Life on tour — the experience of a musician.
Auditions, emails, rehearsals, flights, vans, taxis, load-in, set-up, soundcheck, dinner, gig, pack up and onto the next show. Touring is fun, but there’s more to it than travelling and playing.
This is Carlos, and I am a professional musician. To be more specific, I play drums for different bands and artists. This Autumn I have been touring UK and Europe, and I’ve gotten to know what it is like to be on the road to play your music in front of a new audience every night.
When I come back from tour, friends and family are amazed at the list of places I’ve been lucky to visit, but as much as that sounds great, unfortunately touring does not consist of sightseeing plus the occasional playing. Personally, the shows are the pinnacle of every show day, and the focus is to keep my delivery for them intact. That means that throughout the day, even if I get to see a bit of Amsterdam or Paris, I cannot jeopardise my performance in the night. I have got to rest, eat well and get to wherever I got to be at the time scheduled. That often means leaving sightseeing for another moment, eating safe, and adding extra minutes to every activity to ensure punctuality. Touring is also waiting long hours at venues, airport security checks, getting stuck in traffic and non-existent sleeping and eating routines
However, days off, albeit scarce, are to be blessed. I have really enjoyed the travel days when you fly/drive in early, and days in between shows where us touring musicians (and crew) dedicate our time to step out the frenetic, constantly moving pace of airports, roads and venues. Thanks to these, during this tour I got to explore most of Warsaw, Antwerp and Berlin, get a workout in or finish my Postgraduate writing piece. Prague’s day off was dedicated to sleeping and resting, whilst all the other dates, if there was a bit of time, it was mainly spent on eating well and switching off, and trust me, as a vegetarian, I don’t always have the luxury of being able to eat healthy and go pass the crisps, sweets and cheesy meals, specially around mainland Europe. As previously said, as a musician the most important thing is to be performance-ready when required. It’s a high-risk job in the sense of that many eventualities can get in the way unless you prevent them. It is my responsibility to make mind and body work to the best of their abilities when I am on stage.
In this last tour, I got to play drums for Monarchy throughout UK and Europe. They are signed to Warner, a major record label, and have a pretty successful 10 year history behind them. Luckily for me, that often means people tend to take care of us, offer good catering and all the tour production is another person’s job, who put the effort behind organising travel, accommodation and liaising with venues.
I only was confirmed to play on this tour, with 13 dates in 10 countries, two weeks prior to its start. And I was living in Bristol at that time, meaning I had to quickly move to Madrid and prep an hour worth of music within a week to then have a week of rehearsals, just before flying to Copenhagen, our first destination. All whilst adapting to a new city and a new life. In all honesty, I experienced periods of self-doubt and lacking any sense of stability, but the feeling of excitement and having one of the opportunities of my life right in front of me overrode every other emotion. I now look back at the experience, and I cannot still believe how lucky I am. As the tour progressed, I gained confidence, adapted to the hectic schedules, early flights, and the constant feeling of not knowing when you are going to eat or rest. The latter meant I was very often sleepy and hungry regardless, ready to binge on food, and constantly searching for decent coffee spots to keep me awake!
Besides the Monarchy Mid:Night Tour, I was also in the midst of my band Ålesund’s first UK Tour, which took us all over the country, travelling long distances in small cars, sleeping at friends’ houses and no days off outside of Bristol. And that is a very different side to touring as a musician. An unsigned band, playing in front of an audience that barely knows you, all in little, cozy venues without catering. On top of that, it was our job to promote these nights well, hoping people would come in, enjoy our music and buy a CD to at least break even. Nonetheless, this DIY spirit brought a more emotionally-rewarding experience when the tour came to an end.
By now I have probably mentioned every downside of touring, and whilst they are true, none of them stop me from craving going out on the road again. This experience has taught me how to make home of the people that you spend your time with. Be it my own music, or another artist’s, I feel uber grateful to play in front of people every night, in a different place. Highly welcomed occasional sightseeing, getting to meet friends along the way, and making some new ones as well also form the base behind me making the decision to pursuing more touring work in the future. And most importantly, it is a superb experience to live as a musician, as all the technical and soft skills that have taken me a very long time to sharpen culminate in being able to travel across the planet to play some music. In the meantime, a festival in New Zealand in February awaits, followed by a stint of dates with Ålesund around the UK, Netherlands and Germany, and I can’t wait!
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All images are analog pictures taken by Carlos Coronado.
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