I could pretend I had heard the term ‘digital nomad‘ before meeting this week’s feature but I won’t lie to y’all. From being a resident Heavy Meta DJ to reminding fellow writers like me to keep working at it, Jesse Champagne has worked hard to make a name for himself. And with a name like Champagne what do you expect?
I sat down to chat with him about music, remote working life, and honestly whatever else I wanted to talk about because it’s my site. Let’s dive into this one shall we?
1. You’re often describing yourself as a ‘digital nomad’, what exactly does that mean?
A digital nomad is a person who is location independent. They work remotely, telecommuting rather than being physically present at an office. As you’d expect, digital nomads work in industries where one doesn’t have to be in-person to do their job: marketing, writing, media, IT, tutoring/teaching, etc. Many digital nomads have multiple clients and work a combination of different jobs. Typically, the term is used to describe freelancers or telecommuters who are working abroad or travelling, but I believe being a digital nomad has more to do with having the freedom to pick where you spend your time working. Whether I’m writing on the road in the United States or in a cafe in Toronto, the point is that I chose to be there.
2. The struggle of a being writer is not something I am a stranger to, what is some advice you’d give to anyone getting their start as a wordsmith?
Getting your start as a paid writer is tough–most entry-level clients will try to grossly underpay you/overwork you. Content mills may seem appealing because of the near-limitless amount of work they have on hand, but they’ll leave you burned out and poor. Don’t settle for less than you’re worth, and don’t be afraid to make demands–you are your own boss, after all. Build up your portfolio, fine-tune your resume, and apply, apply, apply! I routinely wake up every morning to find 1-2 rejection emails in my inbox. It doesn’t matter; just keep going.
3. What are your top 5 ‘must-haves’ as a digital nomad?
- Travel / Work Laptop. Obvious, I know, but you can’t be a “digital nomad” without being digital. The key here is to find a balance between size, comfort, and power. The MacBook Pro is fast, strong, lightweight, and covers all my needs as a writer. I never (OK, rarely) leave home without it.
- An unlocked smartphone and a good data plan. Being able to use local SIM cards and Hotspotting on the road is essential.
- Carry-On Travel Backpack. Checking your bags at the airport is a pain in the ass. So is lugging around a massive suitcase every day. A well-organized backpack for your travel and technology gear is a gamechanger. I bought a Tortuga Air a few years ago and haven’t looked back. It’s seen better days, though, so I’m considering upgrading to the Minaal 2.0.
- Nomad Clothing. Yes, this is a thing! I look for clothing that is easy to pack, lightweight, antibacterial, odour resistant, fast-drying, wrinkle-proof, and able to help regulate body temperature. The fewer articles of clothing, the better. /r/OneBag is a great place for clothing ideas. Watch out, though, some of it can get quite pricey (especially Merino Wool and fancy tech fabrics). Uniqlo is a great starter spot–their Airism and HeatTech gear are fantastic and make up the majority of my current wardrobe.
- Backup Battery / Powerbank. A dead phone is the bane of every digital nomad’s existence. Don’t be caught on-the-go without backup power.
4. I ask this question to a large number of my interview features because I’m interested to see what people from all walks of life are inspired by. So tell me, Jesse, what is it that inspires you?
Life is a series of moments. If you’re lucky you’ll get to have hundreds, even thousands of them. There will be small moments. Moments when you’re doing something so mundane you won’t even realize you’re in a moment. There will also be big moments. Life-changing ones. And all these moments are precious, because any moment may be our last. They can linger, but other times they’re fleeting. And yet, so much can be done in a moment: you can change a mind, you can save a life, and you can even fall in love. Cherish the moments you have, and don’t waste the opportunities at creating new moments.
What inspires me, what drives me, are these magical moments. I want them, and I want those around me to have them.
5. I anticipate your response to this one to be a good one, given that you’re a DJ; if you could choose one song as you ‘theme song’ what would it be and why?
Good question! Right now, I’m really transfixed with the sounds coming out of the melodic house scene. The mix of emotional, uplifting deep house with the moodier vibes of progressive house/techno is my bag. Artists that come to mind are Lane 8, Jeremy Olander, ARTBAT, Mononoid, Ocula, Undercatt, Monolink, Cristoph, and Oliver Koletzki, to name a few. Favourite labels include Anjunadeep, Vivrant, This Never Happened, Still Vor Talent, Last Night On Earth, and Diynamic.
Hmmm, it looks like I sidestepped the question! I try not to get caught up on just one song for too long, but since I have to pick, right now I’m really feeling Lane 8 ft. RBBTS – Visions (Ocula Remix). It’s pure bliss, and sonically sums up how it feels when that first ray of sunshine hits your face after a long night. Sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s true!
6. Remote work life isn’t a life meant for everyone. Walk me through a day in the life of a remote worker.
Remote life is all about self-discipline and self-dedication; if you don’t want to get work done, then the work won’t get done. It can be very easy to get distracted, and before you know it, the day is over and you haven’t accomplished anything. Having a routine and a to-do list is extremely important. I will typically have my entire week planned out in advance, everything from work, errands, social activities, and creative time.
During the day, I spend my time working and writing for my current clients. In the afternoon I spend my time creative writing, reading, finding new music for my electronic music blog/DJ sets, and looking for new work clients. I lead an active social life and am an avid foodie/entertainment junkie, so in the evenings you’ll often find me out in the city.
7. Since today is #TMITuesday can you tell the readers something about you that they may not already know?
I landed my first paid writing gig in 2012 by randomly replying to a CraigsList ad after being fired from a restaurant. In school, I never gave serious thought to being a full-time writer. I enjoyed writing and was good at it, but I didn’t really think I could make a career out of it. Outside of writing novels and screenplays, I didn’t even know you could make a living from it. And yet here I am, nearly eight years later, still chugging along. It’s been a wild ride, to say the least.
8. If you could collab with one artist (writing, or musically) on a project, who would it be, and what would you create?
In my opinion, the creative process is (or at least can be) a solitary one, in the sense that I want my own projects to stand on their own. For me, it’s less about collaboration than it is inspiration. Given that my inspirations and idols are all leaps and bounds ahead of me, I think learning from these talented artists and creatives would be my real dream project.
Music – Olafur Arnalds. He’s an Icelandic multi-instrumentalist and producer that mixes strings and piano with loops and beats to make everything from ambient/electronic to atmospheric pop. He has this incredible ability to craft songs that are both melancholic and optimistic at the same time. I’d love to sit in a recording/production sessions with him and pick his brain.
Writing – Brandon Sanderson. He’s isn’t anywhere close to being my favourite fiction author–or even my favourite Fantasy/Sci-Fi author–but he is an author that I have a huge amount of respect for. He somehow finds the time and motivation to balance putting out multiple novels a year, running a weekly writing podcast, teaching creative writing at a university, touring, and maintaining a massive, multiple-book, multiple series-wide fictional universe. All the while, he remains in constant contact with fans, providing status updates, new ideas, and answering questions. In a sense, he’s the opposite of George RR Martin. I want to sit him down and ask him, “How do you do it?! Teach me!”
9. Okay, it’s about time you create the ultimate Jesse playlist to share, what could I find on that list?
Something to make you smile, something to make you cry, something to make you fall in love, something to make you fall out of love, something to lose yourself on a dancefloor to, something to fuck to, something to sing your heart out to, something for the deepest dark of night, and something for when the sun first comes up.
10. What’s next for you Jesse?
I can’t believe we’re already more than halfway done 2019! For the rest of the year, I’m focusing my time on expanding my writing/content marketing consultancy, Champagne Consulting (shameless plug lol), finishing the first draft of my debut novel (fingers crossed!), traveling to Burning Man with Heavy Meta, DJing a few very interesting events, staying active/healthy, seeing more of the world, and exploring new opportunities, relationships, and adventures. ❤