[Joey Stuckey is a renowned blind musician hailing from Macon, Georgia, where he is the musical ambassador and runs his own studio, Shadow Sound Studios. He’s got an inspirational story and numerous accolades to his name. He was kind enough to contribute a guest blog post for us.]
I’ve been in the music business for over 25 years, and I’ve done a lot: from opening for Ted Nugent, Bad Company, and Clarence Carter, to sharing the stage with The B52’s and Trisha Yearwood. I’ve also recorded with Randall Bramblett of Traffic and Gregg Allman and Friends, Chuck Leavell of the Rolling Stones, and Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie and Jeff Beck Band. I’ve taught music technology and music business at the university level, and helped artists realize their musical visions as a producer, session musician, and recording engineer. I’ve even been a music journalist having spoken with such legendary artists as The Cult, Danny Seraphine of Chicago, and George Thorogood.
I’ve done all this and more as a blind brain tumor survivor with chronic health issues that I fight every day.
So why am I telling you all this?
Because it has come to my attention that my advice about the music business regarding branding, revenue streams, musicality and music technology is beneficial, but if you don’t have your health, it all means nothing.
In the entertainment world, not enough attention is given to our physical, mental and spiritual health, though they are all connected and each affects the other.
Here are a few simple take-a-ways from my years of working hard and staying healthy that you can apply to your life and career.
1. There is such a thing as burnout!
I’m obsessed with music, and as a blind person, my ears are not only the primary way I make a living, but also the primary way I experience the universe. I fill my universe with music and sound and I love it, but even though I love what I do and can’t imagine a day without music and being creative, I have to stay healthy if I want to do it until I shuffle off this mortal coil!
So how can you protect yourself from burnout so that you are healthy, happy, and are putting your talents to the best use for yourself and your clients?
Start with taking short, five-minute breaks every few hours. Just walk around, have a snack, go outside and hear the birds chirping or have a few minutes of silence—whatever works for you to clear your mind and feel refreshed. Build this habit into your work schedule and tell your clients or collaborators about it. Chances are they’ll appreciate the break as well.
2. Limit your work to however many hours that you are at your best.
For me that is about an 8 to 10 hour day including short breaks. After that, while I can still keep working on a project, my effectiveness wanes and it isn’t good for me. Of course once in a while, you might have to stray from this to get the last little thing done for a project you are working on, but don’t make a habit of going past your limit! Long-term, you exhausting yourself isn’t good for your future endeavors or your clients’/collaborators’ productiveness!
Again, be honest with yourself and others with whom you work about your needs to stay healthy. If they can’t understand, then you don’t need to be working with them!
3. Get proper rest, food, and hydration!
Yeah, I know it sounds obvious, but it is so easy to get into bad eating and sleeping habits if you are busy.
For me, I make sure to drink things like water or zero-sugar sports drinks with the occasional coffee or soft drink thrown in for variety (and caffeine). Hydration is key to the proper balance of electrolytes which are the minerals in your body that control essential bodily functions.
For most of my life, I have just eaten whatever was close at hand. As a blind guy that can’t drive, I was somewhat at the mercy of whatever food was going around and almost all of that wasn’t healthy. Most of the time I would eat fast food at my station and just kept working. With COVID, things slowed down and I started eating healthy and lost over 80 pounds in a year. The secret is making slow changes over time that you can maintain. Now, I have prepared meals and snacks that limit my unhealthy habits.
If you have an active mind and a lot of deadlines, it can be hard to shut off your mind and go to bed.
I start getting ready for bed about 2 hours before I want to be asleep. I have some habits like reading a book I know well and love, or streaming one of my favorite comedies or listening to music I know well—basically the entertainment version of comfort foods. As a blind person, I also suffer from Non-24, which is a disorder that comes from not taking circadian cues from light. I take a very low dose of melatonin to assist my body to get back in rhythm—this can also be used for jet lag when changing multiple time zones.
You have to get proper rest. It is one of the most important things you can do for your body and mind. Each person is different, but I need about 8 to 9 hours of sleep to feel well.
For most of us, the entertainment business has crazy deadlines and is feast or famine—either everyone is calling or no one is calling. You have to work odd hours, and if you are like me and wear many different hats doing different jobs in the entertainment biz, your schedule is all over the place.
That’s okay, just make sure to include eating and sleeping well along with breaks and vacations from work to keep you at your best. It’s okay to say you can’t do something. While you may lose a job or two, when you do work and work healthy, you and your clients/fans and even family and friends will always be getting your best.