It’s 2:30 AM. I’m exhausted. Spent. Drained. Not the kind of exhaustion you get when you are fed up of the grinding mundanity of things. This is the other kind: The kind of tiredness you get when you have given every ounce of energy to something brilliant.
Life on the Road
I’ve been away from home for almost 2 weeks.
The gig at the Half Moon in Putney, London went really well. The kind of Celtic Progressive Rock that we play for this tour is very challenging. Really hard. Memorising 15 minute songs that jump between 3/8, 5/4 and the odd bit of 15/16, often playing a bar or two on electric guitar, jumping over to acoustic for a few bars and back to electric ; and all this, while doing backing vocals and a sort of crazy tap dance to change the effects on my guitar and vocal processors. Very tricky!
The Tour we did back in 2015 was a trial by fire for me. The musicians in this band are incredible. World class. I really felt at the edge of my abilities.. Fast forward to 2016, to this gig and I have a sense of having played well. More importantly, I feel like I belong.
You see, 3 Years ago, I decided to quit my job and go into music full time. I wasn’t sure if I was good enough, but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t give it a shot. Right now, this feeling of belonging is really powerful. Not so long ago, I felt I was trapped with no hope… and now I’m up here standing on the shoulders of giants!
Touring is hard work. Its worth it. Playing music live is where we feel alive. Its where our gifts connect our inner world to the outside world. The outside world is the audience. On this tour the audiences were fantastic.
So its 2:00 am. I’m tired. I’m happy…actually…I’m hungry! Its time to peel back the curtain on tour life. The audience see the show but often don’t see what happens behind the scenes.
It can be tricky!
Eating properly while on tour is a challenge. We arrive at the venue somewhere between 3 and 5 PM. Loading all the gear in and set up takes at least an hour, usually 2 hours.
Soundcheck is at 7 and takes a long time due to the complexity of our setup and the amount of instruments we play.
Doors at 8. Gig 8:30 finish around 11PM.
Pack down and load out takes us to around 1:30 am.
What kind of food can you find at 1:30 am? Well usually there is no time to hunt for a kebab because its time to get to a hotel usually somewhere on the way to the next city.
Here is my first top touring tip:
This tour I brought a few packs of trail mix (Dried fruit and nuts) and combined them with those biscuits you get in hotels room.
Before I started touring, I assumed that top pro’s spent weeks rehearsing together. For this tour, Frank Van Essen (Drummer and Violinist) flew in from Holland and the rest of us drove from around the UK to rehearse at Dave Bainbridge’s studio. The reality is that all the time your are rehearsing, you aren’t earning money.
So we did just two days rehearsal ( OK, they were two solid 13 hour days rehearsing…but this stuff is so challenging that I would have liked a week!!!)
There weren’t any charts or written music provided of the guitar parts. I just had the CD. So its essential that I put (A LOT) of time beforehand doing my homework; writing charts, learning lyrics, practising instrument changes and effects changes.
Travelling in a tour bus was awesome….
Ok, I’m kidding, we were travelling in a van and a little Vauxhall Corsa with no Air con, in the hottest September in the UK since records began. I was not glamorous but…
When I travel, I listen to podcasts and try to get some sleep, while sandwiched between a load of gear. However, one of the highlights of touring is the the learning, the conversations and the discussion with band mates. Most of that happens while travelling in the car.
If you came to any of the gigs, You know we had A LOT of gear. I had and acoustic on a stand, a mandolin, an electric and a whole load of amps and effects. Dave had two keyboards, electric guitars and a bouzouki. Simon had a 6 string bass, a chapman stick, a fretless bass and a moog synth. Sally had a guitar, Toms, percussion, a bass recorder and Frank had a drum kit, violin, and a huge orchestral drum… and all the amps and stands and cases.
Fortunately, we had roadies…
Only joking, we didn’t have any roadies. Packing, moving, loading and unloading the gear was really physically punishing; which brings me to…
While on tour, exercise is pretty important for me. To make sure I don’t pick up any injuries, I go on runs and do press ups and sit ups every morning.
Something funny happened when I was in London. Being the only morning person on tour, I got up early and went for a run in the park. I saw a guy playing basketball on his own and approached him. He looked confused. Maybe terrified, actually! Apparently, in big cities is not the done thing to talk to strangers on public transport or ask complete strangers if you can give them a game of one on one b-ball in the park.
An 45 mins later, I was 10-6 up and had a workout.
This story just sums up why I love touring: New unexpected experiences in new places, all made possible by playing music.
That’s you guys. You make this possible. I’ve highlighted ways in this blog that touring is not glamorous but getting to play music to you and meeting you after the shows, was an incredible privilege.
Some of you travelled hours to get to the shows, paying not just for travel but accommodation too. Thank You. To my friends Ian and Sue who came from the USA via the UK to Romania… Thank You.
To all the guys wearing Dave Brons T-shirts: Brad, Dan, Andy and others: Thank you, you guys made me laugh so much. To everybody who bought my album, “based on a true story” from the merch table, thank you: You guys paid my wages!!!!
Support by you all, buying tickets, buying merch is the only thing making this live music thing viable.
A big thank you… And see you next year!!!