Updated: Nov 20, 2020
Call me shallow, but I have always wanted to say, ‘This kid was too cool for school.’ Guess what? Now I can. Meet Gil Hogarth, as I did last Thursday, a matter of hours after mailing him to arrange a catch-up chat about his onward career journey after Hurtwood. Too cool for school, you ask. How? Well… if you combine a role within the music industry, working with top-drawer edgy talents and output, with musicians, gamers and actors, throw in football: what do you get? As I said, Gil’s working life is achingly cool, he is clearly having the time of his life, and I suspect many would kill to be in his working Adidas shoes. Some six years on from Hurtwood, just how has he done it? Sit back and enjoy.
The first clue to this success story is in the speed with which Gil makes himself available for a catch-up. This is someone who gets things done. Try to pin him down, however, to some kind of job description or clear career path since leaving the Surrey Hills, and he is more hazy. Hazy, but most certainly not lazy. Wind back to his slightly late arrival at Hurtwood (courtesy, it seems, of his previous school’s objections to a new haircut, and his mum’s objections to such arbitrary and superficial judgements), Gil came with a prodigious talent for football and a passion for the music business.
He remembers his time here with enthusiasm, and almost simplicity: a brisk run up the hill from Ewhurst Place with good pal Ben Cutler, a hearty breakfast, plenty of school work to do, and, when done: football, football, football. Oh and, it seems, music. Alongside his A Level work (Sociology, Media Studies and Business) he was already building his contacts in, and knowledge of, the music industry, interning in the holidays with various music labels, and gaining work experience. How did he find the connections? ‘You have to get involved as soon as you can,’ is an early piece of advice, and his starting point then was with a genre called Dubstep, very much the sound at that point, and with a close-knit community on Facebook. Messaging them, he offered to help with anything, and found himself involved with a label called ‘Inspected’. Soon running their YouTube channel, he was also helping with releases, all the while building on his knowledge of how the music industry works and making contacts.
Gil is both generous and specific with his advice to others wishing to get their first breakthrough into the music world. Work out what you want, he advises on a number of occasions, ‘what industry you want to get into. Instagram is a great way to connect with people. It's very easy to find out who works where. Go on LinkedIn. Find them on Insta, message them and don’t leave them alone.’
Clearly this paid off, consolidating for Gil all kinds of invaluable music connections and knowledge, alongside the discipline and achievement of three good A Levels, two years of study, the marvellous fun of Ewhurst life, and football with Ben and Ian et al. He bubbles with excitement for the critical and varied learning curve of these seminal years. ‘Ben and I were joint captains of the football team – don’t leave that out,’ he reminds me more than once. The die was cast. A brief spell at Bournemouth University gave him proximity to a specific record label, as he began to expand on all those connections, and swiftly moved into full-time work, as a manager. He acknowledges, and indeed reiterates, that the music industry has its ‘shady areas’ where you ‘learn on the job’. He worked for some of the bigger management firms, but also for independent labels, in the most direct way ‘learning on the job and getting your hands dirty’.
A particularly formative move involved a management company that looked after a big rapper called AJ Tracey, whom Gil had known since his early school days. The outcome of this congruence was the production of ‘Ladbroke Grove’, the best-selling UK Garage single ever, and the biggest-selling independent record in 2018. ‘It was amazing to be part of that journey, and learning,’ he tells me with pride. ‘He sold out 2 Ally Pally’s – 20,000 tickets.’ His role? ‘With AJ Tracey, it was day-to-day management, organizing staff, communicating a lot.’
One of the first artists that Gil ever managed, Conducta, actually produced ‘Ladbroke Grove’, so this was a particularly rewarding moment for him. His role included main-management, helping him run his record label, and signing a record deal with Warner Records. This subsequently proved part of the learning curve, and he describes it as ‘the worst decision of my life’. I am impressed by the maturity of his self-analysis, especially as it clearly hasn’t hindered his journey. Ever onward, he got to work on re-mixes with some of the biggest artists around, developing his brand over a couple of years, touring, doing club shows all over the world. Phew, I think, these are some busy years.
Having clearly earned his spurs on the job, Gil found himself working on a number of occasions with Adidas, clearly connecting itself with the coolest culture and the hottest talent, as well as bringing a solid business infrastructure – oh, and cash. This boy seems to be moving fast, especially when he acknowledges the limitations of the manager’s role in this world. On one level, he suggests, ‘It is rewarding in so many ways. You do everything: marketing, social media, learning every side of the music business, record deals, branding, publishing deals – you learn so much, but you have to be someone’s dad.’ Time for a change; time to use all that experience.
Five years out of Hurtwood and he finds himself head-hunted by Adidas. He began this role last December, and is involved in the complexity of the music network alongside the film, TV and gaming elements. He proudly explains that he is privileged to work with ‘London’s most exciting talent. We work with loads of rappers, but also bands and singer-songwriters, writers and producers.' Alongside all these talents he works with the most successful retail outlets like Footlocker and JD Sports, connecting, advising and influencing. He puts together the deals, drawing on the expertise and knowledge of the last few years, advises on the campaigns, shoots – the whole ‘look’ – and is clearly having the time of his life. He has already worked with both Arsenal and Manchester United, connecting the vibes, the look and lifestyle that clearly define his own success as he seems to be the lynchpin. He also promises me that he will eventually work with his own beloved team, Chelsea, and, frankly, I suspect this is only a matter of time.
So, what advice does Gil offer to anyone seeking his kind of career? ‘You can never be complacent; you can’t rely on anyone but yourself.’ Enthusiasm is clearly central, as well as the kind of restless energy that could get you into trouble unless it has been harnessed, as here, into internships and work that feeds off a streetwise sense of style and mood, and a complete commitment to what you love, viz music and football. That’s where you start, then. ‘You find something rough. Something that you want to do,’ and you shape it, research connections (Netflix: ‘Look up the credits, mail, call’) do the grunt work. ‘Don’t be lazy,’ he repeats as a kind of mantra, and this formula has clearly worked for him.
How has Hurtwood helped in all this? Gil’s praise is effusive, not least because on one level he remembers the support and encouragement, the endless possibilities for football, and the lack of stuffiness. He loads much praise on Housemaster Ian, and identifies great relationships that helped him build on his talents and construct the way into his amazing career.
Already I feel that I have taken enough of his valuable time, for which I thank him. He is about to head to Manchester (yep, Man United are of course involved), shooting Aitch and Dutchavelli. His work schedules, even in these weird times, are hectic indeed, with Gil very much at the heart of an extraordinary contemporary world of style, entertainment and industry.
As ever, I am left so impressed by the glittering talent of our ex-students, and have relished this glimpse into working worlds that I could only ever imagine. Commitment, hard graft, personality, and the chance to do what you love, all in one deal: thanks for sharing with us, Gil. Keep doing what you clearly do so well, keep in touch and we’ll be passing on all your advice. You make us proud. Oh – and Ian says, yes, you are indeed a Ewhurst Legend.