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Staying healthy on tour means far more than avoiding alcohol poisoning. Eating well, exercising and avoiding stresses on your body that will lower your immune system are all crucial to not canceling shows.
Singers on tour risk colds that could potentially damage vocal cords, and equally important is the idea of avoiding vocal fatigue with proper warming up and cooling down. Dream Theater singer James LaBrie says, “I go into my room and do lip bubbles,” when asked about his post-show routine. The singers who don’t take the time to properly cool their voices down, and bring their voices back to a speaking range, LaBrie says, will wake up feeling hoarse the net day.
Vocal coach Jaime Vendera, who has worked with LaBrie and has appeared on MythBusters shattering glasses with his voice, says that for colds, Emergen-C powder is great for an immune system boost. “If you feel it coming on, do two packets in water every hour on the tour bus until you feel the cold beginning to subside,” he offers, adding that those who have great vocal technique can sing with a cold without hurting their voice, but if a singer has laryngitis or strep, he or she should cancel the gig. “Sinus Clear Out from the company Superior Vocal Health will help a cold,” Vendera adds, and for a lost voice, he says Vocal Rescue gargle works wonders.
“I used it [Vocal Rescue] after flying to China to do live show,” he continues. “My throat was dry and a bit raw from the flight, so I gargled, and then shattered three glasses in only a few seconds each.”
In addition to protecting the vocalist’s instrument, all band members and crew need to maintain their physical health. Eating well presents a constant challenge for touring musicians because they are often forced to stay backstage or on the tour bus for extended periods of time.
“Since the nutritional value of Denny’s/truck stops/anything open after 2 a.m. is questionable, at best, I recommend buying a bottle of a reputable brand multivitamin for the road,” Phoenix Mangus, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist of MurderAnn, says. “Also, it is very important to stay properly hydrated, whether you’re playing muggy summer festivals or stewing under hot stage lights in winter.” Mangus also says that alcohol does the opposite of hydrating your body, so drink plenty of water and sports drinks.
Musicians burn plenty of calories on stage, assuming they are behind the drum kit or active with their instruments, but the nightly show doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to exercise. Not every musician values staying physically fit, but exercise affects not only muscular strength but also mental health. Anyone who’s ever been on the road knows that emotions range from exhilaration to depression.
Megadeth guitarist Chris Broderick says he has been known to run hotel stairs in a pinch, but “a portable membership at a gym with many locations nationwide can be a very wise investment,” Soylent Ape, bassist/vocalist for MurderAnn, advises. “Beyond the obvious benefit [of nationwide locations], is the use of shower and bathroom facilities, often 24/7; the importance of which cannot be underestimated on tour.” Ape says that membership can cost as little as $20 per month, and added that he thinks it’s important to never pass up an opportunity to stretch, especially before taking the stage.
Lastly, perhaps the most crucial element to staying healthy on tour is to maintain a sense of mental health and positive well-being. Traveling away from friends and family takes a toll on anyone, but bands that wave goodbye for months at a time have a responsibility to each other to stay healthy by avoiding overindulgence and keeping an even keel. Music is known for driving away demons and encouraging catharsis, but sometimes the lives of those who write the songs get too tightly mingled. Open lines of communication and honesty are the best ways to safeguard mental health on tour.