"If you don't believe in yourself, then there's zero chance that you're gonna be successful with it. If you have anything worthwhile that's worth achieving, it comes with first allowing yourself to believe it's possible and then taking action and becoming the person that deserves to achieve the goal and I think part of that too comes with being willing to make mistakes, being willing to look stupid and not taking it personally, being willing to learn quickly" Michael Walker

Successful Musicians Podcast Episode 8 Part 2


Interviewee: Michael Walker

Interviewer: Jason Tonioli


Hey, this is Jason Tonioli. I’m a piano player that grew up believing it wasn’t possible to earn a living and support a family with music. I’ve proven that idea was wrong and I’ve met hundreds of other people who have found success with their music. This podcast features stories of musicians who have found their own personal version of success and fulfillment in both music and life. This podcast is meant to inspire musicians and help them believe in their abilities and motivate them to share their talents with others. This is the Successful Musicians Podcast. 


Hey, this is Jason Tonioli. I’m a piano player that grew up believing it wasn’t possible to earn a living and support a family with music. I’ve proven that idea was wrong and I’ve met hundreds of other people who have found success with their music. This podcast features stories of musicians who have found their own personal version of success and fulfillment in both music and life. This podcast is meant to inspire musicians and help them believe in their abilities and motivate them to share their talents with others. This is the Successful Musicians Podcast. 



Jason: If I was going to rewind the clock, had you been able to go back and tell yourself “Look, believe in yourself you can do this, you’re good enough” and somehow have that confidence instilled in you 10 years earlier. Think of the difference that would have made and I think that’s probably, my guess is I mean you’ve worked with thousands of artists and talked to I don’t know how many you probably lost count of how many people you’ve impacted or reached but do you find that that belief in one’s self is one of the key things that is a determination of success or you know or thrown in the towel?


Michael: A hundred percent! I mean let’s say it’s probably like the key determinator, like whether you can or you can’t. It’s like, was it Henry Ford? He said, “If you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” And you certainly don’t become successful by not believing it’s possible and thinking you can’t do it, right? Like there’s no way you’re going to do it and be successful doing it if you don’t believe that you can and yeah, there is something. It’s difficult to have that belief early on when you haven’t experienced the fact of it or you haven’t experienced it. You have to cultivate that belief either in yourself like you have to allow yourself to cultivate that in yourself and believe that no matter what happens, you know you’re going to you’re going to make it work and to be okay with learning along the way and it’s not going to be instant and you have to you’ll have to learn a lot, you have to make mistakes and you’ll probably have to embarrass yourself and look stupid sometimes like you really have to be okay with looking looking stupid because if you don’t then you just don’t ever put yourself out there, you don’t learn, right?


So, I think that there’s a huge amount of that and even like for us, yeah we had to cultivate that and I think that we sort of did that for each other with Paradise Fears. We cultivated that belief in each other and we were always,  we had different phrases that we would say… like I remember one and these are just like silly phrases but I remember there’s one thing we should be like “Straight to the top! like straight to the top!” We’re gonna make it straight to the top and there’s just like a funny like dancer you’ll be like straight to the top and you know there’s a few different phrases like that but I just remember almost mantras or things were like we would kind of carry that that pet for that energy where it’s like I think that’s really important and not everyone not everyone has that and we’re certainly like really fortunate too.


I think all of our families were supportive of what we were doing. They didn’t give us anything like financially to like you know support us because you know none of our like my parents grew up on on food stamps and and they were able to turn turn things around and they’re my biggest role models but anyway they were very supportive in the sense that they believed in us and they were proud of us and they weren’t trying to make us feel guilty about what we were doing or kind of bringing that fear or that sort of that doubt. Yeah, they were never bringing the doubt. They were always encouraging and I think that that’s a big struggle for a lot of people. They have someone in their lives, who’s close to them, who’s bringing the doubt and it’s not because they don’t love you necessarily or they don’t want you to be successful at least on the surface, yeah, but it’s mostly just from fear.


Jason:  They’re trying to protect you. It’s trying to do what because it’s a scary world out there if you do go all in on music. So, you ended up touring in 10 years and I mean you were kind of on top or you know achieving that success I guess as whatever you described of it but you’re not touring anymore and I’m not even sure the band even get together anymore to perform? You made this total turn and I think that’s an important thing for people in music to realize.  Maybe you do need to go different directions.


Where did that go and how did you get there?


Michael:  Yeah, so that was about 10 years into touring. I had met the love of my life at a show and when we got married we started thinking about having a family. I was gone for 10, 11 months out of the year and it wasn’t really like living a lifestyle very conducive to being a good father or good husband. And you know that year, we’re all kind of moving in different directions too. Like our lead singer has published several books. Now, he’s a screenplay writer and we were all kind of like moving in in some different directions and I remember that year, after we stopped touring full-time, it was one of the most difficult years of my life from a standpoint of I had my whole life was the band, my whole life was you know was what we focused on with with Paradise Fears and for that year I remember, just sort of feeling like who am I with without the band and and I remember also I didn’t really recognize at the time because you know we had just gotten married but I was really kind of in this transformation of becoming a dad and a father and wanting to start a family and I remember in that year sort of facing this rock bottom moment where I didn’t know how I was gonna provide for my family – both just in terms of being home, like we relied so much on touring back then.


It’s kind of ironic too. A lot of the things that we’ve learned in the past five years, the Modern Musician, a lot of the things that we teach now are not things that I knew back then. There were things that we learned and things that didn’t even exist – things like digital marketing and funnels and Instagram and Facebook Messenger ads.


We got our start from hitting the ground and meeting people face to face and touring and playing shows in person. Nowadays, you can do so much online but at that time, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do and I was at this point where I thought, “Do I need to go back to college?” I never went to college. Do I need to go back and get a quote-unquote “real job”? I was just feeling like a  failure of a husband and a father because I didn’t know, I couldn’t provide for my family and I had acquired some debt as well.


I remember investing in a few different… I was starting my business back then. It’s

not called Modern Musician. It was called Piano Rock Star or something like that. I was gonna do a course on how to play piano and in retrospect,  if I had stuck with that, it could have been something interesting but I remember doing a launch for that course and making a few thousand dollars and just thinking, it’s not enough.  I’m not gonna be able to support myself or my family with this and especially because so much of my ego was wrapped up and what we had accomplished with the band that there’s just sort of this identity  crisis moment or like who am I now and what do I need to do next?


That was another one of those forks in the roads. Those turning points were attending a live event by a guy named Jeff Walker and he’s not related to me. We have the same last name but he built a business called Product Launch Formula. He’s like one of the grandfathers of internet marketing and he basically teaches a course on how to take if you have a valuable skill and you can teach it to other people. He basically shows you how you can turn into a course and offer a course.


I remember attending this event and it was right at this point where I needed to figure out what I was going to do next and whether I was going to go back and get a real job. At this event, it was one of the most special experiences that I had. It was the first time that I was in a group live with all these similar-minded entrepreneurs and positive,  there’s this energy in the room and it’s something I’ve experienced a lot with the entrepreneurship space. Hacking live is a pretty special space. There’s high energy, there’s a lot of movements and excitement and energy and just positivity and entrepreneurship is just so incredible and that was one of the first times I really got a taste of what it’s like to be in a community like that.


Jeff gave an offer from the stage on the last day for a launch club and launch club was his 12,000 coaching program and keep in mind like this is at a point where I had…


Jason: … you had a twelve thousand dollar checkbook. You could totally go write that, right? You totally had the money to do that.


Michael: Yeah, this wasn’t my first thing that I tried. I think, I was about 24,000 dollars in debt at that point and found I  was gonna be a dad and it’s like I sure need to figure this out and that was a point where my wife, you know as supportive as she’s been and as much as she loves me like… I think that she was experiencing some fear rightfully and so she was bringing some of that doubt and I had some of that doubt in myself too. Can I really do this? Am I really good enough?


It’s funny. There’s like a second moment of that was whenever you’re starting something new, right like there’s that moment of who am I to do this thing and so I remember attending that event and realizing like he gave me that opportunity and I realized that  it was similar to that decision point with Jordan Schmidt. It’s the people who go all in, it’s the people who burn their bridges that have no Plan B are the ones who are successful and so I went all in.


I remember joining that program. This isn’t something I would necessarily recommend for anyone else too because you know this was a learning lesson. This is back when our finances were still…  We were married but we were still a little bit separate with our finances and I remember making that decision and joining this coaching program on my own personal credit card and I didn’t tell her about it and it wasn’t until probably a year later where finally things started to gain a little bit of traction. It wasn’t until like 9 or 10 months later that I actually started to kind of gain some traction and start working and that was another lesson.


It was that first like 10 months, I didn’t realize at the time but it was really like planting the seed and nurturing it and letting it grow and it wasn’t necessary. As soon as you plant a seed, it’s not this giant blossoming tree with the beautiful fruits that starts to fall immediately, right? It’s like you need to plant the seed and then you need to show up and you need to nurture it. You need to do the right things and that’s what leads to the fruit growing and so I’ll kind of fast forward here because I think…


Jason: I was gonna throw in here and now I don’t know whether you even know this but in the latest edition of Jeff walker’s launch book, you have a page or two where they talk about your story. You’re featured in his book as a success story of how to do this. You knew that right?


Michael:  He’s brought me on stage a few times and I think in his first edition of the book, he had like a segment where we talked a little bit but…


Jason: You’re featured in the Jeff Walker Launch book, in the audiobook that I just went through so he spends quite a bit of time telling your story which you know to go from broke and couldn’t even afford to do it and you know I think it’s well deserved. I mean you’ve been able to help and impact a lot of people and find that success.


I’m curious if you were to go backwards and kind of let’s just put you in a younger you, let’s say you’re 16 or 20 years old as you were getting started, if you could go back and give yourself some advice what would you tell yourself now knowing because you’ve talked with you’ve interviewed hundreds of people on your podcast that have been successful you know other successful musicians and sharing things. What would you tell yourself to try and speed your learning and growth along?


Michael: Man, this is such a good question. 33:57  I would tell myself to be very intentional with who I choose to surround myself with. I think there’s so much truth in the idea that we become like the 5 people that we spend most of our time with and so whether it means like putting yourself, surrounding yourself with the people physically around you which is great or just you know bringing in, surrounding yourself, listening to audio books, watching videos, joining a video course. 34:33  Whatever it is that you’re looking to do, whatever your goal is, whoever you want to become,  you figure out who is already doing it and do whatever it takes to put yourself next to them and have conversations with them or the very least you just have their presence in your environment because I think that’s probably one of the most important valuable  ways that you can shortcut or at least make your odds of success a thousand times more likely.


Secondly, I would say what you talked about in terms of believing in yourself. I think that that’s one. 35:14  If you don’t believe in yourself, then there’s zero chance that you’re gonna be successful with it. If you have anything worthwhile that’s worth achieving, it comes with first allowing yourself to believe it’s possible and then taking action and becoming the person that deserves to achieve the goal and I think part of that too comes with being willing to make mistakes, being willing to look stupid and not taking it personally, being willing to learn quickly like just getting something out there like it’s so easy to procrastinate or be a perfectionist and want to wait until the right moment when it’s ready to do something and I think that’s one of the biggest dream killers that there is, especially when it comes to music.


How many people have died with their music still inside of them because they were waiting for the right…


Jason: … to be perfect or for the right thing to have. Totally.. that’s great advice.  I’ve got one other question that just keeps popping into my mind. So, we’ve talked a lot about success and everybody’s got their own idea of success but I think Tony Robbins and Russell Brunson, I’ve heard them talk about this as well but there’s like this success and you hit that pinnacle and you’re like “Oh yeah, I got the thing and I achieved that thing “and it lasts all of you know maybe a couple days at most but you know that like high-five moment and then they talk about okay the next level is that fulfillment and so… What advice would you have for musicians or just people in general? Once you achieve that goal of success, how do you find that fulfillment in life?


Michael:  That’s such a good question too. It’s kind of funny that the things that we think are so important and those goals and achievements are so unimportant ultimately. As soon as you achieve them, then it’s well now what? There’s certainly like all of us are going to have that moment where we’re on our deathbed and we’re sort of looking back at our life and all the stuff that we’ve built here like so much of everything that we’re scared of, all of our dreams, everything is about. We’re about to say goodbye and it seems like one of the most sobering kind of humbling thought exercises to do is sort of put yourself in that moment where you’re about to die and looking back. Are you glad that you lived your life the way you did? Did you focus on what was actually important?


What  is success on the surface? Achievement in goal setting and dream achievement, actualization is a great surface level thing to strive towards. I think it’s like riding a bike where if we aren’t moving towards a goal for not moving towards anything, we’re just sitting still on a bike. It’s almost impossible to balance and we just end up falling off.


I think that as humans and our brains like there’s a movement towards actualization. There’s a movement towards goal and dream achievement and to be in the flow and balance like we need to have those goals, we need to figure out what’s actually a true goal for you that you are stretching into a higher version of yourself.


I don’t think it’s necessarily like thinking everything, all achievement and all goals are superficial but at the same time on a certain level they are superficial because you achieve them on the surface but then they don’t bring lasting fulfillment in and of themselves. So,  that’s a realm where you have to dig deep within and kind of look. It is almost a cliché kind of thing but kind of embracing the journey in every step of the journey, as it is being mindful and appreciative, being grateful for what you currently have and fully living it, fully being present for it.


I think for a lot of people that brings up their relationship with God or a universal intelligence or a greater being, a greater purpose, whatever it is that you resonate with or you know if you’re an atheist, maybe just the universe or nature itself but there is that level where you can connect with something greater than yourself and and recognize your interconnectedness with every other living being and  that connection is where true fulfillment and true liberation comes from.


Jason: As you’re saying that, I think what’s interesting is in watching your progression, hearing your story, I think you hear about this fulfillment — you’re the student and you’re living in it and then all of a sudden one day you can’t  do the thing or you don’t do the thing as much and you become the teacher and I think that sensei or the master is where you really start to at least…I’ve seen this in my own life. Whether it’s coaching soccer or even doing music, when I can help somebody else, recognize their talent and give them those pointers and it’s interesting to see that with your coaching program, you’ve built an entire business around helping and coaching others and my guess is you probably found more joy and happiness in helping other musicians than maybe you ever did even performing on the stage?


As wonderful as that is, my guess is you’ve had more “feel good” we’ve achieved something that matters and are finding that fulfillment. My guess is, that’s what’s probably driven you as much as anything and you may not even realize it.


Michael: It’s interesting. I think you’re spot on and the way I look at that is, it’s sort of like the same way that my life changed when I became a dad. Everyone was holding Xander for the first time and seeing a piece of yourself and someone else and just so much love for them and this ripple effect where what we’re doing with Modern Musician – mentoring and helping other people, they’re able to do so much more than I was ever able to do on on my own so there definitely is a deep sense of fulfillment from that.


Jason: Awesome! Well, Michael I know we’re out of time. We could probably keep talking for another hour but if people want to go learn more about what you guys are doing, I’ve been through your program, the Gold Artist Academy, it was fantastic and you guys are doing a lot of great things. Definitely your podcast is incredible – the Modern Musician Podcast but where can people go to find out what you guys are all about and learn a little bit more?


Michael: Absolutely! You can either google Modern Musician or if you go to masterclass.modernmusician.me then you’ll go to a registration page for our masterclass.


Right now, we do a weekly live master class. Usually it’s between 2-3 hours on Wednesdays. If you attend it live, then you can attend it for free if you want the on-demand version and the replay and everything then you can purchase an on-demand version for 47 dollars but if you attend it live, then we have a bunch of freebies and resources and things that we hand out for it and that’s at least right now that’s where we take everything that we’re learning with – our our clients.


We take everything that I’ve personally learned in the past 12 years from falling on my face and looking stupid and you know you can shortcut, you can avoid at least some of the things, some of the places where you might embarrass yourself. At least you can avoid some of those things. So that’s probably where I would start – Masterclass.


Jason:  I appreciate all your time and it was great conversation but  great advice. Hopefully this has been helpful to a lot of people and makes them kind of rethink about their journey and maybe hopefully have the ability to believe in themselves a little bit too.


Michael: Absolutely and thank you, Jason. You’re a great host. These questions have been really, really helpful and I having been able to connect with you personally, you are both outstanding students but also you have so much to offer so in terms of wisdom and what you’ve accomplished in your life and I know where your heart’s at in terms of being able to serve musicians so thank you for bringing me on here and and asking such great questions, kind of holding space to be able to to help musicians.


Jason: It’s been fun. We’ll definitely have to have you back. Thank you.


Hey, it is Jason here and I hope you have gotten a lot of value out of this episode. Be sure to check out our show notes to learn more about our guest for today and if you’d like to support our podcast, there’s a few things that you could do to help us grow. 


First, if you hit SUBSCRIBE, it will help ensure that you do not miss future episodes. Second, if you SHARE this with your friends on social media, send it via email or messages, help us spread the word as well. Third, if you leave an honest review, it really helps with the algorithm so that other people can find our podcast. 


Finding success and fulfillment in the music industry is possible. Looking forward to seeing you in our next episode.


How to Connect with the Featured Guest:

Joining us in our podcast today is Michael Walker. He is the founder of Modern Musician, a successful and highly renowned musician and entrepreneur. He is a husband, father and keyboardist for the band Paradise Fears, who made headlines years ago for a technique he started called “tour hacking.” 

He spent around 10 years touring full time and during those years, their band released an album that hit number 2 on iTunes as an Alternative Rock Album. They got about 24 million streams on Spotify and toured around the world, playing music full-time, independently without a record label. He also coached thousands of independent musicians and paved the way for them to be successful musicians.

What You’ll Learn

In this episode, Michael emphasizes the importance of being intentional with who you choose to surround yourself with. He believes that we become the 5 people that we spend most of our time with so we better choose our circle carefully.

He also talked about the importance of believing in oneself. If you have anything worthwhile that’s worth achieving, it comes with first allowing yourself to believe it’s possible and then taking action and becoming the person that deserves to achieve the goal. 

Things We Discussed

Modern Musician – a team made up of highly-talented musicians who understand what it takes to be an independent artist in today’s industry.

Paradise Fears – his old band

Gold Artist Academy™

Modern Musician Podcast

Modern Musician Masterclass

Connect with Michael Walker






Connect with Jason







Amazon Music

Apple Music

Article Progress