detail. Before anyone sees your instagram or your selfie, they will receive your work and that is the first way they form an opinion of you. And lastly, I feel like I know what my limitations are and so I know when to get answers. When you receive a project, file, or session passed on to you and the assets are “a mess” and not organize, named consistently, organized logically, etc that says volumes about a person/company as a team player and more than any number of followers you have on social media and “looking cool selfie”. It is and will always be your work that says the most about you.
The main thing I want people to know about Kevin Teasley and my brands, TONIC and The Unit, is that we treat your project like it is ours from start to finish. Whether it is $1 or $1,000,000, we believe that your project demands our very best. You might have been working on it for one day, one year, or even one decade, it does not matter. We treat your work like this is your art and your gift to the world. And feel like it is our “artistic baby” as well. We approach it with no creative expense and details spared because we know word of mouth and how people have their experience with you matters a great deal.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I actually feel I am the best tour guide that anyone could ever want! Ha! Here is the reason why: I want you to see what you want to see! People that come to Los Angeles may want to go to Hollywood Blvd. And walk the stars, while we see them everyday and don’t think that much about it. Or, they may want to go see the Hollywood sign, which is just a bunch of letters on a hill, off of Beachwood Canyon by Lake Hollywood. The touristy things that we overlook in our everyday life can really be part of the great travel experience (and I get it, how could you travel to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower or go to London and not see Big Ben?!), So, I would make sure they saw what they were interested in first . Now, after that, I would make sure to take them on a hike and to an LA beach! LA is a city and is metropolitan but what is so magical about LA is also the nature. The water, the mountain hikes, the beach trails, horseback riding is the best because you get to enjoy such a major city with what is often overlooked, the nature experience that surrounds it.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are three very important people to shoutout who have made a huge impact in my life and career. Two of them live in Hopewell, Virginia where I was humbly brought up. I get my work ethic and my non-complaining about work from my late Grandmother, Fannie Frances Washington, who raised me from the time I was a young boy. I learned so much about the value of work and the value of doing things right. She would always say, “measure twice, cut once”. Something that I live by to this day. It is not about working quickly, it is about working efficiently and the way you do that is to know you are making good decisions and making calculated choices. I really have to give a shout out to her about having that work ethic and not quitting. She taught me everyday, there is no such thing as failure unless you quit.
The second person is my Aunt Bettie Washington, she has been such an unwavering support to me and from a young age, sowed the seeds of positivity and believed in my musical talents. She would always smile and tell me I could do whatever I wanted. My Aunt Bettie made a profound impact on my confidence and dreams. I knew she would always have my back and there was not a day that went by where she did not encourage me to pursue my dreams. She supported my move to LA from VA from day 1 and was instrumental in my move here about 20 years ago now.
I pattern my leadership and parenting skills from these two incredibly strong and wise Black women. Which leads me to the third person but definitely not last and absolutely the most important is my incredibly curious, joyous, thoughtful and smart 4 ½ year old son, Kaiden. He gave me, among many things, a wonderful grounding in levity and perspective in life. He reminds me why it is important to have a good reputation and have strong personal and business morals. Your children are constantly looking up to you for guidance and as a role model. They pattern themselves after you so you always want to set a good example for them. I want him to know that I will always be his biggest fan. He reinvigorates my love and curiosity for music and makes me never want to stop learning. Also, he ignited in me the importance of leaving a legacy for your children and generations to come. You want to be a part of the great “Hollywood tapestry” and be a part of history that your children can be proud of. I want my son to grow up and be as proud to say that Kevin Teasley is his father as I am to say that he is my son. You want your children to achieve and surpass you in every way.
If it was not for these three incredible people, I would not be where I am today.