This is a seldom discussed topic, but one of career-making importance. I’ve spent years touring with only a few weeks at home, and the below is a collection of stuff that I’ve learned along the way.
Setting up Home
I was working with a session guitarist from LA who was visiting the UK and I noticed that he’d decorated his room with possessions. When I asked, he told me that even in a hotel for one night he would put out pictures, unpack (at least a bit) and ‘own’ his room. Since then I’ve followed suit, and found that it really helps. Creating familiar surroundings is good for the soul, and your mental health. Another benefit is keeping your feet on the ground, reminding you of who you are and where you are from. It only takes about 15 minutes, once you get into the swing of it, and it’s quite a relaxing thing to do.
For my touring suitcase I keep a strict one-in-one-out policy. I’ve got great things, but only because I’ve become more selective with my purchases. I want my case to be full of great stuff, not have several case loads of crap to deal with. This makes my life a lot easier, and helps when going through airports too. Also, if I don’t use an object, or an item of clothing never gets worn, I’ll get rid of it or give it to charity. Even if friends and family give you presents, do not feel obliged to carry them with you.
When you gig all the time, you still often feel a great buzz after shows, but that can be followed by a bit of a downer when you feel lonely, tired (but not sleepy), homesick, or just fed up.
This is the number one reason players reach for the bottle, take drugs, pick up groupies or a combination of all three. Keeping your high seems like a great idea, compared to going back lonely to an unfamiliar hotel room. Often you can party every night, and drink and drugs can be freely available. I’m not passing any judgements in this article, just suggesting that you recognize what you are feeling and be careful. You might as well try not to ruin your career, or your mind. Take a step back sometimes and try to notice if your feelings are affected by your lifestyle, and perhaps aren’t as real as they seem.
Being a rock star feels great but shedding on your instrument, listening to music, watching films, keeping in touch with friends and family are OK too. You don’t have to party every night. I’m no hypocrite, and I’ve certainly done my fair share of partying on tour, and I haven’t hit a point where I need to stop, but I do mix it up and try to look after my body and mind. When you’ve had access to unlimited free alcohol for months at a time, the temptation is definitely there.
Girls Girls Girls (or boys…)
I don’t have specific advice on this topic. Some of the best and happiest players I know are married or in long term relationships, and then some are womanizing players too, not one or the other.
All I can say is look inward. Is what you are doing helping or hindering you. Chicks dig guys in bands (or at least enough do that meeting them is not usually an issue), and everyone digs girls in bands (Beyonces band in particular). This can be great, but I’ve seen people tear themselves apart a bit with lies, cheating, psycho groupies and by committing to long distance relationships that they aren’t enjoying. I’d suggest you take other people’s advice, and look at your effect on yourself and those around you.
Pissing Each Other Off
Touring keeps you with a small group of people in pretty confined space, for long periods of time, with little to no escape. Here are my suggestions:
- Don’t be a dick, you aren’t actually more important than anyone else
- Give people space
- Be open about problems
- When people snap, don’t rise to it
- If you snap, apologise
There’s plenty of other complications living on the road, but I have had a wicked time so far, and seen a lot of amazing things, all over the world. I’d have to recommend the lifestyle, for a portion of your 20’s at very least. Just don’t let it turn you crazy, depressed or wanting to quit music. Embrace the life, and heed good advice.