We had the good fortune of connecting with Jonathan Nilsen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jonathan, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
It was really a matter of necessity! At 22 years old, I found myself as a single Dad trying to make a living working for companies that simply weren’t paying me enough to be able to provide for my daughter. The pay was too low and the hours were not flexible enough to really make anything work. I also had a skillset (teaching guitar) that I knew people wanted to learn. So I decided it was best to cut the middle man and figure it out on my own instead.
At first I was teaching lessons out of my home, but that became difficult because peoples availabilities did not align with childcare. I was also very limited to the amount of people I could reach in my own area. It was also difficult because I felt like I could not move. If I moved, I would lose most of my students.
So I decided to offer online lessons instead. This made it so that I could have flexible work hours and also take advantage of timezones to mostly teach while my daughter is at school. I can also move longer distances now because people are not coming to my home. It’s been an incredible shift for me.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I think as a musician, being an artist was always the ultimate goal.
But then as you grow up, you realize that it’s hard to make a living purely from your art. So I have had to figure out many ways to make a living while still doing what I love.
I think the greatest part of that is being able to do so many different things. I’ve had the opportunity to play with some very cool projects as a sideman, I’ve music directed at church and I have taught many students how to play the guitar.
None of it was easy to figure out, but it sure helped that it was all in a field that I really love.
I think some of the biggest lessons I have learned is that quitting isn’t always bad. I think there is a really fine line between quitting because something feels too hard and quitting because something isn’t possible. Learning the difference has really helped me figure out when to work through something and when it’s better to pivot or do something else.
The music industry is also very full of empty promises and bad deals so it’s very important to be clear about what you are willing to do. That is something that I am still working on.
The thing that I am currently most excited about is the release of my band Broken Rainbow’s new single.
It is called “Who You Tryna Play? and will be released on September 3rd.
It feels very good to get back to creating again after many years of just being contracted to play other people’s music.
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.
I would take them to Downtown Phoenix to check out the music scene.
There are a lot of very cool venues around here that are worth checking out.
We would definitely stop by Valley Bar, Lost Leaf, and Crescent Ballroom. I’m also a huge fan of Welcome Diner so I feel like that would be a must. We’d probably have a beer at Cornish Pasty too.
Then if that person had never been to Arizona, we’d probably make a trip to Prescott and Sedona too.
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?
My daughter deserves a lot of the credit. Having her in my life has pushed me to make different decisions than I would have if I’d been on my own. Some of the decisions have been very tough, but she is worth it.
I also want to thank my students. It wouldn’t be possible to this without them.