Guest Blog: How MMA Prepared Me for Life as a Touring Musician – Kris Barras

Photo Credit: Andrew Knowles

It’s well-known fact that life as a touring musician can be tough. You’re away from loved ones, travelling up and down the road with a van or bus with little opportunity to go sightseeing. For many, there is nothing that can prepare you for it. However, for Kris Barras his route to becoming a full-time musician is an intriguing one. Inspired by his father at just six-years-old to pick up a guitar, Barras would play in various bands growing up yet it was his other passion that took him around the world – Mixed Martial Arts.

Although he spent some time as a session musician and becoming a guitar teacher and writer, being an MMA fighter became his full-time job. It saw him leave his Torquay home and heading to Las Vegas, Thailand and Singapore to train and fight in front of big audiences. Nevertheless, after 10 years with a record of 14 wins, 2 losses and 1 draw, Kris has now stepped out of the octagon, hung up his gloves and once again picked up his guitar. 

This past March saw him release his second album, ‘The Divine and Dirty’. Combining his highly recognised blues-rock guitar chops with hooky melodies, songs such as ‘Propane’ and ‘Wrong Place, Wrong Time’ are whiskey-drenched highlights with hints of Americana and plenty of swagger.

Ahead of a busy summer consisting of festival spots, Kris has penned a guest blog explaining how his experiences as an MMA fighter prepared him for life as a touring musician; dealing with nerves and being disciplined.

People always struggle to comprehend how I could have juggled being a professional fighter with being a musician. The truth is; I have done Martial Arts just as long as I have played the guitar. It’s all I have ever known. I started both around the age of 5-6 years old and continued them into my adult years.

I had some minor success in the music industry in my late teens, however, I reached a point where I just wasn’t getting any further. I felt like I was constantly banging my head against a brick wall. I had started training more seriously in Muay Thai and had begun to compete at an amateur level. I was doing well, winning my first few fights all by Knockout/Referee stoppage in the early rounds.

More and more opportunities in the fighting world came knocking and I just went with it. Throughout my whole fight career, I always playing music too. In fact, in the early days of my career, gigging in a weekend Blues/Rock ‘covers’ band helped to finance my full-time training throughout the week.

There are a lot of similarities between my fighting career and my music career. The most obvious one being the performance in front of large crowds. Fighting in front of 8,000 people in Asia definitely helps you to deal with any pre-show nerves that you might have before a band gig. The beauty of music performance, however, is that I don’t have to worry about getting punched in the face!

When you are fighting at any level, it is really important that you learn how to deal with nerves and use them in your favour. Most people have heard of the ‘Flight or Fight’ response and I have experienced both sides myself and witnessed many of my good friends go through the worst of it too. The body is an amazing thing and the adrenaline really can make or break you. I was fortunate that 95% of the time, I was able to use it to my advantage, ensuring that I performed to the best of my abilities.

There was one really bad experience though; I was fighting in the co-main event of a professional Mixed Martial Arts show. I was just about to get my hands wrapped and begin warming up, around 2 hours before the fight. I remember heading to the toilet and just sitting in a cubicle for 15, maybe 20 minutes. I was desperately trying to think of an excuse to get out of the fight. Maybe I hurt my leg walking down the stairs? Maybe I have really bad diarrhoea? Was it food poisoning? I was petrified and I had no reason why I felt like that. I was in full-on ‘flight’ mode. Luckily, I was able to give myself a slap and snap out of it. I won the fight by Knockout in 1 min 27 seconds of the first round.

Before larger band shows or those that hold a significant importance, I find myself experiencing the same kind of feelings that I used to have before a fight. Those butterflies in my stomach, the shakes, the hot flushes. All of the adrenaline coursing through my veins, getting my body ready for the ‘big event’ that it knows I have in store. My years of dealing with pre-fight nerves have really helped me in those situations. I don’t get phased by those feelings and I understand that it is just my body getting itself ready to deliver the best possible performance that it can.

Another aspect of the fight game that has helped my music career, is the discipline. Fighting at a professional level requires great discipline on many different levels. The ruthless dieting, Chicken and Broccoli 5 x a day. The 6am morning runs. The three times a day training sessions when you are still knackered from the day before. The lack of party invitations because people know that you don’t drink alcohol and will have to have an early night for training the next morning. My hard work ethic has helped me massively in my music career. The countless hours in a van, trawling the entire country to play to just 10 people and still remain positive. The ability to be able to analyse my faults and work on them until I get them right. The ability to implement a structured plan to progress, just as I would with my training regime.

People always say to me, “Don’t you wish you did what you’re doing now with the music when you were younger?” The truth is; No I don’t. I don’t have any regrets. I loved being involved in the fight world and do believe it has helped shape me into the guy that I am today. Without my fight career and the experiences I had, I don’t think I would be the musician that I am today.

‘The Divine and Dirty’ by Kris Barras Band is available now on Mascot Label GroupProvogue Records.

Kris Barras Band links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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