It looks like this is the place where Teun Schut likes to be - downstairs in his studio, surrounded by recording equipment, computers, a couple of keyboards and a few guitars. He looks so comfortable here, with his eyes closed, playing the guitar. When I enter, he puts the instrument away and looks around up.
He says, "Yeah, I am living my dream."
It has been his life-long dream to make a living as a musician and the new CD with his name in bold letters on the cover is a step in the right direction.
"The selection of the music is really mine," Teun says. "This is my project. Jazz is what I love to play more than anything. I have a recording studio and one day I realized that I rarely record myself, only when I play with somebody. So, this is my statement, this is who I am, this is what I like."
The title of the CD is The Teun Schut trio. It features the talents of Rene Worst on bass, Buff Allen on drums and Teun Schut on guitar. All three musicians will play at the CD release concert on Sunday, March 6 at 3 p.m. at the Tir-na-nOg Theatre School, tickets are $10 in advance, $12.50 at the door.
The music is an eclectic mix of smooth and mellow jazz standards and it doesn't sound like it was recorded in this slightly cluttered teaching/studio space. It sounds, well, perfect. It is a great mix that allows the listener to hear all the different instruments, get carried away by artful riffs and be immersed in soulful notes.
"I chose songs that I like, songs that I like to play," Teun says. He had prepared a book of charts for 20 songs. When his fellow musicians showed up to record the CD, they chose 12. About the selection, Teun says, "Well, at some point we felt that we hardly had any Latin. And we thought it would be nice to have a wider variety. It happened very naturally and we ended up with a balance of upbeat songs and a few ballads."
When asked about his favourite piece, Teun laughs, "My absolute favourite? Well, I feel terrible, it feels like favouring one of your children."
But then he relents, "It's My foolish heart. I really love that song. And it is also interesting the way it was recorded. We started on Monday afternoon and played until we were done. Then we had some wine and dinner and Buff went home. Rene slept here, in our B&B. The next morning, Rene and I were both up. We went downstairs and played this ballad. We only played it twice and we didn't even really make any elaborate arrangement. We just started playing and it flowed. I remember sitting here and then I saw Buff coming to the door. I thought, 'If he comes in, it's ruined.' But he waited until we were finished."
It has been a long journey on Teun's road as a musician. He says, "I started to play when I was eight. I had guitar lessons. Then, at some point, when I was 12, I connected with a friend who encouraged me to play with him. We found a drummer and a bass player and I had my first band. I played with different bands, different groups, starting with rock, hard rock really. Later I played more blues, funk and rhythm. In university, I studied jazz guitar. I studied it to become a better guitar player. And I was an eager student but I wasn't in a jazz band. I should have had at least one jazz band because practice is so different from performing; it is a huge part of learning it. I guess wasn't really ready."
It was over a decade ago that Teun recorded his first and only other CD. He explains, "A friend of mine was writing lyrics. He had this issue because in Holland most pop bands sing in English even though they speak Dutch. He was annoyed with that and wanted to do something about it. He had a whole stack of lyrics and I wrote the music. All the music on the first CD is original."
Teun smiles at the memory and confesses, "I still write music. Eventually I would like to record a CD with my original songs." When asked why the name Teun Schut is missing from the list of composers on his latest CD, he says, "There was one original song included among the 20 I suggested. But we didn't play it. I guess a lot of the songs are standards and it wasn't a perfect fit." Then he shrugs, "Maybe I was a bit shy or insecure about it."
He says, "But this is definitively the next step. That is my dream to play my own music and make a living of it."
He explains, "Normal people go through the same evolution but earlier in life. I guess I'm a slow starter. First you have to find your voice. I feel like I had to find my footing and I am getting there. I am definitely going to write my own material."
The CD will be available at the CD release concert, through friends and fans, and on his almost-ready website. And when Teun heads out to play a gig, he will make sure bring a few along. He says, "I made the CD because I want to show people what I do. Just like a scientist needs to publish to be taken seriously, a musician needs to have a CD. But making a CD creates a lot of peripheral work. There is paperwork, marketing. It is hard trying to make a career as a musician, especially with the work that is not related to music. I'd rather just play the guitar."
He adds, "As much as I am living my dream, I just hope it doesn't turn into a nightmare. The financial part can be stressful at times." He laughs and explains that having kids has something to do with it. At times they come to ask for something and he just has to say, "Sorry, no can do."
But in a recent family conversation, Teun was surprised to hear his daughter Roos say how much she appreciates that he chose music as his career. Teun says with a smile, "She knows that this is what I really want, and she is happy for me."
Another plan to boost his income is to expand the boundaries of his reputation. Teun is an integral part of Bowen's musical community and is asked to play on a regular basis. But he wants to get better known in Vancouver and play with other musicians, even though it doesn't pay very much. He recently found out that the going rate for a gig 25 to 30 years ago was around $250. Now it is the same, sometimes even less.
As to CD sales, Teun doesn't have any high expectations. He shrugs, "Not a lot of people buy CDs any more. Not when you can go online and download everything you want."
But on the whole, Teun is positive about the influence of the Internet. He says, "There's a lot of nice indie music out there. It's a good thing that everyone with a computer and a microphone can make music. Many artists do their own thing and ignore the music industry. Music is very accessible. Only one person needs to see something, and he can share it with all his friends. Artists can overnight be well-known and have their music go to a lot of people. Who knows maybe we are going through a new creative era."
He is giving the example of his daughter Lisa who attends IPS and regularly gets together with her friends to play music. With a wry smile, Teun confesses, "I teach quite a few kids in that class; in fact, I teach most of them. They are quite good. A lot of kids are really into it."
With his combination of gentleness and skill, Teun is a very popular teacher. He says, "I love teaching but I would rather play than teach. And ideally, I would like to play my own music."
And we'd love to see, and hear, it happen.