Mastering Music, Mastering Life: 6 Aussie musos share how they overcome creative self-doubt

Conversations about mental health among the creative community are becoming increasingly commonplace. In an attempt to create a forum for this type of discussion, mastering engineer and well-known musical identity Tony “Jack The Bear” Mantz has created a weekly podcast and bi-annual event called Mastering Music, Mastering Life, which invites guests from all areas of music to contribute their experiences dealing with the challenges of mental well-being.

Ahead of the next MMML event which happens on the 25th of March at the Croxton in Melbourne, we asked a number of diverse Australian artists to get in on the discussion and share their tips for overcoming bouts of intense creative self-doubt.

mastering music, mastering life

Alongside substance abuse, anxiety and depression, one of the biggest challenges facing the artistically inclined is a crippling sense of self-doubt in the creative process.

Matt Young – vocalist in King Parrott

In moments of creative self-doubt, I often take a break from the process and get out in the ocean for a surf, or find something else that will completely distract me from the task.

Then I can return to creative process with a fresh prospective and clear outlook. This is something that always seems to work well for me.

John Course – DJ, Vicious Vinyl head honcho

Step back from whatever it is you are doing, be it a mix down, a writing session, a remix, whatever… take a long break, or even leave it for the day, and listen fresh the next day to get a vibe.

Also, find a trusted experienced mentor, friend, A&R person, creative inspiration, who you can talk with and get their perspective on the issue. But I can’t stress enough “TRUSTED”… don’t take advice from people who don’t understand what you do.

Alex Lahey – singer/songwriter

In moments of creative self-doubt I think it’s important to take a step back and acknowledge that things that seem to come so naturally in the creative process are in fact a product of countless hours of perseverance, pushing through the process and less than ideal outcomes.

“Good fortune favours the prepared mind” is a Louis Pasteur quote I tend to come back to in these moments, which to me says “you know that great song you wrote the other week? Well, that’s a product of all the shit ones you’ve been writing for the last six months”.

It’s all part of the process.

Katie Underwood – singer/songwriter

When creative self-doubt kicks in it’s often because we have lost connection with ourselves on a deep level. When we are fully connected with our higher selves, creativity flows with ease.

My suggestion would be to stop ‘trying’ and take time out to relax, unwind and do the things you love – walk in the forest, surf, laugh with friends, read a book, bungee jump – whatever it is that gets your energy flowing and growing.

Dom Dolla – DJ/producer

When I’m stuck creatively or full of doubt about a particular project or session, it’s generally a sign I need to give my ears a big old refresh. I’ll either take a break from the studio for a few hours by doing something social, or alternatively dive into another musical project that’s completely unique to what I’ve been working on.

All I really need is a few hours to shake the old melodies and get a more objective perspective. If I come back and it still sucks… I’ll start over. Life’s too short to be wasted on bad ideas.

Travis Dempsey – drummer in The Living End, Doublejack

I go back to the influences that started me in the first place, anything from listening to albums that I loved growing up, through to watching documentaries on my fave artists and influences.

It does the trick because it takes me back to that feel good moment and to why I do what I do. It resets my priorities.


Mastering Music, Mastering Life takes place on March 25th at Croxton in Melbourne.

Entry is via gold coin donation. Reserve your tickets here.