One of the things I love most about this industry is the people I’ve met along the way. Sure, there are keyboard warriors and egos out there trying to ruin it, but that’s just life sadly. Every profession has them but for the most part it’s filled with talented, driven, passionate and creative souls. Over the years, I’ve formed bonds and friendships that go so much deeper than barbering with two in particular literally helping to change my life.
Let me take you back to the beginning.
All I ever wanted to do growing up was play music. I wanted to write and record music that would speak to someone the way my favourite bands spoke to me. Music that could alter your mood in an instant. I wanted to tour the world with my best friends, see new cities every day and share our love of music.
Coming from a small fishing town in Scotland didn’t exactly radiate possibilities though and more often than not I was told those three magic words “It’ll never happen” (Or is that four?). Now, as I’m sure my parents will agree, I’ve never been one to be told no. Tell me I can’t do something and I’ll literally almost kill myself to prove you wrong, especially when my heart and mind are set on it. Some may call it stubbornness but I like to call it dedicated and committed (mainly because it makes me feel better about being bloody stubborn!).
It pays off though. Small town ‘disadvantages’ or not, if you believe in something and work hard enough at it anything can be possible. What do you know! I signed my first record deal at 18 with my band PMX. It helped that the other three members of the band were every bit as committed and dedicated as I was, plus extremely talented to boot.
For the next few years I was on tour and in the studio, living the dream I always wanted. From Europe and the UK, right across to Canada. I lived in London for a while and worked on other projects such as being the drummer of Silibil N Brains, signing with Sony BMG and touring with D12. It was a whirlwind time and all happening so fast that I sadly never really cherished it. At that age you think you’re invincible and nothing is going to go wrong. You’re unstoppable. I wasn’t one to be a worrier or live life by “what ifs” so couple that with the fact I am always looking to better myself and letting the moments slip by was an easy thing to let happen.
I spent those years thinking of the next step and how to advance the band as well as myself. The next tour, the next album, the next promo shoot. How could we write a stronger record and perform better? That attitude has led me to some amazing things. However, if you let it take your eye off of where you are and how far you’ve come, it certainly can have a negative effect. When I encountered severe issues with my wrists it all started to hit me. Maybe this wouldn’t last forever and I should have been savouring what we had already achieved instead of obsessing about taking it even further. Do I regret it? Do I hell! But believe me I learned from it. I still try to push Hard Grind as far as I can go but I always live in the moment and take a step back to look at how far we have already come and cherish it.
My medical issues sadly never subsided and my days of playing at that level were gone. Choosing to give up on something or walk away from it, especially after dedicating your life to it, is one thing. Being told you HAVE to walk away is another thing altogether. Those were some pretty dark and challenging times. Like I said, I wasn’t one for being told no but all the specialists I’d seen and procedures I’d gone through couldn’t get me back where I had once been. It was a pretty bitter pill to swallow and gave me some demons to battle but it truly taught me the meaning of the word acceptance.
Now, you may wonder why this blog is talking about music more than anything else? That’s because even though my musical career ended where I did, it was also the beginning of where I am today. On tour you’re in a different city every day. You mainly see the inside of the tour van, the hotel, the venue and the odd McDonalds. You certainly didn’t know the best barbers in town or where to pick up a decent haircut. Enter Colin.
I’d always been creative and artistic. It didn’t really matter what job I was doing, as long as it involved being creative, I was happy. Hair let me explore my creativeness, so when our guitarist, Danny, needed a chop what else was I going to do but give it a go. It was all long hair and GHD’s back then and I’d always been the one styling friend’s hair for them before nights out. I just had to cut it before I styled it this time. Did I do it right? Definitely not. Did it look and sit well? Fuck yeah it did! I worked my way through it visually, picking up areas that looked heavy or didn’t sit right. I was pretty darn proud of myself and my ‘customer’ was happy. That is what gave me the best buzz. Taking something ‘broken’, turning it around and making someone feel better about themselves in the process was an amazing feeling. It was no wonder after music ended for me that I instantly found myself going into the hair industry.
I landed a few jobs in salons off the back of being purely self-taught. I’d managed to already build a solid clientele and push myself far beyond that first hotel room cut. However, I wasn’t enjoying it. I loved the process but the work environment just didn’t suit me plus I had zero training and guidance to help me hone my skill. Today, we are filled with training programs and seminars, YouTube videos and tutorials but we are talking over a decade ago here. Regardless, I left the industry and as I mentioned in my first blog, went balls to the wall learning all I could about business and making moves to open my own establishment where the environment and energy would be exactly how I wanted it to be.
Before I even thought about opening the doors to Hard Grind, I had one last mission and that was to up my ability as a barber. Sure I was well rounded and equipped in business and management and all the customers I already had were happy, but I wasn’t. There is only so long you can ‘wing it’ and frankly my shop, myself and, most importantly to me, my customers deserved better. I was reluctant to even call myself by the title or tattoo the word barber on me because I hadn’t earned it. I hold so much love and respect for the trade and the industry that I felt I had to earn that title first.
That’s when I reached out to Vikki Smith.
Most in the industry will now know her as SB Barbering Academy but we are talking long before she was a full-blown Academy. Vikki actually travelled every Monday up to Scotland to train me in Dundee. We used my friends and current customers who knew my situation as models and she put me through my paces. To this day, I am still to meet a more rounded, experienced and knowledgeable barber. Not only was she talented but she could break everything down and explain it in such a simplistic way that any level of barber would be able to understand. She helped build my confidence, not only on new techniques I was learning through her, but also on how far I’d already managed to raise my standards myself. Fast forward a few years and she now owns the biggest and most respected barbering academy in the UK with thousands of students traveling from all over the world to train with her and the SB team.
I was lucky enough to view the academy long before it opened and watch firsthand how it began and grew into the incredible success it is today. You see, Vikki didn’t just teach me a few tricks and head back home. She and her husband Ryan became family. It’s very seldom in adult life that you meet people on that sort of level and for me it was a breath of fresh air, not just in my barbering life but my personal life as well. It was our love of cutting hair that brought us together but it very quickly became apparent our relationship was much deeper than that. You only have to meet the Smiths for five seconds to work out why. I’ve referred to Vikki as Superwoman before. Watching them juggle three kids, two booming businesses and a dog whilst still finding time to offer help to anyone and everyone else that needs it, is quite frankly unreal. Sure, it’ll be stressful and challenging but they deal with it together as a team and create something so special in the process that no one ever wants to leave the SB nest.
To this day, I am sure Hard Grind wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for Vikki & Ry, which in part means my life wouldn’t be the same. Not only in the beginning did they help my craft but they still remain by my side through the stress of business and the barbering industry (even when I’m having those “I’m shit at cutting hair days” or the “I wanna pack it all in and sell cocktails on a beach in Bali” days!) They are generous and inspire me in all aspects of my life, especially as a father and parent, and I’m thankful that this wonderful industry brought us together.
My life had one focus growing up and losing that was difficult. We all make plans and set goals. Sometimes they don’t go as we’d hoped but it doesn’t mean we give up. If you can master the art of acceptance, focus on the positives around you and trust in the universe and your own abilities then you’ll see there are other paths to walk down. They may not always be the same but they could also be better than you ever imagined. Life isn’t about the destination. It’s not about the next album or tour, the next job or shop. It’s about the journey.
Don’t get caught up planning where you are going so much that you forget where you are and how you got there.