We had the good fortune of connecting with Nick Marks and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nick, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Roughly a year ago, I left a secure, good paying job (with benefits) with a supportive workplace environment filled with kind-hearted and talented professionals. Now I am hustling to cover my monthly bills. I suppose, in the general sense of the phrase, that my ‘work life balance’ has worsened. I have less free time and less discretionary income. But I feel the exact opposite.
You see, over the past year, I started a private piano teaching business, I launched a podcast, and I released a debut EP. These endeavors have been much less financially lucrative compared to my last job (so far, at least), but all of these projects nourish my musical creativity and curiosity in different, fulfilling ways, and I feel very driven to continue building upon these entrepreneurial and creative endeavors. I do not feel a need for more free time or for more discretionary money because I am already so immersed in my passion for music.
I think a more apt phrase to describe my life is that I’m not pursuing a ‘work life balance,’ but rather a ‘work life blend.’
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As a musical artist, my career is still very young – just getting started in fact. I released my debut EP in June, and I have plans for projects that will probably keep me busy for the next 4-5 years.
I am very proud of my debut and specifically of the originality that I believe shines through in my music. I feel that I am putting out something that is accessible and, at the same time, fresh, interesting, and unique. And that’s important to me – to have a distinctive sound. I want to offer something new and noteworthy to the vast musical landscape that already exists; I do not want to retread already worn paths.
And yet, almost paradoxically, I find the biggest challenge at this stage is that I am still trying to figure out my own sound. I generally like to adhere to this principle: write music that I like. If I like my music, then I know I will feel satisfied and accomplished, and I won’t worry as much about what other people think. But, at the same time, I find feedback and criticism very valuable. I have written rough drafts of songs and thought that they were final drafts (I liked them a lot). But then when my friends and peers took a listen and gave me their feedback, suddenly I would see my songs from new perspectives and have a flood of new ideas. I have revised many songs and made them markedly better, and, most importantly, I would end up liking them more.
But some songs end up going through countless revision cycles, and it can get to an almost numbing point where I lose sight of what I’m even trying to accomplish. This is the difficult part: balancing my own artistic vision with all the other input I receive along the way. To me, balance is the key word. I do not strive to stubbornly do everything my own way all the time, because I sincerely believe that that does not result in my best possible work. But I also do not want to do everything the way other people tell me to do, as too much concession can take away from my originality and from the spirit of my artistic output. I hope to continually become more and more skilled at exploring this balance.
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.
Kulak’s Woodshed: This gem of a music venue may be in a bit of an unexpected place, planted unassumingly along a retail street in North Hollywood, yet it features the best open mic in all of Los Angeles county. The atmosphere is intimate and supportive, and the musicians are diverse and immensely talented. If my friend is a musician, we both gotta perform (whether separately or together)!
The Griffith Observatory: Let’s hike in nature, learn mind-blowing information about astronomy, and gaze across the vast Los Angeles valley
Flore Vegan: Even if my friend isn’t vegan, I still gotta take them to my favorite vegan joint in Silver Lake!
The Pub at Golden Road: Great place to grab a tasty bite and a quality drink, especially during big sporting events because of their abundance of TVs. They have a cool indoor and outdoor set up, and are family-friendly and dog-friendly. Oh, and they have plenty of vegan options on their menu!
Angel City Brewery: Can never have too many cool places to grab a drink, and this ware-house styled brewery provides a very chill atmosphere. They also feature local art and sometimes have local vendors, and they have plenty of board games on hand. Impossible not to have a good time. You can also walk down the street to Arts District Brewery for more (yes more!) tasty beer (including a larger selection) and some fun throwback arcade games
Grand Central Market: Let’s soak in the bustling energy of the city by hanging out at this iconic downtown staple. We can also get some Golden Road beer here too!
Staples Center, Dodgers Stadium, Banc of California Stadium, Dignity Health Sports Park, Honda Center, Angel Stadium of Anaheim: One of the professional sports teams has to be in action while my friend visits (fingers crossed!). Can never have too much sports
The beach in Long Beach: This is where I currently live, and no trip to southern California is complete without some nice beach time
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?
Bobbie Barcalow is a family friend who began to play a role in my life when I moved from Chicago to Los Aneles since, you see, she became the closest person I had to family in all of southern California. While enjoying lunch together about three years ago, she encouraged me, in a somewhat offhand way, to teach piano lessons on the weekends. Her comment was like the flick of a light switch that I didn’t even know existed. I found two students to begin teaching on Sundays, and after about a year and a half, I had built up a strong desire to make more time for more piano students, so I began mapping out a plan for my own business: Classroom 88.
Thank you Bobbie for your consistent kindness and encouragement of my piano playing, and, of course, for planting the seed for Classroom 88.
Other: classroom88.org IG @classroom88official