Making Money With Music in Cuenca, Ecuador

Brian Gary quit the U.S. after the downturn and is delighted with the new life he has created in Ecuador.

“I had developed a very successful real estate business,” Brian says. “All was going great until life went sideways with the economic meltdown in 2008, and we decided it was time for a change.”

“I’ve been fortunate to travel all over the world for a large part of my adult life, and I thought it was important for my family (wife Chelsea and three kids) to experience other cultures,” Brian says. “But since we’re not retired we needed to find a place where we could earn an income.”

That turned out to be Cuenca, Ecuador. Brian explains, “I wanted us to go somewhere with an established expat community and abundant cultural opportunities—somewhere that was close enough to the U.S. for us to easily visit family and friends. After checking out Mexico and Belize, we found Cuenca was the only place that fully met our requirements.”

Cuenca is a cultured, attractive, colonial city with a low crime rate and a rich artistic tradition. The architecture is enchanting, the weather is gorgeous, and there’s a lovely, easy vibe about the place.

Like many Cuenca expats, Brian and his family love the city’s many museums and restaurants, plus the fantastic spring-like weather. He adds, “I’m a California boy, so it’s great that we can get away to beautiful Pacific beaches that are only a few hours’ drive away.”

An added bonus for the Gary’s is that his parents also decided to move to Cuenca. The city is a well-known haven for expat retirees. Brian says, “It’s awesome having family only a couple of miles away. And how great for our kids that they don’t miss out on time spent with their grandparents!”

However, it has also proven to be a good place to create an income. Initially, Brian continued his real estate career but after two years he decided to pursue his passion—music.

Brian began playing the piano when he was 3. After college he joined the Eddie Money Band as keyboardist in the late 80s and toured all 50 states of the U.S., Canada, Guam, and Japan. A move to Nashville, Tennessee brought several more years of touring with various artists, after which he felt it was time to get off the road and settle down.

Unsure if there was a market for English-language tunes in a Hispanic culture, Brian started booking solo gigs in Cuenca and was pleasantly surprised.

“I knew the expats would dig songs from the 60s and 70s, but was amazed to discover that Cuencanos love to sing along as well even if they don’t know what they’re saying!”

Brian is now busy performing around town on his own or with a talented band he formed called Rubber Biscuit. “The other three guys in the band are Ecuadorian and incredible musicians. We’ve developed a super-loyal following of locals and expats,” Brian says.

He teaches piano lessons several days a week and has, with an expat business partner, opened a gym. His wife Chelsea is equally busy with a cottage business selling essential oils and supplements—and she teaches self-defense classes.

“Moving to Cuenca has turned out so much better than we could have ever expected. Who knew that I’d be back doing what I love—making music. Through all of our activities we’ve met tons of expats and connected with the wonderful local population as well. We’re happy—we’re healthy—we’re making money. To quote the Beach Boys, I’m having FUN-FUN-FUN!”

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