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You can go your own way

Ronnie Herel, former BBC1xtra and Radio 1 presenter, presents Drive Time and specialist slot #TheBIGRnBShow on Mi Soul Radio. He tells E1 Life why being unafraid to try new things is the key to originality and success

Funky Dory

Starting a new venture can put the fear of the man upstairs in you, particularly if you get that crucial break to perform your chosen craft on the big stage. Whether you’re making a speech with all your peers in attendance; providing the catering for a massive event; or, like me, you’re DJing in front of a daunting 5,000 people chomping at the bit for the best party night of their lives, it’s best to be prepared when the opportunity arises. It’s your time to shine.

I know what it is to overcome fear in an array of musical scenarios. I make no great distinctions between my work as a DJ, a presenter or as a music producer, since they’re all connected. Whatever you do in the entertainment world, you have to present a certain edge to stand out from the crowd. When you’re trying to find your path, you’re likely to be listening to a ton of other artists who already do what you want to do.

As an aspirant club DJ, I watched loads of DJs mixing in clubland and wanted to be able to mix like them. I now know that when I DJ in club-land, I have my own unique style. I’m not pigeon-holed; I’m respected for being able to create an emotion on the dance floor, delivering a moment that people can talk about and reminisce about on YouTube for years to come.

Similarly, as a music producer, I spent a lot of time watching producers and engineers do what they do in the studio. I heard legendary producers on record and wanted to make music that sounded like the stuff they were creating. Through my DJ travels and experience, the music I have produced, (Quartz – Meltdown, and It’s Too Late to name a couple), has stemmed from moments sparked in my own imagination. Because of that, I don’t emulate other people’s work, although there are, of course, influences. To be original in your approach puts less pressure on you and what is expected of you.

As a radio presenter, I listened to a ton of other presenters and wanted to sound like them. But I soon learned that you’re way more likely to experience fear if you try to imitate those who came before you; holding up comparisons puts an unnecessary pressure on you to be both as good, as well as different enough from the legend you’re emulating. That’s not to say you shouldn’t draw influences from those who have set an example of excellence, but I believe we become increasingly confident and fearless by putting our own stamp on what we’re trying to achieve.

The experience you gain by putting in the work and stepping out of your comfort zone builds the kind of self-assurance you can’t fake. As someone who has spent over 15 years on radio, I’ve learnt to enjoy sounding like me, and creating my own presenting style; who knows, these days there may even be would-be presenters coming up who might want to imitate me.

Music is a universal language. It can unlock emotions we never knew were within us. Being fearless in trying new things isn’t always safe. Your ventures might not always work out, but having the balls to try and stand out will always make a bigger mark than something that is copied. The key is in practicing and learning to be the best possible at whatever you want to excel in. You may feel butterflies when having to perform on the big stage, but that’s healthy. It means you’re alive and have a pulse and really care about what you do. Success is more likely to come your way when you create your own niche, building your own following by trying new ideas or by constructing a team that sings from the same hymn sheet as you.

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