Confessions From the Diary of a Road Musician


NASA requires their astronauts to undergo intensive psychological testing before shooting them into space. After all, they’ll be stuffed in a cramped vessel with no way off, and co-workers they can’t escape. Road bands, however, do not require such testing. I have been advocating psych evaluations for road musicians for years, but I’m not holding my breath that they’ll suddenly become common practice. A tour bus (or van) is by nature a high-stress environment prone to technical malfunctions, and after a month on the road you will passionately love or hate your band-mates, probably both at the same time. In either case, the bond you form will be much like the bond you have with your family: love ’em or hate ’em, you’re stuck with ’em.

In my band, we all know pretty much everything about each other, from shoe size, to favorite salad dressing, to religious and political stances. We know how to push each other’s buttons, and how to pull each other out of a funk. We spend months at a time together, and through that shared experience we’ve built an infrastructure of inside jokes and stories that allow us to communicate extremely efficiently, especially when on stage. (Imagine the back story necessary to be able to communicate “There’s a bearded lady in the front row!” in discreet sign language to six other people.) A tour bus is an emotional pressure cooker, so when deciding to join or start a band, keep these things in mind as you go: choose to play with great musicians but greater people, because these people will become your family. Like astronauts, musicians by nature are a little crazy – but there’s good crazy and bad crazy. Good crazy points out the bearded lady and chuckles with you after the show about it.

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