Improvisation is the word of the day. Actually, it’s been the word of the day for the past ten or eleven days that I’ve been on tour, and it seems like it will only become a more important word as I continue down that gorgeous Golden Highway down the West Coast. Improvisation while tired. Improvisation while drunk. Improvisation while dealing with a girl who doesn’t seem to want to detach herself from your lips. These are all things that you are going to have to deal with on the road. So what is a man to do? Tour managing is one of the most mentally challenging things that I have ever done, and my aility to improvise has been crucial.
That’s why touring bands tend to be made up of very chilled out dudes. The successful ones, and the ones who have a good time on the road are the ones who are willing to just kind of feel it out and take it as it comes, see where the wind takes them and move from there. They know to follow their schedule and that then everything should be okay. The people who don’t know how to improvise and aren’t really willing to deviate from their schedule are going to have a really hard time with this whole thing. Being anal is important, but when things get rough, you need to be ready to change. It’s rare to find true balance, and on any given day I might err on either side of this spectrum, as will most other people, you just need to keep on keeping on.
Of course – if you are the improviser of the group you shouldn’t let people take advantage of you. When people see that you are flexible they are going to take advantage of that and try to show up places late known that you are going to be willing to try and work around it. This balance is crucial and incredibly difficult to deal with. No one wants to have to be the compromiser, and yet if you are someone of importance in this industry then you are inevitably going to have to step up to the plate at some point and be that guy. No one truly appreciates this craft and few people are going to try and help you with the challenges this task provides. As it has always been, part of the day to day struggle of the industry is dealing with the egos of rock stars and the business oriented side of the industry.
People are always going to be difficult, especially with the little sleep, sore hineys and short fuses that tour life tends to foster. If you’re a musician on you it’s the being kind to your stressed out tour manager and taking care of your bandmates that matters. When you’re exhausted and act bitter to people you’re going to hurt yourself in the long run. You need to realize that when on tour stuff happens, and a lot of times you won’t be making quite as much money as you would like. Odds are that that stuff is due to musicians being incompetent children. Guess what – no one is making enough money anyway. The willingness to improvise comes out under stress, but it proves the enduring importance that these kinds of things will always have.
There’s a reason regularly touring musicians tend to be really smart people. Every night they are dealing with a separate set of issues unless they have an amazing tour manager. Hopefully you can cut your teeth working shows and playing shows of your own before going on tour – trust me it will help. The more experience you have with underground music the more you will find yourself capable of dealing with the day to day struggles of road life. I feel like that is exactly why I have so quickly come to enjoy this lifestyle, despite how stressful and boring it can be. After all – what else are we trying to do but to save the world?
So keep on keeping on. Expect the worst and be happy when that doesn’t happen, that’s how I live my life. One step at a time, stressed to tears and terrified of pretty much everything. Guess what, it’s only rock and roll and it doesn’t matter. We are just dust in the wind, staying together and finding our freedom through he good times and the bad, in love with the bloody brutal energy of an industry that harvests our passions and oftentimes only spits out misery. I know that sounds melodramatic or whatever but screw it, we have no other choice but to carry on and see this bitch through until the end.
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