Taree musician Jake Davey said he's living a "pinch me" life right now.
At only 22, he's fulfilling his childhood dream of working in the music business and with a professional recording studio set up at his home is geared to help other musicians realise their dreams too.
It was the Christmas gift of a guitar at the age of six that set the wheels in motion for his love of music.
"Dad told Santa to bring it and I was like, what am I going to do with this?" Jake mused. "Dad's always said he never got the chance to play growing up."
Jake also enjoyed singing but even though he now plays gigs regularly, when he started out he said he wasn't very good.
"I couldn't sing when I started. I wasn't born being able to sing and play guitar.
"I'm not a technical singer nor been to the top teachers. I just love what I do."
He said he's put in a lot of work over many years and is still learning.
"The best people are always learning with the creative arts."
What inspires him about the most is that it is always evolving.
"It's constantly exciting for me."
As a child getting started, he said there are no barriers.
"No social construct, no judgement. Society tries to dampen things and you naturally suppress the feeling to go for it."
But Jake's determination was strong and he knew what he wanted.
At the age of 11, he moved his bed out of his bedroom and chose to sleep on a sofa so he had more room to record.
"I started by using a little Steinberg interface into my PC. I still have the recording. It all has to start somewhere. I just wanted to record and I wanted to write music.
"Then I took over another spare room. I painted it red and black to make it look cool for 15-year-old Jake and it all totally erupted from there.
"Now I'm an adult and it's my job! I want to inspire kids to do that.
"It's 2019, you can make music on your laptop but you need to have the passion and drive to do this."
Jake grew up in Cundletown but now lives in Taree, and the conversion of his double garage into a recording studio started in July last year.
This is a pinch me situation. It doesn't really feel real that this is my life. It's taken a lot to get here but it's been worth it.Jake Davey
"My mate, who is an architect, turned the double garage into a professional recording studio. Jake Davey Studios is me wanting to create what happened to me."
He has also learned you don't have to live in a city to be successful in the music industry, because he tried it when he moved to Newcastle for a couple of years.
"School wasn't for me. In year 11 my interests were in guitar, travelling and recording music.
"I was looking for a way to step into adulthood and a career that was to do with that."
The careers adviser at his school, Glen Bowman, looked into it with him and they found an advanced diploma in sound production at TAFE, which Jake took on.
"So many kids pursue the HSC and I'm all for education but you've got to find something that suits you. I just want to make music.
"I did TAFE and then I came back and started playing more and more gigs. I had 200 gigs in a year.
"I was sitting for months in Newcastle and nothing was happening for me, except paying more rent. The grass is greener where you water it."
Jake said you have to create your own opportunities in regional areas. "You can move to Newcastle and Sydney and the exact thing can happen."
Happily based in the Manning, he regularly travels to Newcastle, Sydney and Port Macquarie for gigs.
"This is a pinch me situation. It doesn't really feel real that this is my life. It's taken a lot to get here but it's been worth it," he said.
As well as forging his own career, Jake is also focused on supporting and mentoring other aspiring musicians, just like other people did for him.
He was 12 when he performed in front of a crowd for the first time.
"My teacher Mrs Cleaver at St Joseph's in Wingham said, 'Jake, you're going to perform at the end of year concert'.
"I thought, oh no, I'm a bit shy, but she said I had no choice. She pushed me to take that chance and leap, and now I get to wake up every day and say this is my job."
So many young people put the creative arts to the side. You can make a career if you want it bad enough. Anything can happen if you've got the drive and the perseverance.Jake Davey
At 14 his mentor, musician Matt Zarb, "got me up at Harrington Hotel and said 'I want you to play a song right now'. It was so scary but so exciting at the same time."
He said it's important to him to remember the feeling of being on stage for the first time, or the feeling when someone says they liked his song and to help give other musicians the same opportunities.
"So many young people put the creative arts to the side. You can make a career if you want it bad enough. Anything can happen if you've got the drive and the perseverance."
He said collaboration is "everything" and feels 2019 is the year of collaboration for him.
His studio was designed to be a collaborative space, that "feels like home to people".
Jake has helped singers and songwriters write and record EPs and has also been working with and learning from other more experienced musicians himself.
He has developed skills in video and photography and recording and said over the past 10 years he has gained an "arsenal of skills" that he can pass on.
"I've done video recording and podcasts. There are no limits in the back of my head when it comes to this space....and leveling other people up.
"People are so cautious in moving forward. I want to be one of the people in the community to nurture talent and enables people to believe in that, to be creative and help each other and share skills."
He said everything came together for him last year. "I've wanted it for so long I'm really enjoying it and I keep playing gigs every weekend and doing all kinds of collaboration."
He's got big plans for the future.
"Where do I want to be when I'm 30? Running a studio, playing music on the weekends, and managing artists and promoting them."
This year is also a big one for Jake and his own music.
"I am going to release an EP this year with some really great tracks that I've been working on and then write an album in Nashville next year."
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