Canadian Musician - January / February - Page 42

The Unique Challenges of Life as a Touring Musician | By liam Duncan L ast year, at the end of a month-long tour with my band, The Middle Coast, my girlfriend flew out to Victoria to meet me. We were going on a road trip back to Winnipeg. The night before her flight, she lost a lot of sleep stressing about catching her flight. That made me start to take notice of how stressed out travelers are in general. Airports are like public meet-ups for grumpy people. There is a lot to remember when travelling, and always the possibility of things going awry. People are spending money, packing, planning and catch- ing flights, and figuring out where to eat. There’s a lot going on. Having noticed this, I became interested in the way that artists handle touring and being on the road. Travel tends to go hand-in-hand with being an artist; whether you’re on tour, travelling to write or record, or attending meetings, conferences, and the like, art- ists are often on the road upwards of 100 days per year. And when we tour, we aren’t just catching a few flights and hitting a few cities and landmarks; we’re often in a different city every day, getting there at a specific time with thousands of dollars in gear in tow. On top of all that, artists are worried about ticket sales, finances, staying healthy, and where they are going to sleep. There is a lot to be stressed about, yet artists are forced to adapt. The reality is that an artist’s life is often filled with the kind of stress that many people would find very difficult to manage. Beyond the travel, you can be under creative pressure to make great art, you’re un- der financial pressure to make ends meet without a steady income, you have to deal with the baked-in un- 42 • C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N certainty of the career, and you have to deal with the toll that a career in music takes on your relationships. Like most people, artists typically only show off their positive experiences on social media. While this gives an impression of ease and stability, there is al- ways a lot going on behind the scenes. I spoke with a few of my favourite touring art- ists and asked them about their relationship with the road – how their experiences on the road shape their day-to-day, whether it inspires creativity, and how they deal with the unique challenges that come with the lifestyle. These conversations were rewarding and inter- esting, but a few of the artists also mentioned how cathartic it was to actually talk about how hard this job can be. Sometimes the Hardest Part Is Coming Home One of the most interesting themes that emerged through these conversations was the difficulty artists have with getting home. Upon reflection, this shouldn’t have been surprising, but initially I figured I would be hearing a lot more tour hor- ror stories. The truth is, artists get pretty good at being on tour, and are often in a state of high-functionality all