Learn to become a leader through music – Freddie Ravel
David Laroche : Let's start. So, I am very glad to do this interview with you. He's Freddie Ravel, he's a pianist, and artist, also a speaker, a keynote, he was a member in many amazing and legendary groups, like Earth Wind and Fire, and we will learn a lot about him. Hello Freddie.
Freddie Ravel : Hello, David.
David Laroche : I am very glad. I would love to know who you are according to you.
Freddie Ravel : Well, I think if I had to sum it up in my mission and what I care about. My whole thing is how do we raise human potential through music.
David Laroche : That's a great mission. And how do you do that?
Freddie Ravel : There're a lot of ways to do it. There're a lot of ways to do it. And I…I believe that I have one angle but I believe there's many way because music is the undisputed international language of the world, right? Nobody argues with that. We can go into any country in the world, any culture, and you will see, whether it's an Eskimo, or whether it's a native of the rainforest in the Amazon, or whether we're in the heart of Africa, or the heart of Europe, or the heart of Siberia, it doesn't matter, right? Music is there. So, since it is so important, since music is such a part of who we are, I believe that it's the sleeping giant. I think it's been… I think it's right under our nose. You know how they say that some of the most valuable answers in life to life's challenges, sometimes the answer is right under your nose.
David Laroche : Yes.
Freddie Ravel : I think music is one of those things because we tend, in our culture, in life, we kind of think of music as entertainment.
David Laroche : Yes.
Freddie Ravel : Right? It's something on your iPod, iTunes, you download an MP3, you go to a concert, it's all about entertainment, but I think it's much much more than that. And there's lots of evidence that proves that, there's a lot of science behind this, and these are things that we can open up as we get into it, in a nutshell, that's my purpose, raising human potential through music.
David Laroche : I love that.
Freddie Ravel : That's my…that's everything in a nutshell to me.
David Laroche : I have…I have many questions to ask you. The first one, it's coming now. I love to know what are your, this may be a hard question, but your three top experiences you had as a musician.
Freddie Ravel : One of them was in Paris.
David Laroche : Okay.
Freddie Ravel : At La Villette. Before the cameras went on we were talking about La Villette, right? And I had the privilege of playing with Al Jarreau, and it was during the soccer…the World Cup, when Brazil and France were against each other.
David Laroche : Okay, in 1998?
Freddie Ravel : Yeah.
David Laroche : Wow!
Freddie Ravel : I was there. I was playing at La Villette, and we were playing a song, called “Tomorrow Today,” which become a big hit in France. And it's a song that's all about the environment and it's all about the world. It's very social commentary, is what we call it in English. It's all about social commentary. And it had a chorus in it that goes like this, “Tomorrow today, is anybody think about, tomorrow today is anybody think about” This is the…the hook. So, we played the song for the first time in Paris, the group, with Al Jarreau, and as soon as we finished playing, “Tomorrow today,” everybody at La Villette, maybe I don't know, several thousand people were there, everybody started singing, “Tomorrow today. Tomorrow today.” So, Al Jarreau looked at me and said, “Let's play again.” And so we started playing again and the audience got even crazier, right.
David Laroche : How many people did you have in front of you?
Freddie Ravel : La Villette? Oh, the group was maybe five people. Five people, drums, base, guitar, keyboards, and Al. Five of us. So, we played it again. And the crowd…as soon as we stopped, the crowd kept singing it. David, this happened at least six times. We stopped, the crowd kept singing.
David Laroche : How do you feel when you…
Freddie Ravel : So, when I think of the story, it was the first song that Al Jarreau and I ever wrote. And here we are in Paris, we had just wrote the song, we had just put it out, and there we are, and the French people kept singing it and singing it, and it went on for about 15 minutes.
David Laroche : And what do you feel?
Freddie Ravel : The feeling was astonished. Like, how could something that we created, just the two of us, have so much resonance instantly? It was… It was…I was a bit shocked, and joyful, and surprised all at the same time. So that is what I felt. Astonished, surprised, shocked, and joy. That's what I felt.
David Laroche : So, it's one of your first experience.
Freddie Ravel : One of my top…You asked me for my top three? La Villette, in Paris, 1998, in the summer, with Al Jarreau doing “Tomorrow Today.”
David Laroche : And what did you learn from this experience?
Freddie Ravel : The take-away was, never…never think for a second that whatever you create is small. Always believe that it can be amazing.
David Laroche : Oh, I love that. Maybe you find it small now, but it can be a big thing, just later. In 10 minutes.
Freddie Ravel : In 10 minutes, yeah. Because we wrote the song that year, or the year before. We wrote the song, recorded it, and it was a debut. It was the first time we'd ever played it. It wasn't on the radio, so that means the people had never heard it before, they were hearing it for the first time. So, when you have an idea, those…for your audience, and the people that are creating, innovating new ideas, coming up with new business, new ways of thinking, they might think, “God, this idea I've come up with is small. No one's going to get it.” But they feel that it's an important idea and they release it with the right audience to receive it, it can be an exploding idea. It can change the world. So, that…that's maybe the lesson…that's why I remember it so well.
David Laroche : And, now, do you use this moment to, for example, you have an idea, you say, “Oh, it's just a small idea,” to remind you this moment, and say, “You don't know what you don't know?”
Freddie Ravel : You don't…I love that. “You don't know what you don't know,” is huge. I use it all the time. But you have to believe in it really deeply, You’ve to feel it in your bones that you're onto something that could really do something special. And if you feel it in your bones, you have an idea for a new product, a new kind of service, a new way to purify water, a new way to generate power from the sun more efficiently, a new way to make the oxygen cleaner, whatever it is, if you really feel it and you have a good team around you, you can do amazing things. And you could… you could make those dreams come true.
David Laroche : Great. I love this…this first time. Because it's very important for me because we have many experiences in our life, and I believe that sometimes people don't take the time to get the lesson. And it's great to have experiences. For me, it's a greater things to be able to learn from our own experiences.
Freddie Ravel : Yeah.
David Laroche : And I love the lesson during your experience.
Freddie Ravel : Yeah. I mean, you asked me…Your question was, “What are the three experiences with music that really changed you,” right? So, the first one I talked about was La Villette in Paris, right? “Tomorrow Today.” The second one was a very dark experience for me, a very negative experience.
David Laroche : What do you mean? What do you mean by negative?
Freddie Ravel : There was a moment in this experience where I thought I might die.
David Laroche : So, it was hard, uncomfortable moment?
Freddie Ravel : Very much so.
David Laroche : Okay.
Freddie Ravel : I was eight years old, and I was playing, you know the game, Hide and Seek? In French, when you hide and people are looking for you. I don't know what you call this in French, but in English we call it Hide and Seek. It's the same thing. So, I'm playing Hide and Seek by myself. I'm just hiding in different places, in my head. I'm eight years old, like, a little boy, and the garage behind our house, there's a refrigerator, and the refrigerator is not plugged in the wall, it's empty and the door's open. And I look in the refrigerator, there's nothing inside of it. And my body is about this high, and I crawled into the refrigerator and I closed the door, and it's pitch black, black. I can't hear anything, I can't see anything. And, David, for about 15 seconds I'm inside and I'm going, “Perfect. Nobody will find me here. This is the best hiding place in the world.” Then, a few more seconds, I go to open the door, like this, the door is here, and the door doesn't open.
David Laroche : Wow.
Freddie Ravel : So, I start to sweat. There's rubber, you know, all around the door. It's a refrigerator, so it seals, and I'm inside this thing. But I'm eight years old, I don't even know that I'm running out of oxygen. I don't know that I maybe have three minutes to live, I don't even know that. So, I take my shoulder and I start pushing and pushing, and I can't get out. I start kicking, I start screaming, I do everything I can, I push my legs, I cannot get out of this refrigerator.
David Laroche : And what do you feel?
Freddie Ravel : My hearts racing, I'm in a sweat, and I'm crying. And after about 10 seconds of that, I get very quiet. And in that moment, David, I start to hear a rhythm in my head, like a boom, boom, boom, boom boom, in my head. So, I take my fist and I go against the door of the refrigerator and I start, boom, boom, and I breathe, and I stay like this. Just like this. I didn't know this, but my grandmother was walking by the garage and she heard, through the traffic of the city, through the noise of everything in our house, she heard this steady beat. She came to the back of the garage, she opened up the garage door, and I came out of the refrigerator in a pool of sweat on the garage floor. And to this day, I know that the only reason I'm sitting here talking to you, is because this music came to me, and I got calm, and I drummed my way out of it. And God, I had the grace of God. I had my grandmother walking there too, that's a huge factor too, but I think that if I had not done that beat, and just moved, and I would have given up and I would not be here. So, that's the second, probably, most important story about music and how it literally, literally saved my life. Literally.
David Laroche : At this time, in this point in your life, did you play music?
Freddie Ravel : Yeah. I actually was playing the accordion. My first instrument was the accordion. I wasn't playing the piano, yet. We didn't even have a piano.
David Laroche : Just before we start, I saw you breathing, so do you use this moment as an anchor to come back to quiet space inside you? Do you use it to calm down and find inspiration?
Freddie Ravel : Yeah. Yeah. I think what you're…What I would call the zone, to get into the zone. I always do that, always. I take a breath and I close my eyes. And maybe the most important part of that is I am thankful. I go into gratitude.
David Laroche : Gratitude?
Freddie Ravel : Oh, yeah.
David Laroche : Yes. Let's talk a little bit will we come back to this over. Because I believe a lot in the power of gratitude and I have many questions about that. First one, how do you develop your gratitude? Or do you believe you can develop gratitude?
Freddie Ravel : Yeah. I think you can develop gratitude. I think you can develop gratitude. I think you have to consciously develop gratitude. I don't think you just wake up and, “Oh, man. I'm so…” You know. I think we have certain personalities that lean, you know, there's some people that wake up and they're naturally joyful, right? And they look out at the sky and go, “Wow, it's so blue today. It's so beautiful.”
David Laroche : Are you one of them?
Freddie Ravel : I am one of them. I wake up… do…I am a joyful type of energy, but as I've gotten…as I've lived longer and as I've had lots of successes and also lots of failures. Lots of failures. More failures than successes. I failed more than I succeeded. And I think that the key is when you fail is to think about, “Okay. What did I mess… What did I mess up on? What did I screw up?” Right? And, how can I take the lessons I've learned, and what I do with the lessons is I thank God for the lesson.
David Laroche : So, you thank not only the lesson but also the experience.
Freddie Ravel : Even if it's a crappy experience.
David Laroche : I love…I love that. I love that. Do you do that for every of your experiences?
Freddie Ravel : Not in the middle of them, because if the experiences are really bad, I might be so angry at what happened.
David Laroche : During the moment?
Freddie Ravel : Yeah. In the moment…in the moment I'm like, you know, I'm like this.
David Laroche : What had happened? What is this?
Freddie Ravel : “Why is this happening? Why am I… Oh, man,” you know, I… In that moment, I'm not thinking about gratitude. Not immediately. Not immediately.
David Laroche : Okay.
Freddie Ravel : But when I calm down and I look back at what happened…I look back at the negative experience and I go, “Wait a second. I can learn something from that relationship, or that incident,” and, “What can I learn from that? And next time, I'll make sure that I behave, or I react differently so that I don't get so wound up about it.” So, that's…that's just the honest way to be, I think. We're human, Anger, it's part of it. Angry? Yeah, we're human. The world is full of crazy stuff right now, we're going to get angry. But we're also going to be compassionate, we're also going to be…we're going to have empathy in what we do. So, I think, the right thing is, you react the way you're going to react, but if you get to gratitude quickly, that's the key.
David Laroche : So, it's my question… Can you say that the time you need to come back to gratitude is lower and lower?
Freddie Ravel : Yes, because…I'll give you an example. You know how all of us are driving, right, you get to a red light. Many times, the old Freddie, a long time ago, I would be like, “Oh, red light. I'm late. I got to go somewhere,” right? And I'm like, “Oh, that stupid driver. If that car wasn't in front of me I would have made the light,” right? “I'd be on the freeway now. I would have been on time. Now, I'm not on time.” All those feelings, right? So, the old Freddie, I'd be like, grabbing the steering wheel like this… Now, I have a whole new philosophy. If I hit the red light there's a lesson for me. So, I'm sitting there at the red light and, now, life has put me on a one minute pause. I'm on a pause. So, I go, “God wants me to pause here. I need to be…” So, I'm going to take a deep breath, maybe I'm going to listen to some new music, maybe I'm going to observe a few cars around me. “Oh, there's that lady on the corner. I saw here there last week. She's still there. Oh, she's homeless. Why is she homeless? She seems to be smiling to me. I wonder why?” All that happens.
David Laroche : Okay so…
Freddie Ravel : That all happens in three seconds, by the way. All that happens fast.
David Laroche : So, just to be sure I understand, so now, for you, an incident, a bad incident, a negative incident, can be a trigger just to say, “What is happening? Just take a moment to see what is happening.”
Freddie Ravel : Yeah. Maybe, I thought of something…that we can…something to share with you. A red light can be a green light for presence.
David Laroche : Yes, and everything can be a little thing positive.
Freddie Ravel : Yeah. Because, you know, for us as human beings, we see red we think, “Stop.” Red, you know. “Stop.” It's a…
David Laroche : But it can be, “Be alive!”
Freddie Ravel : “Be alive.” “Pause.” “Take a breath.” “Be present.” That's a…and I think that would be really powerful if all of us say, “Well, God, every stop sign I get to, every red light, every time I feel like someone's stopping me, or blocking me, or delaying me, let me look at that. Let me take a step back and see what lesson I can learn by pausing.”
David Laroche : Okay. So, what we can say is, if we want to use that as a global principle, that no matter what is happening I can choose the meaning of the circumstances. So, I can decide to manage and tell lots of story, in fact.
Freddie Ravel : Yeah. I can choose the moment to be present. Whatever moment that is.
David Laroche : Let's come back to the gratitude. How do you do, for example, if now you want to feel gratitude? If you want to feel gratitude together, according to you and I if want to learn from Freddie, what do I have to do now, according to you?
Freddie Ravel : First thing I would do is I would turn like this, I would take my hands and rest them on my knees. Right? And the hands are open, right. And I'm looking at you, and I'm breathing through my nose and exhaling through my mouth. And I'm looking at your eyes.
David Laroche : And I'm looking at what I see about you.
Freddie Ravel : And I see a lot. I see a very old soul in you, and I love what I see. You've been around for a long time. You've been on this Earth many many times, I see that.
David Laroche : Like a warrior for peace. That's what I've learned from you. Very courageous, been through a lot of stuff, actually. People don't really know how much stuff you've been through. I'm really grateful for you. I'm grateful for Alban[SP], your team, Judy for being here supporting you, to bring you to America and share your light. You have a lot to say and a lot to share. And you're a lightening rod for good things. But you push a lot, and because you push you're going to hit a lot of resistance too, but that's part of your journey. That's okay. And I'm really grateful for that because the only way that the world will ever change is through people who keep pushing. And I take another deep breath and I close my eyes. God is all there is, there is no other gods, we're all one with God. And I'm grateful for my new friend, David Laroche, for being here. And I give thanks, and I release it. And so it is. Amen.
Freddie Ravel : How do you feel?
David Laroche : Great. I feel like I know you much more.
Freddie Ravel : Yes.
David Laroche : And that's just…I think maybe the best part for me is, “And so it is.” The very end of what…of all that, the last thing is, “And so it is.”
Freddie Ravel : Can you explain to me the meaning for you? Just to be sure…
David Laroche : It's acceptance and release. Because we're human beings, and we're passionate. We believe in what we do. And we have to believe in what we do or we will never succeed. But once we do something and it's all done and we've done the best we can, the most important thing is to release it, so that we can have closure and move on to the next thing. That's what I… “And so it is,” means, everything that was stated, everything that we went through, beautiful, and I acknowledge it, and I say, “Next. Let's go to the next chapter. That chapter, complete. Final. Closed.” Because if you can live with closing the door, then you have the opportunity to open the next door. But if you don't close the previous door, the new door's opening up in front of you, and you're too distracted by the old business here, and you can't put your focus on the new door. So, the new door doesn't open.
Freddie Ravel : Yes, great. Let's see your third experience.
David Laroche : My third experience with music?
Freddie Ravel : Yes. You have many experiences.
David Laroche : The birth of my children. The birth of my children. When my daughter, Jasmine, she was born, and she cried. She was a…she was a… When she came out of the womb, she was really loud, really loud. Totally. My son, who was born in 2006, he was nothing. Quiet.
Freddie Ravel : You have the…the opposite.
David Laroche : The opposite. And when I held my daughter in my arms, I said, “Bienvenue, welcome to the world, Jasmine.” And she looked at me immediately and stopped crying. And the reason I think she did, the reason I think that happened, is because when she was in the womb, in my wife's belly, I talked to her all the time. And we played music. We would take the…
Freddie Ravel : So, she knew your voice?
David Laroche : She knew my voice. And we would have music on a little speaker and we would put it against my wife's belly and we would play her music.
Freddie Ravel : Great. Yeah. A lot of studies on the power of music for the babies.
David Laroche : Oh yeah. They built a whole business around that, Baby Mozart and Baby Beethoven, where they use music to help wire the brain differently. It's a whole…
Freddie Ravel : What did you learn from this experience?
David Laroche : That music is with us from the embryo. As soon as…As soon as we can hear, which is, I think it's about three or four months of development of the fetus, the ears start to hear. They say…They say that hearing is the first sense to happen, because when you're in the womb you can't smell, you can't see, you're not tasting, but you're hearing. You're hearing, you're feeling. Those are the two senses when you're in…before you're born. So, you're hearing. It's the first thing. You're not even born yet and you're hearing. That's amazing, right?
Freddie Ravel : Yes.
David Laroche : They also say that when you die, they say that the last sense to go, usually, is hearing. Interesting.
Freddie Ravel : Yes, it is very interesting.
David Laroche : Which is why music is such an incredible force because we come in to the planet, even before we're born, as great listeners, and we leave the planet, more than any other sense, listening. And the…And what is music all about? Listening. If you can't hear it, you can't listen to it and the music doesn't exist. As long as you can listen, the music means something. So, listening can be linked to, not only music, but all human interaction.
Freddie Ravel : Cool. I would love to know, can you tell us, because you've worked with a lot of amazing legendary groups, how did you became a top musician?
David Laroche : Well, I think, the way I see it, I think a lot of it is a little… I think we actually shared some of those secrets a few minutes ago when I wanted to have gratitude with you, and we both…and I surrendered my hands, and I just looked at you and I saw what I saw, I've been doing that for a long long time. So, when I was with Earth Wind and Fire, I had that kind of connection with them. When I was with Carlos Santana, same connection. When I worked with Sergio Mendes, Al Jarreau, Madonna, we had this deeper connection. Because the feeling is, when you feel that you can trust somebody, when people feel that they can trust in you, that's the highest level of respect in the world.
Freddie Ravel : That's amazing because we did an interview with one of the top marketer, Seth Godin, and I asked him, “According to you, what is the first key of success if you have to choose one, only one?” And he answered me, “Trust.” If people trust you, you will succeed. If your partner trusts you, you will succeed. If your clients, if the people around you, your employees, trust you, it will be amazing. So, you are saying that if you feel gratitude and if you have a deep connection with people with gratitude, you will be able to create trust around you.
David Laroche : Yeah.
Freddie Ravel : That's right?
David Laroche : That is right. That's a good way to look at it. Because, if you think about, trust actually effects the speed of which things happen, right?
Freddie Ravel : Yes.
David Laroche : I mean, if there's quick… if you trust somebody and you feel safe, boom…
Freddie Ravel : You can speak about everything.
David Laroche : You share yourself. And if you share yourself, then you're being transparent, and you're being really honest, and you're being authentic. And people, you know, if you want to have success with people, I think, you need to show trust, authenticity, more than ever these days. So, that to me, you know, with all the music people that I've worked with…Well, first of all, it's given that you have the skills, it's given that you play, it's given that you have good rhythm, it's given that you have technique, that you know the material.
Freddie Ravel : Did you work hard?
David Laroche : Oh yeah.
Freddie Ravel : I can see that.
David Laroche : I worked really hard and I practice about 11 hours a day when I decided I was going to be a piano player.
Freddie Ravel : Wow.
David Laroche : Because I started off on the accordion, I think I told you, I was seven years old. I didn't get to the piano until I was about 11. And, you know, there's a lot of people who are playing the piano at six years old, you know, and by the time they're 11 they're winning championships, I was just starting to get into the piano. So I had a lot of catching up to do, I had a lot of practicing to do. So, I just locked myself up. We had a little shed in the back of our house, we moved the piano out to this little garden shed, we put a carpet in it and a heater, and I practiced. You know, scales, and arpeggios, and Mozart, and Chopin, and Bach.
Freddie Ravel : And why is someone like you, wake in the morning and do 11 hours? Because a lot of people have dreams. They say, “Oh yeah. I want to do that. I want to do that.” But they don't work 11 hours every day on their dreams. Why are you doing that? Why did you do that?
David Laroche : Well, I had a lot of good people to study. I was…I got very inspired by a lot of piano players and a lot of music when I was growing up. And I loved…I love all kinds of music. I love great jazz, I love the Beatles, you know, amazing music that they produced, I loved all the great funk groups like Earth Wind and Fire, I loved all the pop music, Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, all that stuff. I loved all that stuff. I love great melodies and great harmonies. They make me have tears in my eyes, they make the hair stand up on my arms, they make my heart move, they make me want to dance. I knew that if I could get this together, I would be able to work with lightening in a bottle. That's an expression, a very…You know, lightening in a bottle…in a bottle.
Freddie Ravel : I'm not sure I understand the meaning.
David Laroche : You can hold the energy of lightening in a bottle.
Freddie Ravel : Yeah, okay. I see.
David Laroche : And control it. Because music is like that.
Freddie Ravel : Yes.
David Laroche : I mean, if you want to get 100,000 people excited, you can play music and in 10 seconds, boom, they're in your hands. What else can do that? What other force on the planet can put you in front of an audience that has never seen you, never heard of you, they don't know your name, they don't know anything about you, and you start playing music and in 10, 20 seconds, they're connected to you?
Freddie Ravel : Yes. Maybe…my early idea which is the same, it's singing.
David Laroche : Music.
Freddie Ravel : Yes.
David Laroche : It's the same. Yeah. It connects…Nothing connects people faster. And so, I knew, when I got so excited about music, I said, “If I can figure this out, if I can figure out how to play.”
Freddie Ravel : You can connect to people.
David Laroche : I'll have lightening in a bottle.”
Freddie Ravel : And, yes, let's continue this idea. For you, the light in the bottle, what kind of power it gave you? Do you understand my question? – What kind of power?
David Laroche : Yes. I would like to know the why behind having energy in the bottle.
Freddie Ravel : It would mean that you would be able to travel anywhere in the world and connect, and transcend culture, transcend language.
David Laroche : It's something important for you?
Freddie Ravel : Very important for me. Well, I was kind of born into a family that was already mutli-cultural. My mother is from Columbia, South America, so I grew up speaking Spanish, my first language was Spanish. My father is Russian, German, Polish, you know, from the Bronx, you know. So, from New York. So, totally different, Eastern Europe, my dad. My mother, South America. So, I grew up in this environment of multi-culturalism. Sometimes I would hear Stravinsky, another day I would hear Samba or Cumbia.
David Laroche : Right, your brain is used to flexibility.
Freddie Ravel : Very much so. I'm used to flexibility. And I'm used to something that sounds very emotional, like Eastern European, you think of the Russian composers, the violin, the gypsies, and all of that, that emotional feeling, and at the same time, South American rhythm, which is full of Samba, Salsa, Cumbia, ChaChaCha, Rumba, all this, which has really got a lot of Africa in it. So, I grew up in this world where I'm really interested in rhythms, and really romantic emotional melodies.
David Laroche : Okay.
Freddie Ravel : And those two things come together. And at the same time, I'm growing up in the United States with R&B, and pop, and rock, and jazz, and all these masters of music around me. And that just excited me so much. I knew I wanted to do that.
David Laroche : Did you have a vision, for example, at the age of 18 years old? What was your vision? Who did you want to become?
Freddie Ravel : Well, at that point, I just wanted to be a successful studio musician in Los Angeles.
David Laroche : When did you play with your musicians?
Freddie Ravel : Well, when I was coming out of college, there was actually, it's hard to believe now, today, at this time, but back then there was a giant industry. Like, in Paris it would be Canal Plus, where you had big studios, they were making TV shows every day. They were filming soap operas and situations, and everything, and this was before the computer. You couldn't put music together on a computer. You had to hire piano, base, drums, trumpet, opo, flute, you had to bring in all these instruments. So, when I was growing up, my goal was to become an excellent studio musician. And within the year after I graduated from college, I started playing TV shows, and I did several big shows playing the piano in a room with 30 other musicians.
David Laroche : We'll have to focus on the first steps, because I believe that many things in the life of a person will be added… added to mind by the beginning. And, because, I can see that you had a vision, so you woke up with this dream, with this vision. But why… how did you do to enter this industry?
Freddie Ravel : Well, what I think is important to say, is when I graduated from college at that time in Los Angeles, LA was the center of the world for media. Hollywood was it. There was so much going on in this…in this city.
David Laroche : More than today?
Freddie Ravel : More than today. Today, the industry has been…Media and television is now handled by different companies, like Netflix and Hulu, and all these different companies, now, have taken over TV. We used to just have smaller centralized stations, like, in America. And now, it's much more…Now, television is on YouTube. And people don't even think about it. And the financial model is completely shifted. Back then, there were three big stations and if you got hired by one of those stations you were paid a lot of money to spend six hours working on a soundtrack for a television show. And you could make a very good living. You could make a respectable living. I bought a house, I bought my car, I was working, just doing music, playing on television shows.
David Laroche : At the age of…
Freddie Ravel : Twenties… I was in my twenties.
David Laroche : Wow.
Freddie Ravel : And then I got hired by Sergio Mendes, Brazilian music.
David Laroche : I would like to focus on that because it's amazing, you have…you were twenty years old and you were living with music. What is the difference between musician who will succeed and a musician who will not succeed because I know so many musicians who are saying that, “Oh, it's hard to succeed in the music industry.”
Freddie Ravel : I think, maybe the most important thing for that question, is a quote from Aristotle.
David Laroche : I love that. What is this quote?
Freddie Ravel : “Where your talents and the needs of the world intersect, there lies your vocation.” Make sense?
David Laroche : Yes.
Freddie Ravel : So, your talents. You're a great singer. Let's say you got a friend who is 26 years old and she sings amazing, and she looks at you just…” You're great but I cannot pay my rent,” right? “I'm struggling,” right? So, she's got an incredible talent, but she has not thought about the needs of the world. She's too busy thinking about her record or her next performance, but she's not thinking about the needs of the world. Well, let's say…Let's give her a name. Let's say her name is Joanna.
David Laroche : Joanna.
Freddie Ravel : So, let's say Joanna goes out there and she says, “Okay, I'm going to change things around. I've really looked at where I'm living and I've realized that there are kids that have no music program in their schools.
David Laroche : She started looking for the needs to be able to use your talent to fulfill the needs.
Freddie Ravel : Voila! So, she goes and she discovers that there are five schools within five kilometers of her house that all… there music programs were slashed. She realizes that there's 500 kids here, 200 kids here, 600 kids here. Total, 1500 kids. Of those 1500 kids, 50 want music lessons and their parents want music lessons. So, again, Aristotle, “Where your talents and the needs of the world intersect.” I'm saying to you, when I came out of college, there was…the needs of the world were really obvious. There was a studio, they needed new musicians to play and I could play them that and it was a natural thing to do, right? Nowadays, those situations are very rare. You might have one composer and a computer and he can replace…
David Laroche : Everything.
Freddie Ravel : Almost everything. Not everything but a lot.
David Laroche : Okay.
Freddie Ravel : Okay? So, instead of using 30 musicians when I was 23 years old, now two musicians have replaced 30 musicians. So, that's a radical… That opportunity has shrunk, right? But if Joanna goes out to those five schools and creates a little music program for them, and picks up 50 students. And then she starts finding out other needs, like, childcare, these kids need childcare. What if I bring in another person to help me watch the kids, and then I'll give them music lessons, and this one will play with them and teach them musical ideas while I'm playing with them, and now she has a little school, after-school program. That helps parents while working.
David Laroche : Can we say that maybe the people who are not succeeding are looking at…through narrow…around to them?
Freddie Ravel : Yes.
David Laroche : We can say that?
Freddie Ravel : We can say that.
David Laroche : Okay.
Freddie Ravel : And it might hurt your pride. You might be a virtuoso musician and you might go, “Wow. I studied at Juilliard, I studied at the best schools in the world, I played with the best people in the world, why would I want to teach in a school?” But by doing that, by releasing your ego and trying that…
David Laroche : And being in service to the world, in fact.
Freddie Ravel : And being in service to the world. And you start doing this, then you start discovering, you know, because you're out there and you're working with kids, you start discovering new things. Parents are stressed, every time the parents comes to pick up…
David Laroche : So, the more…the more you fulfill the needs, the more you see more needs.
Freddie Ravel : Wow! The more you fulfill the needs, the more you see more needs.
David Laroche : Yeah. That's great. It will be your quote. Or both own quotes.
Freddie Ravel : I like that. It's both of us, right? Because I like what you're saying. It's important you…as you dig in, you discover more worlds within worlds. And then you start to discover, “Well, maybe now that I have all these parents coming to me with their kids, they trust me, the communities develop trust, all the teachers found out about me. Now when I do a concert, I'll sell tickets for this amount of money and I'll take 10% of the money and I'll give it back to the school.” Now, I'm rising and the trust level goes.
David Laroche : Yeah, I love this. You're amazing.
Freddie Ravel : I think it's just… It's Aristotle.
David Laroche : Yes, but…Your ability to explain the quote is great and you give concrete example. And I believe that we don't need to be in the music industry to use your examples. I love that. I'd like to know also because, you know, I'm traveling the world to meet people who are…I find them inspiring and they are succeeding in their field. How did do you do to create your network?
Freddie Ravel : Those relationships? It's word-of-mouth and trust, you know, because before I play for Sergio Mendes, and I was playing…
David Laroche : Six years?
Freddie Ravel : I was in college already, and I was playing, and one of the judges of a competition I was playing in, was played percussion with Sergio Mendes. And he heard me, he heard me playing and he said, “I got to… I got to introduce Freddie to Sergio.” And he did.
David Laroche : How did you feel?
Freddie Ravel : When I got the phone call I couldn't believe it. I was like, “Okay. What do I do?” You know? He was like, “Just come. Be yourself. Just come.” And I'm 23 years old, my hair's down to here, you know, and I'm there and I met Sergio and I… First of all, I grew up around his music. My mom played his music so, I knew his music. And, I did my homework. You got to prepare. I did a lot of homework. I had some synthesizers because my job was to play the strings and the orchestra because Sergio's a piano player. So, my job's not to play the piano, my job is to play other parts that support him. So, I did my homework, and I came to rehearsal. I was prepared and he hired me.
David Laroche : Wow. How did you feel?
Freddie Ravel : Well, there's another little side line to that. You know the American actor, Harrison Ford? Indiana Jones, right? He's Harrison Ford, right? The studio that we were in, Sergio's house, was built by Harrison Ford. Because before he got famous and before he was an actor, he was a builder, he was a contractor. So, the studio we were in, Harrison Ford has built it, and remember thinking, they told me that, I remember thinking, “God, this was the guy who was Han Solo in Star Wars. This was this guy who was this giant star but here's where he started. And here's where I'm starting.
David Laroche : Had it had an impact on you?
Freddie Ravel : Yeah.
David Laroche : Do you have the scale of environment?
Freddie Ravel : Well, yes, because when you're in a place, like here in Los Angeles, many times you will end up in a home or a studio or environment where, “Oh, wow, Jimi Hendrix was here,” or, “Wow, the Beatles used to work here.” And when you feel that, when you feel that energy, it makes you go, “See, they had to start out somewhere too.”
David Laroche : You're on the footsteps.
Freddie Ravel : I'm on the path. It's a confirmation that I'm on the same path. So, I think that's really important, yeah.
David Laroche : Let's focus on another path and then we will go on the business side, like we did before, it may be between both side. When you play a concert or you do a conference or you do a speech, everything in front of people, how do you feel just before to go on stage?
Freddie Ravel : I'm excited.
David Laroche : Okay. You are excited?
Freddie Ravel : I'm excited. I'm excited because I really believe in what I'm about to share with them.
David Laroche : Okay. And did you feel sometimes stress?
Freddie Ravel : Not too much. The only way I don't feel stress is I prepare really well. You asked me, “How do I feel just before I go on stage.” Now, if you asked me, “How do you feel two weeks or three weeks before?” Then, I'm going to tell you, “I'm working. I'm preparing. I'm a little bit stressed.” Because let's say I get called to do a show for Mercedes Benz, big company, and I'm going to fly to Stuttgart to do a presentation, and they're going to fly me all the way from Los Angeles to Stuttgart, to the headquarters of Mercedes Benz, and I'm going to be speaking to the people that are the bankers, the finance, the designers, everyone in the company that make these beautiful cars, right? And I'm very…I feel very very excited to present to them but I want to make sure that I'm going to give those people something new, that they've never heard before, and I'm going to give it to them in a way that they can accept it. And I know that they're a very seasoned and they've heard everything, a pretty tough crowd, they're very smart, I will prepare very deeply.
David Laroche : And how do you prepare?
Freddie Ravel : I make sure I have a conference call with the client. And then learn what their challenges are.
David Laroche : Okay, so you ask them, “What are your challenges?”
Freddie Ravel : Totally. “What are they struggling with?” And I don't care how big they are. I don't care if they're Coca-Cola or Mercedes Benz or, you know. It doesn't matter how big they are. Apple.
David Laroche : If they are somebody that have a big challenge and you don't know what they can do, what do you do?
Freddie Ravel : Well, I'm always going to music as a way to help me explain their challenges. I know that sounds unusual but that's what I do.
David Laroche : That's you.
Freddie Ravel : That's me. Because to me, music is the infinite. Remember, music is beautiful and music can be… you know, music can be like this. Terrible. Music can be ugly, right? It can sound like, “Ahh,” right? What if I talked to a company right now that they're losing all their profits, they're having a really bad time. And they're like this, they're like, you know… Right? They're in a mess, right? So, my job is to try to remove… That's kind of ugly, let me try to remove this. Let me remove… let me remove this. So, now I have Remember, we had this. I just removed two notes. Now, I have this. And if I just work with this.
David Laroche : That's amazing.
Freddie Ravel : I just…I started off like this, went here, and we removed two notes. So, what I often do when I hear, “Freddie, we're slashing jobs,” “Freddie, we can't innovate,” “Freddie, we're being wiped out by the competition,” I hear this. Hear all this, hear all this noise? And then I ask them to help me remove the notes.
David Laroche : To make the song clear?
Freddie Ravel : Yeah. Because most of the… most of the problems that happen, you don't throw the whole…you don't fire everybody and throw them out on the street. Is that right?
David Laroche : Yes.
Freddie Ravel : There's a saying in English, “You don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.” If the water's dirty you empty the water, but the baby stays there, right? So, what I'm doing is I'm just eliminating the areas where there's a problem. Maybe the problem is they're not technologically up to date. Well, a lot of people are still living…you know, they still have an old email addresses, they don't update their stuff, they're living with no technology, and they're wondering why they can't keep up.
David Laroche : Okay. And do you ask them…Let's pretend that we are on the stage and we have the people, do you ask questions? For example, how you transpose between removing the notes, and then do you ask? You ask them questions?
Freddie Ravel : What I do is, I might say…Let's say I… Let's say your name is Hans…
David Laroche : Okay, can we do an example?
Freddie Ravel : Sure. I was about to try and do one.
David Laroche : Let's pretend that I am your client, and my challenge is, I want to hire… I want to hire the right persons, but I'm struggling to find them, I don't know how to do it because the last time we had a personal assistant but it was not the good one and it cost a lot of energy to find the right person. And we don't know how to do that. And if we don't find the right person it will be hard to go to the next level in the company.
Freddie Ravel : Okay. Good. So, a couple of things I would do is, I think you have to do a little bit of…You have to ask questions, that you would do in your company, that line up the personality. Like, your personal assistant has to have a compatibility with whoever they're assisting. Let's say, you're the president, you're looking for an assistant. You have to…you interview the assistant and you find out how they match with you, if they're a good match, is she a good listener, does she have the same career goals as you have, right? Or does she understand your blind spots? Because you're a CEO guy, you're thinking 30,000 feet above everything. Her job is to fill it in, right? So, the first process is you do have questions to ask her, right? But how does this relate to music? Let's talk about the one you fired. The one that failed, right? Let's talk about that assistant for a moment. Let's say, she comes to you with a melody, right? All right. When she comes in, she comes in like. She comes to you like this, right? And let's say, you are going. This happens all the time. I'm a CEO. I'm walking down the street and I feel pretty good. I feel confident with my company. I feel confident with what I'm doing. And I'm happy. That's you. And she comes in and she's in a different key. She's not…She's not in your key. She's like ♪ [music] ♪ And when you put you and…when you put the CEO and her together, you get… ♪ [music] ♪
David Laroche : It's fighting, right? But if you had dug a little deeper, maybe interviewed three more people, found a little bit of more the match, you actually find that there's another person that's similar, and when we put you together, we get ♪ [music] ♪. And the two keys are together. Much of the world operates ♪ [music] ♪. A lot of the world operates this way, all day long, except it's bigger.
Freddie Ravel : It's a mess because the personalities don't line up. But if everyone's in the same key… ♪ [music] ♪
David Laroche : It's great.
Freddie Ravel : Different way to look at the world. So, when I see…So, basically I use music as a way to have a dialogue about melodies that fight each other. And the reason that you have things that stagnate, usually it's because the team you have around you, there's someone in the team that is not working. They might be in another key. And you might sit there for years in your company, This is going on, you have different people playing different melodies and it sounds and feels like it's slowed down. You don't know why, but that has a lot to do with it.
David Laroche : I have that.
Freddie Ravel : We all have that. Actually, families have that, marriages have that, relationships have that. So, our job is to try to listen and be tuned in on what is the rub, where's the friction, where's the disruption, and to openly talk about it to keep the trust high. Just like your friend, who was talking about trust being like, the number one thing. And it is, it is. It's like, when you came here, when you came to the United States, and you flew in the airplane, right? And you went through the airport, right? Charles Legault, right? You're at the airport and they're checking your security. You go through security, security, passaporte', this, that, you're waiting in line, they're, “Take off your shoes. Pull everything out.” Why are they doing that? Because there's no trust. If they trusted people, there wouldn't even be that problem but the world doesn't have trust right now. We're fearful, we're worried that something's going to happen. And everyone's in so much fear that it kills the trust, and guess what, we all slow down. So, trust effects speed. When there's trust, things moves quickly. Where there's no trust, then everything gets slows down.
David Laroche : Great. That was amazing. Let's talk about business.
Freddie Ravel : Yeah.
David Laroche : According to you, what is the link between music and business and what we can learn from music to be a successful entrepreneur.
Freddie Ravel : Listening. Most important skill on the planet. Most people are terrible at listening. We're too distracted by our digital devices, you know, I'm on YouTube, I'm checking my email, “Oh, I got a text that just came in,” and, “Oh that's right, David, you're in front of me. I know you came all the way from Paris to be here, but let me check…let me check my…” That's the world we live in. People are distracted, they don't respect the moment, they're not good listeners. We speak at about 150 words a minute but our minds go at about 600 to 1000 words a minute. That's a fact. It's probably at… It's probably sped up even more now because we're multi-tasking. So, what happens is we're training an entirely new generation of people not to be present. Right now, you can go to a restaurant anywhere in the world, and you'll see a mother and a father and they'll have a two year old baby in a stroller and the two year old baby will be on an iPad. Not even talking…not even the mother talking to the baby. So, I don't want to go off in that complete world but, I'm just trying to say we live in a world now where being present and really listening is a lost arch. And we're raising babies to be like that. So, it's really important that we teach people how to be present. And those skills are the kinds of things that will make you an incredible business person. When I care about you as my client, or my partner…Let's say you're my business partner and we're going to build something extraordinary together, right? What's going to matter more to you is that I'm listening, so deeply to who you are, that the decisions I make, the choices I make…The decisions that I make in our interaction, will be based on the fact that I was sensitive and I heard all the subtleties of you message. Otherwise, it doesn't mean anything. The details are very very important, that's what makes… You know, we can only admire Apple and and Apple is probably the most admired company on the planet right now.
David Laroche : Yes. me too.
Freddie Ravel : We admire Apple. The stock keeps climbing, you know. It's a gigantic success story, right? But, you know, if you look at Steve Jobs and you look at Tim Cook and you look at all these people that run the business, it's about details. The details of everything they do is incredible. So, that's what I'm saying. Every business we admire…
David Laroche : Focus on details.
Freddie Ravel : Details. And every successful musician…
David Laroche : Details.
Freddie Ravel : Art. You know the backstory. I know what's on the surface, I know what I see, but I also know what's underneath the surface. I know…I know how we got there. And I know where we're going. And the only way you can do that is if you become an extraordinary listener. So, I would teach people how to listen like a rock star.
David Laroche : I would love to know how to listen as a rock star.
Freddie Ravel : Listen like a rock star means you shut off all of the dialogue in your brain and when you speak I listen to you under your words. Like, when you say something to me, I might ask a question about what you just said to me in my mind. So, you ask me something, you ask me a question right now. Say, you ask me a question. Go ahead, anything.
David Laroche : The question I have is, what is the key to be a good listener?
Freddie Ravel : What is the key to being a good listener? As you say that, in my mind I go, I have 10 words that come to me that relate to listening. Presence, empathy, understanding, patience, solitude, quietness, calm. Those are all words that come to me. So, you said something to me and I didn't just not…not only did I listen to what you said, but I listened to other things that I think can add value to that. That's the way I try to think. I'm looking… When I'm with you, or whomever I'm doing business with, I'm looking to add extraordinary value…
David Laroche : I love that.
Freddie Ravel : …and to who I'm with.
David Laroche : Yes. I believe a lot in the power of adding value and I do my best to add value, and… Sometimes people would say to me, “But I understand that. David, you told me to add value but I don't know what kind of value I can add to someone.” So, how can we add, how can we help the persons… the person who are listening to us?
Freddie Ravel : Okay. Believe it or not, this is what's really good to know. Most people are terrible at listening, okay? The vast majority of people are not present.
Freddie Ravel : And usually sales… sales persons are not good.
David Laroche : Yeah. But the sales persons that are the best, that do very very well, they don't talk too much, they listen. See, human beings, we are so used to not being well listened to, we're so used to being in a world where people are like, “Hey. But pay me the money and let's go. Yeah. What do you need? All right. Get out of here.” We're in that world, right?
Freddie Ravel : Yes. Very quick.
David Laroche : So, when you get in front of somebody and they say…they're sharing a moment with you and you really listen to them, and then you ask them an intelligent question that says, “You know, that's interesting, what you said. Tell me, how does that…how is that effecting what you want to do in a month?” And I go, “Wow, you care about where I want to be in a month from now?” “Yeah, I care about it because I want to know how I can help you. I want to know how… Maybe I have, you know, because lot of people I know in your neighborhood that could probably connect with you. And my father used to work for somebody who did this. And just let me know how I can serve you.” If you come to people like that, you're going to be successful. You're going to be successful because the majority of people aren't doing that.
Freddie Ravel : I can see that all your mindsets comes from the state you are, what you feel, gratitude, and your ability to connect deeply with people. And I can see that everything about your success depends on what you feel and your ability to connect with listening and in connecting deeply with persons. That's right?
David Laroche : Totally. I think you…I think you nailed it, as we would say. That's exactly it. I think that's everything. I mean, that's all we have. We're only on this planet for a short time, our lives are pretty short, we're here for a short amount of time. So, every time, every moment we're alive, that we can be of service to one another is a valuable moment. It has value in it. So, I take every moment as a gift. That's another thing, I don't take anything for granted. That's the big piece. Every day, there's a gift in front of you, even if it's frustrating, even if you get stuck by a red light, even if someone's in another key, even if your personal assistant is out to lunch, there's still something there to learn, there's still something to grow from. There's a gift everywhere. And if you live with that feeling of gratitude, and there's a gift, and how do you serve the moment, then the music of your life will sound much more beautiful.
Freddie Ravel : I would love to talk about something because I believe one of the keys of success is to know how to balance principles. I will explain what I mean. We are talking about adding value and being the service of the world and service to people. And there are some people who are doing all they can to help people but they forget to help themselves. So, how do you know how to balance between thinking about you before, because you have value, because like what you say, be the change you want see in the world, and thinking about people?
David Laroche : I believe that if you don't take care of yourself, you know, I always think about the…You know the instructions you get on an airplane? Before the plane takes off, the stuartist stands up and says, “The oxygen mask will fall down.”
Freddie Ravel : Do yourself before.
David Laroche : I always think of that one. Because that's…They even say that even if your child, your own baby…take care of yourself first because if you don't put it on here and you put it on the baby and then you run out of air, your baby dies too. Right? So, if you're serving the world, like, if you're Mother Teresa, or you're Gandhi, and you're serving the world and you're helping everybody, but you forget to feed yourself correctly and you forget yourself to hydrate with enough water and put the right amount of clothing on, you get sick. The 10 people that you were helping at the homeless shelter are all going to suffer because you didn't take care of yourself. So, you have to just remember, that even…even taking care of yourself is not selfish. It's actually part of your success in helping the world, is taking care of yourself.
Freddie Ravel : Yes. Let's take a concrete example that I can see. A lot of them are similar. I know lot of people who understand this principle. They understand that they have to take care to themselves and invest on themselves, but when we talk about their family, it's harder. For example, they say, “Oh my mother,” or, “my father is blocking me to succeed.” And I can see that they struggle a lot between investing on themselves and being willing…being willing to be criticized or rejected by the friends or family. They understand the principle when we talk about maybe the boss or partners, but when we talk about the closest friends or the husband or wife or children or parents, they struggle more. So, what is your point of view?
David Laroche : That's complicated because we say…we say in English, “Blood is thicker than wine.” You know the meaning of this? – Blood…
Freddie Ravel : Is thicker than wine. So, if we're friends and I have a glass of Merlot and I say, you know, we toast each other. That's wine. We shake hands in a business deal, that's good. But my own brother. The blood between my brother and I, is more of a deeper relationship than the wine that I toasted you with. You understand?
David Laroche : Yes.
Freddie Ravel : So, blood is…blood means the family is so much in your DNA that you can't…it's hard to tell your mother, “Mom, you're crazy. I got to get out of the house. I will never succeed in life because…” It's very hard to tell your mother that because she's your mom, you've grown up with her. So, the way I look at it is, with family, you have to…Family's tough because it's in your DNA, it's part of your heritage, right? Part of your culture, part of the way you speak, part of the way you express yourself, comes from your parents.
David Laroche : And their parents, and their…
Freddie Ravel : And their parents, and the whole legacy, right? Your heritage. So, but sometimes your heritage can hold you back. That's what we're talking about.
David Laroche : Yes.
Freddie Ravel : Right? So, there comes a point where you've got to make a conscious decision to break away from the behavior that might be keeping your family trapped in poverty. And it may not be poverty in material, it might be poverty in the head. You know? I mean, there…probably… You know, my family said to me, “Hey, Freddie, you know, you might want to have a double major. You know, you're getting a bachelor of arts degree in music, but maybe you should get another degree in business, or.” My parents wanted me to do that and I said, “You know what, I see music as such a… I see music, in many ways, helping people. Not just through performance, not through composition, but in other ways, and I'm going…and I need to pursue that. And it takes so much time, I can't double major.” I broke away from my family for that. They didn't like that. I took a… I took a leap.
David Laroche : Yes, and how did you find the power to do that?
Freddie Ravel : I believed in it. I believed. I believed in my… I was convicted. I had conviction for it. I believed it in. I could see… I've always been looking at music in a much broader way than, it's not just the piano, it's not just entertaining, there's all these other ways to talk about it. And we've talked about it a little bit today.
David Laroche : Yes. I would like to thank you very much for all your answers and I would like to know if you would like to say something for the person who are following us now. And also to say how we can follow you on the internet or everything.
Freddie Ravel : Well, thank you very much, David. It was great to be with you and to be with your audience. My feeling, is that, I will end with one line of a poem that I wrote, called “If Music Could Speak.” And it's a long poem so I'm only going to give you the opening line, which also is the closing line. And the line is, “Music's the great invitation for mankind to transcend spoken word, to enhance how we think and put into sync, so we hear what is mostly not heard.” And that feeling is what I'd like to leave people with. Music is so much more than we think it is. And it gives us a chance… We can transcend the words, we can help sync our minds up, and we can live a better life. And so, I would like people to stay in touch, you know. Freddieravel.com, of course. We're putting out a whole series around the music of business. We've been doing a lot of that. Keynotetoconcert.com. We're going to be developing that as well. And I hope that we can take our message all over the world, especially if we can bring it over to France sometime soon. So…
David Laroche : Great. Thank you very much. Thank you.
Freddie Ravel : My pleasure.
David Laroche : Thank you very much.
Freddie Ravel : Thank you, David. ♪ [music] ♪