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STRIKING THE BALANCE – by Hayley Keenan

STRIKING THE BALANCE – by Hayley Keenan

Hello there!
My name is Hayley Keenan and I am a full-time musician and educator.

I am a founding member of folk band ‘Talisk’ and play the fiddle alongside Mohsen Amini (concertina) and Graeme Armstrong (guitar). I am also a member of ‘Jim Jam Ceilidh Band’ and run a folk club in Largs called, ‘Largs Folk Nights’, which I really enjoy organising along with my family and friends.

Talisk have had a truly brilliant year so far, having just finished a busy summer of playing festivals all over the world. I am so grateful to call this a ‘job’ and get to travel to new and exciting places doing what I love – playing music.


The last year has been a huge learning curve for me.

I have always been a very decisive person and I always thought I knew exactly what I wanted in my life. This has been tested in the last 12 months and I’ve struggled with creating balance in my life. The last year has challenged me in ways where I have been in a position of having to make decisions, which I thought were ‘best’ for me at that time. Being a touring musician is an amazing job and one of only a few that presents the opportunity to play to audiences and experience different countries and their cultures. That being said, it can also be exhausting due to scheduling and minimal sleep. What I have learnt is that the key to success and happiness is all about striking a balance.

Being both a self-employed musician and a classroom Music teacher, I have been in the position of being worried to turn down opportunities and felt like I always had to say ‘yes’ to everything. I would go on tour, come back and throw myself straight back into teaching in schools and not give myself any time to neither rest nor reflect. A few weeks later, we would start another tour and all I’d done was work. I was tired a lot of the time and often felt like I wasn’t fully taking in some of these amazing experiences we were so fortunate to be provided with. I was trying to make everything work, but at the same time, wasn’t giving myself the space and time to breath.

I feel grateful to have choices, but this often puts me in a position of personal conflict.

At the start of this year, I spent a lot of my time working in schools. I love teaching and feel that it will always play a big role in my life. It is a completely different vocation to being a touring musician, but also comes with it’s own set of demands and responsibilities. I enjoy how different the dynamic of both jobs can be, and love this sort of diversity in my life.

Uncertainty is something you face on a daily basis as a touring musician. Things such as sleep, meals, transport, and accommodation can all be inconsistent. This summer has been incredible for the band and definitely our most busy yet. We were fortunate enough to travel to lots of different countries and play at some amazing festivals. The reality of touring is that you spend the majority of your time travelling together, spending lots of time hanging around at the venue and then playing around 75- 90 minutes on stage, every day. As a band, I’d say we are good at being respectful of each other’s space and have a very good understanding of each other. Over the last couple of years, we have definitely been better at taking care of ourselves and I can now safely say, we are experts at falling asleep on all modes of transport. Self-care is key when you are on the road, and I’ve tried to make things such as eating healthily and exercise a priority when on tour.

When I’m back in Glasgow, I try my best to ensure that I focus on having some sort of ‘routine’ in place. I like to go to the gym first thing, as it sets me up for the day and I try to implement this on tour. This is often easier said than done, but is a work in progress!

Earlier on in the year, I felt like I needed guidance in the gym and so started to get a few personal training sessions in Glasgow, from fellow Largs local, Stewart Penny (if you ever need someone to put you through your paces, he is the perfect guy!). I have found having these sessions very beneficial and Stewart has created a workout for me to follow while I’m away on tour, which means I never really have any excuse to not exercise regularly away from home.

Some of the things that I’ve learnt over the last few month is… sleep is number one and trying new things out that may be completely different to you or challenge you, can be a good thing. Mohsen often says to me, “You do you”, and this saying has played a significant role in my decision making over the last few months. You can’t please everyone all of the time, and sometimes, you just need to do things that are best for you at that present moment. I recently read a blog from one of my friend’s, Diana Ladio, (check out her blogs!) where she says, “Don’t look too far ahead, because it doesn’t exist yet”, and this is something I need to really try and embrace.

More often than not, I am guilty of worrying about the future, but need to learn to stop and appreciate each day as it comes.

I have a busy few months ahead with Talisk, and in a few weeks’ time, head back to the USA for our second leg of the tour. We then head to Canada for the amazing ‘Celtic Colours’ festival, which is definitely one of our favourite festivals. We have a tour in the UK in November, and then head to Japan, which I can’t wait for!

Talisk – www.talisk.co.uk
Jim Jam – www.jimjamceilidhband.co.uk