Touring is an interesting beast. Sure, you’re getting to travel to places you’ve never been before and meet lots of people, but there’s so much more to it than that. There’s the logistics and admin work that goes into planning out stops, shows, where you’re staying in hotels or with friends, or in some cases camping, and a whole plethora of other concerns and details that need to be worked out. Going into it, I had a naive expectation of essentially a fun filled adventurous vacation. While there was plenty of fun, and more than enough adventure to go around, it was definitely work.
The thing was, I didn’t quite realize that there’s different kinds of travel—travel for vacation and relaxation, travel for work, travel for adventure, and so on, and none of them are quite like tour. I had never really thought about it too much; it was something that had never crossed my mind. At some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, I’ll have all the work taken care of for me and I’ll just get to think about the music. However, as an independent artist, it’s still all on me. In the summer of 2018, I embarked upon my very first tour around the US, covering 12,000 miles over more than three months. It was a learning experience to say the least.
Assuming that it was going to be a lot, I tried to prepare for every situation, but I didn’t quite realize what I was getting myself into. I didn’t consider the fact that while I was on the road, I’d also still be answering emails, making phone calls, having shows or places to stay fall through, essentially just figuring it out as I went—I was torn. I had never been to almost any of the amazing towns and cities I was going to be passing through, and I wanted to relish in the new experiences and cultures I would get to experience. I decided to set up some specific shows and places to stay but would leave certain ends open, which in theory sounds great and carefree, but in practice…let’s just say I didn’t quite nail the execution.
It started off with a private performance in Orlando, Florida, which I then planned around. I had never tried playing or booking shows in another state before, and it was initially a daunting task. Gradually, it got easier as I realized that my network of musicians, producers, managers, and friends was the most important asset I had. I started reaching out through them to see who had connections or even just recommendations for cities I was passing through, looking for venues and places to stay. I had mixed results, but the first month of tour ended up fairly solidly booked, staying with friends, friends of friends, friends of acquaintances, and everything in between.
The remaining two months were a whirlwind of driving hours on end daily, playing shows, meeting up with friends around the country I hadn’t seen in years, and even ended with my car being broken into and having gear stolen two weeks before the end. Still, even then, it was worth it. Every city I went to, I tried to remain positive and open to experiences and the people I would meet, and that is one thing I would definitely advocate—don’t underestimate the power of being nice to strangers, and reaching out to friends. Some of the most incredible experiences I had were the result of short and lively conversations with new friends that I made along the way. Simply by talking to people, I had opportunities come my way and made wonderful connections. I ended up staying in places like North Carolina, camping on the main stage of a 60 acre festival for week and howling at the moon. In Nashville I stayed with some blue grass musicians on their tour bus, chatting late into the night drinking their homemade moonshine.
Those two examples don’t even come close to describing the time we spent together and the friendships formed, and are just two of countless stories I could tell. There’s definitely a dichotomy to life on the road, between adventure and challenges, and I don’t want to paint an inaccurate picture. It’s tough, but it’s worth it. Even if it seems daunting, challenging, or even downright scary to take on a task like planning and executing your own tour, do it. Make it happen. Do whatever it takes, and along the way when things go wrong, don’t regret going or wonder why you’re putting yourself through the ringer. Just remember it, learn from it, and know that you won’t make the same mistakes next time.