James Blackshaw Is Quitting His Music Career

The English guitar wizard James Blackshaw has made virtuosic fingerpicked instrumental music for more than a decade, but he is just about done with making a career out of it. In a new Tumblr post, Blackshaw says that while he wants to continue making music, he doesn’t really want to perform live ever again. And since performing live is entirely necessary for musicians who want to make a living doing what they do, he’s done with that part of his life. Going forward, he’ll just make music whenever he’s moved to do it.

“While I enjoy performing, my heart has always primarily belonged to writing and recording new music,” Blackshaw writes. “I wish releasing records alone could provide enough income to pay my bills and cover my rent, but it doesn’t, not remotely – not for me and not for the overwhelming majority of musicians and labels out there. Touring is a necessity and one which I am finding increasingly stressful and problematic.”

Blackshaw says he’ll finish up his current commitments and then play a goodbye tour, and he’ll also continue recording, “albeit less frequently than I have in the past.” But he’ll be making his living “elsewhere” and just making music “for the reason I started in the first place — for the love and enjoyment of it.” You can read the full post below.

I don’t really believe in speaking in absolutes, but — at this point in time — I have no intention of performing live again, beyond the few commitments I’ve already made and a farewell tour in the next few months. Perhaps the best way to put it is that I will be on indefinite hiatus in that regard, but continue to write and record new music, albeit less frequently than I have in the past.

I realise some of you reading this may be sad or disappointed. I’m truly sorry, but please know it’s not a decision I’ve taken lightly or made hastily. The truth is, there is no one clear and overriding reason, rather a combination of reasons that have led me to this point, but I would like to explain as best I can.

For the last 11 years, most of my income has been from live performances. I’ve been immensely fortunate to be in the position to work full-time as a musician for so long and it’s not something I’ve ever taken for granted. But while I enjoy performing, my heart has always primarily belonged to writing and recording new music. I wish releasing records alone could provide enough income to pay my bills and cover my rent, but it doesn’t, not remotely — not for me and not for the overwhelming majority of musicians and labels out there. Touring is a necessity and one which I am finding increasingly stressful and problematic.

I’d like more freedom to make the kind of music I want, without the pressure of needing to release records at certain intervals in order to tour, and without the limitations of having to think about performing that music live, which is becoming increasingly more difficult and crippling creatively as my interests veer further away from solo guitar music. It simply hasn’t been possible to perform a great number of my songs without other musicians and the opportunity to play with a group has rarely presented itself.

I also have concerns for my family and my physical and psychological wellbeing now, which rarely factored into things when I was younger. It’s harder to be away for extended periods of time and I want more stability in my life in all senses of the word.

It seems the solution is to not take part in this process any further, to earn a living elsewhere and to make music solely for the reason I started in the first place — for the love and enjoyment of it.

Thank you to everybody who has bought my music, come to my shows and supported me over the years. There are so many promoters, audience members, labels, agents and other musicians who I’ve met who have become dear friends. My gratitude to you all is infinite.

- James Blackshaw, 11/04/16