While Roger and Camilla McGuinn successfully climbed out of a financial hole years ago, they live frugally as they continue to build Roger McGuinn’s legacy as a founding member of The Byrds. As they embark on their 38th year of marriage, these six pearls of wisdom also seem like great advice for couples that work together.
1. Be a team. Camilla says she prides herself on being a good roadie. In fact, she’s the sole member of Roger McGuinn’s road crew. “It’s kind of fun climbing around on the floor making sure everything is plugged in right and that the sound is perfect,” she notes. “I don’t know a lot of other musicians’ wives who would want to do that. A few might, and I’d encourage it. It’s a lot of fun being so involved in the production.”
2. Know how to read a contract. “I remember one negotiation where several people in the room pulled me aside and asked if Camilla was a lawyer,” McGuinn shares. “It made me so proud, because a lot of musicians are clueless when it comes to knowing what they are signing up for — or signing away.”
Camilla explains: “When we first got married, I made it a point to read every contract that was sent to Roger. At first, it felt like I was learning a foreign language. But I kept at it, and made good friends with a very smart woman who is a lawyer and is now my dear pal.
“And I studied the jargon so that I’d understand what was in those legal documents. After all, this is our art. This is our money. This is Roger’s legacy. I’d not be doing a very good job as his business partner, or his wife, not to know how to read a contract.”
3. Control your revenue — and who gets it. The McGuinns say that they finally got fed up having others take the lion’s share of their sales.
“That’s one of the reasons Roger was so in debt when we met,” Camilla says. “So we started our own label, and now we’re the boss. Plus, with technological advances, we now can record our own records right in our home. That cuts out a lot of the expenses, and helps us stay in control.
“For too many musicians, controlling their music, money, and future is a big problem. That’s why we decided to take the reins and founded April First Productions. We love being at the helm.”
4. Keep your overhead low. “Never, never, never get yourself into debt,” insists Camilla, who manages the books for the business. “Just find ways to do fun things that don’t cost a ton of money, and you’ll never have to worry about not having enough.”
McGuinn adds, “In my experience, when you get nervous about money, you make bad decisions about your career. You’ll do anything to get out of debt, and that can lead to making bad music. That’s not something I have ever been willing to risk. So we have a serious no-debt policy.”
5. Only work with people you know you can trust. “This might be one of the most important lessons that we have learned,” says Roger. “In the beginning of my career, I was a lot more trusting than I am today. But I have found that if you are straight with most people, they’ll be straight with you.”
6. Try not to bite at each other. “This is true for work and love,” Camilla believes. “We don’t usually do it, but sometimes — when we’re mixing a song — well, the biting happens.” Adds Roger, “We just both want our songs and CDs to be perfect. And when we get a little too excited we step back, take a breath, and relax.”
If you missed Roger McGuinn at The Barns at Wolf Trap, click here to view his tour schedule for spring 2016.