In this Tour Tips segment, the indie pop artist, Stepsons, shares his tips for being on the road. You can check out his advice, after the break.
I was a spritely, sideburned sixteen-year-old when I went on my first tour. Since then I’ve put more than a few miles on van odometers and frequent flier cards, not to mention picked at my fair share of backstage hummus plates. And you know what? It still sparks joy, so when Digital Tour Bus asked me to write some tips for the road, I was happy to oblige. Here are five:
1) Buy an electric kettle.
Need a little breakfast after the all-night drive? Get out those oatmeal packets in the rest stop parking lot. Voice not doing so hot before the gig? Tea time. The possibilities are endless – noodles, coffee, clothing steamer…the list goes on. A criminally-underrated appliance that will improve your quality of life.
2) Singers – don’t talk to your friends (before the set).
Surprise! A group of your friends are showing up to the gig tonight. They haven’t seen you in ages and want to catch up! Time to hide. No talking until you’re done playing. Otherwise, you’ll be chatting at the bar or in the dressing room way louder than necessary when you should be resting your vocal cords. Later you’ll walk onstage, as the spacey intro begins, and squeak out those big high notes. Why do you sound like you’re fifty songs into a bar set already? Oh, it’s because you were talk-yelling backstage. So, do what you will, but you’ve been warned. The voice on tour is a fragile thing. Save those pipes for the show!
3) Move your legs.
Touring is 98% sitting, 1% hauling road cases up narrow stairwells, and 1% eating things like rib platters because you’re in a “town with great barbecue”. To avoid coming back from tour feeling like an astronaut stuck on the ISS all year, you gotta move around. Fire up that step counter and take some walks after load-in. Pack some workout gear and hit hotel gyms if you can. Just try and get 15 minutes of active time not plastered to a bench seat, bunk or chair.
4) Van driving is team driving.
If you’re playing shows and covering driving duties, you’re going to be exhausted. Especially when the routing gets rough (throwback to a festival tour I played once that did Los Angeles, San Francisco, then back to Los Angeles in a three-day stretch). The way to conquer those insane drives: teams of two. Shotgun seat is always awake with the driver. He or she is in charge of music, snacks, directions, and making the driver’s awake. 1AM on an open highway is also a great time to talk to your bandmate about your ex (was she the one that got away?). If you’ve got an all-nighter, team one leaves the venue and drives for a while, switching off, then team two steps in as the sun rises. This tip may make less sense unless you’ve toured the western United States, where all our drives felt like unending eternities, but regardless I highly recommend your band keep the driver/shotgun team sacred.
5) Take it all in (don’t forget to be an artist).
There is nothing like seeing new places on the road. Though your life will be full of bad naps and phone scrolling, make sure to take time and notice the sights and sounds of every city. Talk to everyone you can- hang with venue bartenders while they’re closing down, maybe go to that opening band’s house party in the middle of nowhere. Tour can be a suspended state of reality for those of us in it as if life carries on for everybody else while we hurtle down another freeway, but it’s also an incredible window into the great big world around us. Those kinds of travel stories inspired my band Stepsons’ new record as I journeyed through the hills of Los Angeles and far deserts of New Mexico. Don’t forget to continue being an artist- scribble, write and noodle on your instrument. My bet is you’ll come home with ideas and stories that would have never existed if you weren’t paying attention. Soak it up.
Have a fun time out there! And holler at me if you make it through Nashville, Tennessee.