In this Tour Tips segment, the indie artist, Wild Domestic, gives you his tips for being on tour. You can check out the feature, after the break.
Being on the road as a touring musician has been a peak experience for me and is my ongoing career goal. The bumps and potholes of the highway come to have a hypnotic effect on you, lulling you to sleep, even though there are guys jammed in a van around you. Every night you see a different but same venue with different but same people…a weird but cool way to see a slice of the world. The hassle is real and overwhelming at least on the poor start up musician’s tour, which is my experience. You have to be a bit of a masochist to really love this life. Maybe after a couple of decades of touring, it would get to be a drag, but I can say at first it is a great wild ride. Though my experience is limited, here are five tips for a successful tour!
1. Pack only what you need: When you are on the road, there is barely any time for comfort. Basically, by the time that you lie down for a little sleep, you have to be right back up again. The back of a van is not quite the luxury accommodation of a 5-star rock star hotel stay. Taking extra clothes that you won’t wear makes you look like a nerd and takes up way too much space. Besides, sleeping in a van doesn’t lend itself to frequent showers or trips to the laundry for freshly cleaned and pressed attire. Show clothes are important. Then pack clothes that you can wash easily (probably a week’s worth) toiletries such as shampoo and conditioner (I forgot my shampoo and conditioner in a hotel room before the tour even started. It was awful. We never seemed to stop at a place I could buy more. Bar soap is terrible shampoo. Don’t do this! Don’t forget a computer and chargers. Bottom line..less is more.
2. Sleep when you can: Along with the first bullet point, you have relatively no time when traveling from night to night long distances between venues. Any chance you get, catch a few extra zzzz, Learn to sleep sitting up…sleep standing up if you can! Earplugs saved my sanity. When most nights are spent in a van, an occasional motel room is a real gift. We were too cheap and strapped for cash to do that often, but somehow the roughness of the experience got to be part of what I liked. Bottom line… don’t expect a lot of sleep.
3. Snacking and Eating: The tour diet is pretty dismal. Convenience store dining does not lend itself to health or fitness. Beef jerky and beer will only sustain you for so long. I guess the big acts take their chefs with them (I don’t want to think about that now). The junk food diet will not maintain fitness, especially when the main exercise you get is loading in and out of venues. When you are driving long hours, you are either hungry or stuffing your face with junk food. It’s crazy when finding a pizza place in every city you get to is considered fine dining. Bottom line….scope out real food and take time to work out.
4. Take photos and remember stories: You are going to see so many amazing things on the road. One of my favorite things was a gas station that was area 51 themed, somewhere in Nevada. It was also funny because there was an extremely sketchy brothel attached to it. I have several pictures of the gas station, as well as the outside the brothel (I was 20 at the time, so couldn’t get in and probably would’ve been freaked out if I could have). Another time I was driving the van in the middle of the night and everyone was asleep. I got stopped along the US / Mexico border by ICE. The guy shined the flashlight in the van and asked if we were US citizens. I am a goofy 20 year old, never been on the border, not thinking too clear at 2AM and say, “I THINK so.” One of the other guys heard that just in time to intervene. He gave me grief about that one. We saw many great sites to get photos of, but I missed a lot because I was so in the moment. Tour is just as much about the experience, making memories and having fun as it is playing music. Of course, when you have the opportunity to get on that stage and play for an audience, there is nothing greater. Bottom line… Enjoy the experience.
5. Music: Let’s end these tips on a simple but most important one. Take great music out to the world. Whatever you have to play, give it your all. Put on a great show. Give the audience what they showed up and paid for. Don’t hold back. If you’re tired, hung-over, feel grungy, hungry, etc. ignore the feelings and play a great tight show. If the guys running the venue are jerks, ignore them and play a great show. If there is no audience at a venue, play a great show. The music is what it’s all about. Never get “too cool for school.” Always remember the first long hard, dirty, poor tour and how you loved it because you got to play music you wrote and share it with cool people willing to show up and listen. Bottom line…it’s all about the music.
Hope I get to see any of you out there on the road or in a venue somewhere soon!