In this Tour Tips segment, the indie rock band, The Brook & The Bluff, recommends advice for being a musician on the road. You can check out the tips, after the break.
Earlier this summer, in the middle of our three-month break from touring, we got a little nostalgic for the road, and we tried to do the math on exactly how much time we spend traveling in our van. Our drive from city to city can be anywhere from 4 hours to about 12 hours. Every so often, though, we grit our teeth and drive 24 or more hours straight through the day and night just to get to where we’re going. You’d be amazed how relieving it is to watch the sunrise after driving through 12 hours of darkness. Anyway, we determined that we spend about three to four waking weeks per year driving in our van, which is a white Ford Transit that you might mistake for an airport shuttle. Between all that driving, though, we get to be a band, traveling to some places we love dearly and some places brand new. We’ve grown to love our life on the road tremendously, but there is a balance to it all that needs to be maintained. Touring life is wholly different than regular life. You’re constantly on the move, you find it harder to sleep, and you’re meeting more and more people every single day. With that said, we’d like to share some ideas on how to best enjoy and get the most out of life on the road.
1. Don’t do hotels, stay with your friends
The most obvious reason for this is something green that rhymes with “honey”. With every decision you make for your tour, you should always consider your budget. Especially in the early days of a career, musicians take home more from what they don’t spend than what they do earn. Between the four of us, we’re usually able to seek out a friend in every city who can host us, be it someone from college, a relative, or a friend from summer camp. You can’t have high expectations, though. Be prepared to sleep on some floors, which means traveling with air mattresses, sleeping bags, and pillows. Luckily, those don’t take up too much space in your vehicle.
2. Find a vehicle that’s comfortable for you and your band
Notice I didn’t say “a comfortable vehicle”. Comfort is way more subjective than you might think, and it doesn’t take too much to achieve. For instance, before our van, we drove a 2004 Ford Expedition. It didn’t offer much in the way of luxury or charm, but it had just enough
legroom for the four of us. With the right pillow, you could even sleep in it! Again, keep your budget at the top of your mind when deciding what you want to drive in, but also know that you’re going to be in it for several hours at a time.
3. At the gig, be cooperative and patient with the sound people
After a couple of years’ worth of playing shows, we’ve met all different types of people working the mixers and monitors at our venues. We’ve made friends with most of them, and we’re fortunate enough that we’ve never run into any real problems. Of course, that has a good bit to do with how we interact with them. These guys and girls work super meticulously to provide both you and your audience with the sound you need to put on a great show, so it’s important to be gracious. Sometimes they may come off as impatient with you, but it simply comes with the territory of a fast-moving, high demanding job. Just be polite, always introduce yourself to them, and be where you need to be when you need to be there without any giving any grief.
4. Stay active and avoid fast food
This is definitely the tip that requires the most discipline. It’s so much easier to slide through a McDonald’s drive-through than it is to pull over and make yourself a sandwich. It’s just as easy to sleep until right before it’s time to get in the van instead of waking up early for a run. For the sake of your health and your energy, keep each other accountable, and do whatever you can to keep road habits from getting the best of you. Bring your running shoes and a set of dumbbells. Pack a cooler with hummus and chips. Once you’ve established a bit of a road ritual, it’s so easy to maintain, and you’ll thank yourself when you’ve got all the stamina you need on stage.
5. Make friends in every city you go to
This one may be the least obvious, but it’s also the easiest to accomplish. Every city has something unique to offer, and nothing reflects that more than its residents. Take some time after every show and talk to the people who came, whether they’re long-time fans or brand new listeners. We’ve made some strong, lasting friendships just by interacting with and listening to our audience, which has the added benefit of growing our fan base in a natural, grassroots type of style. As fun as it is to play for a group of new listeners, it’s even more fun to come back to a city and play to people you know and love.
Upcoming Tour Dates:
10/24: Mobile, AL @ Callaghans
10/25: Opelika, AL @ John Emerald Distillery
11/1: Denver, CO @ Lost Lake Lounge
11/3: Salt Lake City, UT @ State Room
11/5: Seattle, WA @ Columbia City Theater
11/6: Portland, OR @ Holocene
11/8: San Francisco, CA @ Hotel Utah
11/9: Santa Cruz, CA @ The Atrium
11/14: Los Angeles, CA @ Hotel Cafe
11/15: San Diego, CA @ Voodoo Room @ HOB
11/16: Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar
11/23: Memphis, TN @ Growlers
11/27: Birmingham, AL @ Iron City