Tommy Ashby – TOUR TIPS

In this Tour Tips segment, the singer-songwriter, Tommy Ashby, recommends advice for being a musician on the road.

Tommy Ashby

In this Tour Tips segment, the singer-songwriter, Tommy Ashby, recommends advice for being a musician on the road. You can check out the tips, after the break.

I thought I would give some tour tips based on things that I have done and then subsequently regretted. I started writing and quickly realized that pretty much all of my tips revolved around eating or sleeping, but they are two pretty important things on a tour so I thought I would roll with it. Here is a snapshot…
Food on Tour
Solely eating the rider is not a sustainable method of sustenance throughout the length of a whole tour (n.b. the rider is food and drink that the promoter has put in your dressing room pre-gig – it can also include underpants and fluffy-pink toilet seats but we’ll leave that for just now). Sure, free food and beer can initially feel exciting but day after day of supermarket sandwiches and crisps take their toll on both your body and mind.
Thus Tip No.1: Put some healthy stuff on your rider.
This is the first line of defense against having food guilt on tour. However, most of the time the addition of health-conscious snacks like carrot sticks, hummus, and rice crackers is not able to mediate the tedium of being faced with the same food day in day out for months. Even in Europe, where they create the most incredible spreads of freshly made breads, hams, cheeses, and salads, the walls of the dark windowless dressing rooms will always start closing in.
This leads to Tip No.2: Leave the dressing room and venue before the gig; it is really important to get some space. Have a chill in a nice pub or make a sandwich and eat it while wandering about the city.
This tip has the added advantage that you actually get to experience a bit of the atmosphere and culture of the city you are playing in – a real challenge on most whistle-stop tours. It also adds variation to your diet and, as such, keeps you alive.
To completely contradict myself as an addendum – venue catering can be amazing. The only mitigating factor is that this still gets you out of the dressing-room and into the venue restaurant. Meals I distinctly remember are: lobster in Paris (though this did cause some inter-band friction due to limited lobster availability), pizza in Chicago, mac’n’cheese in the legendary King Tuts in Glasgow, and a life changing Nepalese curry in Hebden Bridge.
Regarding food, always bear in mind Tip No.3: Don’t beat yourself up about eating bad food.
Touring is tough anyway and giving yourself a hard time isn’t going to make it any easier. After a gig I often come off stage and stuff myself full of chocolate. It’s something to do with a combination of adrenaline, exercise, excitement and convenience. Be conscious of trying to eat healthily but don’t feel guilty about not succeeding (I wish I would take my own advice).
Sleeping on Tour
Sleeping can dominate your touring experience, especially if you are on a tour bus.
A few quick tips here, Tip No.1: The first night’s sleep is always a write off – don’t worry about it.
I’ve found that the first night on a tour bus I get very little sleep. Adjusting to being jiggled about all night takes some time and panicking about it doesn’t help. It’s just an odd experience – you are in a coffin sized bunk, you have at least 4 band mates within 4 feet of you and you are hurtling along a motorway at speed. Also, until you are in the big leagues your tour bus is likely to be old and noisy as hell. Every door will rattle, every air vent will whistle, and the toilet flush will sound like a gunshot.
Even in hotels you will likely be sharing with someone else and that takes some getting used to. With post-gig adrenaline coursing through your veins, calming down after a gig can be hard and sleep is unlikely. Also, you are going to have to accept that some embarrassing things are probably going to happen. There are very few jobs in the world which require you to live with your colleagues; daily contact time with your touring band pals probably exceeds that with your significant other.
And that leads me onto Tip No.2: Always try to be empathetic towards your touring friends.
As always, we don’t know what other people are going through. Playing music is in many ways only a small part of touring and the other bits can be tough. Being away from friends and family for a long time, lonely, sleep-deprived and hungry can all take their toll. This one can be hard at a 3am walk-through passport control when someone dares to start a conversation, or when a van wheel comes off on the motorway after the gig and you have to pick someone to walk to the service station. But hold onto that empathy friends, hold on!
Finally, sleep Tip No.3: Always have somewhere to sleep before you start the gig.
To be honest this is just my own personal one. To me booking a hotel after a gig is pure madness but sometimes it is cheaper and can help with routing. That is a bit of a random one but I’m always worried when playing a gig if we don’t have somewhere to stay.
Quick added tour tips
You can never have enough multi-plug sockets, headphones, phone chargers, earplugs, and plectrums.
Toothpaste is gold.
If the tour bus stops and you need the toilet GO TO THE TOILET. You may not get another chance.

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