When I was a kid, I dreamed of running away and joining the circus. I am fortunate enough to make a version of that my current reality, especially when I get to travel and perform with Emoción. It's the project that has required me to travel the most and to the largest number of cities so far. So to me, that's as close as I get to running away and joining the circus (until I become a headliner at Cirque du Soleil, that is 😉).
The question that people, movies and inspirational quotes often fail to ask, though, is, what are you willing to sacrifice or endure to make your dreams come true? And once they do come true, how do you remember to keep the magic alive? After all, don't they always say 'Be careful what you wish for'?
Everything you'll read below, no matter how hard or challenging it may seem in my personal experience, none of that - and I mean none of that - even makes a dent in the utter euphoria of being able to say 'I am doing the grown up thing I dreamed of doing when I was a kid'.
The reality of the music industry today is not in artists’ favor. Especially when they go it alone, without the support and funding of a label. Without that, you’ve got to do your own representation, management, tour management, bookings, and of course, it means no 5-star hotel suites to crash in after the performance.
We all love to imagine ourselves living the rock’n’roll lifestyle on tour. We want to party till dawn, especially following the adrenaline rush of having performed to a packed venue, standing ovations and 2 call backs every night. It literally is the thrill of the chase. The dream we’ve been chasing since we can remember.
So of course, when you get to do that for real, you have to be all in. And you’re quickly humbled by what it actually means to be on the road. To have 2 or 3 performances in the same day - not to mention the hauling of the equipment, set up and sound check at the different venues these back to back performances take place all in the span of a few hours. You don’t think about the long drive, day in day out, from one city to the next, stretches of highways, scenery made up of names of towns you’ve never even heard of. Towns whose smells you’ll never get to know. You don’t know where or when you’ll get to sleep in a comfortable bed, or if you’ll have time to have a proper shower or steam your dress, style your hair, and look the part come performance time.
There’s so much I could tell you about all this behind the scenes stuff we go through every day while on the road. But I thought it’d be more fun to give you my own humble tips to make the best of it. Things I’ve figured out along the way based on unexpected wardrobe malfunctions or a far-from-optimal use of time or simply, lack of experience. So here goes:
1. Wash your hair. If you have access to a good shower (with hot water and decent water pressure), and you miraculously have some time to use the blow dryer, take advantage of that. You might need to be up at 6h the next morning for a 5-hour drive after which you won’t check in to your room or crash on a friend's couch till past midnight, and by then, you’ll only want to go to bed. Speaking of which
2. Squeeze in some SLEEP. If it means sleeping on the bus between 8h and 13h, do it, and make sure you have a cosy blanket to optimize your sleep quality. By the time you reach your next performance destination, you’ll need all your energy for the sound check and you’ll probably have an hour (or 2 at best) to get ready for the concert.
3. Say goodbye to privacy. Yes, you read that right. You'll sometimes have to take turns for the bathroom/shower, share a couch with other bandmates, and everyone will hear your facetime conversation with your special one. Expand your comfort zone and get used to it.
4. When not performing, wear flat shoes (your feet will thank u later). Leave the glam and the stilettos for the performance. Be kind to your body and allow it to fully rest and be comfortable off stage. You also might want to pack some Compeed - a true life saver in these situations as you'll most likely have to stand on your high heels for longer than expected and you will get blisters.
5. While on the subject, when off stage, keep your face moisturized and makeup-free (your skin will thank u later). You’ll often need to double up on the concealer (see point 2 above) and wear stage-ready make up. Which means your skin will not always have a lot of time to rest and regenerate, even less so when your sleep patterns and cycle are out of whack.
6. Keep a scarf nearby. The weather might decide to play coy and catch you off guard and the last thing you want to do is catch a cold or spend hours with your throat exposed to lower temperatures and humidity.
7. Pack light. You will likely have to haul your suitcase around. A lot. Versatile pieces of clothing are key in this situation. Also, steer clear of colors 'that only go with that one pair of shoes or accessory'. Think of mixing and matching the same pieces in order to create multiple options with a minimum number of elements. Pack clothes that don't wrinkle easily, and always keep a reliable little black dress which will cover up the extra bloating (due to all the delicious bread you're eating - see point 9 below) and is super flattering. Also, keep an extra pair of high heels in case the other pair breaks 10 minutes before going on stage. Vary the accessories more than the dresses. They're smaller, lighter and will help avoid repeating outfits.
8. Before we tackle nutrition, THE one rule of thumb here: drink LOTS of water. This applies to daily life, but on the road, water will be your best friend as it’ll keep you and your vocal cords hydrated and alert. Skip the processed juices, sodas, alcohol (if you manage to do that last one, please do share your secret).
9. You'll often have to grab quick meals on the go - be it at gas stations or sometimes questionable food stalls. That's just inevitable. So you might wanna leave your keto / gluten-free / organic / intermittent fasting experiment to a later date when you have control over your meal plans. This ain't happening on the road. Some days, you'll have to make do with what you can find at the local bakery. Which is actually delicious in Germany 😉.
And one more thing:
10. Keep your earphones nearby, you may need to learn a new song or 2 for the same evening. Use your time on the road to listen and learn your stuff. Even if it’s not what your usual process entails. Be open to that possibility and do your best.
And above all, enjoy it. All of it. Not many people get to say 'I'm doing what I love' on a daily basis, so never ever take that for granted. For me, this is it. There are no what ifs, no plan B, no alternate scenario. I'm all in. And I'd choose it again and again. It's the only life I know. It's the only life I want.