13 Tips For The Touring Musician

This article originally appeared in Music Insider Magazine – November 2012

I have split my time between being both a touring and recording musician since 1997. I find that both of these activities “feed” and support each other. Playing in the studio usually leads to cool live playing situations and playing with quality live musicians seems to open doors to recording projects. Many musicians draw a line in the sand and choose one or the other. I like doing both! In my experience traveling on planes, buses, train and automobiles; I have acquired some bits of wisdom that I am happy to share with you.

Here we go!

Know The Parts
Most touring musicians are hired to re create parts that were recorded by studio musicians. Your job is to know those parts inside and out. My advice is to play those parts every night, note for note with purpose, perfection, and passion. This is THE most important part of being a road musician. You have to play your parts and the show perfectly every night! Your lead singer, and band mates will appreciate the consistency! The management team and the fans will notice this as well. Secure your spot in the over crowded and competitive music world by playing flawlessly night after night.

Be Consistent.
Be reliable. Show up on time (or be early). Show Up Sober. Show Up Happy. Show Up ready to work. Ask yourself these questions: Can people rely on you? Do you have a great attitude and demeanor? The people that can answer “yes” to these questions hold on to gigs and keep getting recommended for other great gigs. Please don’t forget to be open, giving, and flexible. Take direction well and have a great attitude. People will notice that you exhibit these fantastic qualities and will spread the word. Now you have the world as your no cost marketing team.

Be Kind
Kindness goes a LONG way in any field and in any business. I am always kind to baggage handlers, hotel personnel, bus drivers, stewardesses, road crew members, techs, stage hands, caterers…everyone. All of these people’s efforts factors into the overall success of your organization. Everyone has individual skill sets and life paths. Who’s to say that your job is more important than theirs? Don’t be arrogant. Be kind, be helpful, be approachable, and be friendly. Spread joy and love. People will always remember this about you over any kind of musical talent. It’s a fact.

Dress The Part
Every band and every style of music seems to have a corresponding fashion style. A big band jazz group usually requires a tuxedo or tucked in shirt, tie and jacket combo. Hard rock may call for a dash of leather, studded belts and jean vests. Dress appropriately for your musical genre. I like to mix and match stuff. I’ve also gone through many phases over the years. Lately, I gravitate towards slim jeans, Converse low top shoes, a funky tee, a vest and a wallet chain. I mix and match brands and colors, but that’s my overall vibe. I own it and it works for me and the group I play in. Don’t be afraid to coordinate with your band. In our group, one guy may do the leather jacket, one guy does the vest open, one closed, one cat does the long sleeves, while another does short sleeves…mix it up to create that LOOK for your band. It’s important and you are kidding yourself if you think it’s not.

Prepare for Problems:
Have at least two of everything. Have backups of backups (especially anything electronic like drum machines, samplers, trigger pads or computers). Have a great relationship with all of your endorsing companies. You (or your tech) need to be able to pick up the phone and have a spare or replacement part shipped out to you immediately. For drummers, try having backups of these items:

Snare Drums
Cymbal felts
Duct tape
Lug locks

Can’t We All Get Along?
Be a team player. There is no “I” in team. The band behind Jason Aldean knows each other inside and out. We are aware what makes each of us “tick” musically and personally. We get along. Sure, we may fight like brothers sometimes, but we are committed to one thing… making the show kick ass night after night! Get along with your band mates and everyone on your tour from the road manager to the stage manager to the head chef. GO TEAM!

Get Off The Bus
The road can make you pretty weary. They don’t call it “road worn” for nothing. Get off the bus, take a walk, and see the local surroundings (museums, art galleries, record shops, clothing stores, gyms). I like to go for runs and stop at the local Starbucks to make phone calls. I take fun pictures of my surroundings and send them to my wife. This is a fun hobby we have that helps keep us “together” while we are constantly separated. Get some fresh air! Smell the roses.

Have A Hobby
I don’t have any time or interest in building ships in a bottle, but I do like to decompress a bit from the stresses of touring with an awesome koumbucha tea and a movie with my band mates. I like to read books on spirituality, music, motivation business, as well as biographies and the occasional thriller. I also do lots of writing for magazines (like this one you are reading). These things are great distractions and are healthy.

Make Friends
The most appealing part of travel is making friends all over the world. I have friends in almost every major city. We catch up, have coffee or do lunch. Sometimes friends will stop by sound check or one of my events. It’s a blast! I like to teach drum lessons and give my motivational drum events at colleges, high schools, music stores, drum shops and corporate events everywhere. (Check out www.crashcourseforsuccess.com). I meet lots of people and make many new friends. It’s an honor and a privilege to have this opportunity and I don’t take it for granted. Do yourself a favor and make some friends in your travels. Your life will be richer!

Eat Right
You truly are what you eat. This subject could warrant an entire article in itself. A good rule of thumb here is “everything in moderation”. Limit sugars and refined carbohydrates (bread, pastas, tortillas), avoid heavy sauces and cream toppings, and avoid fatty meats high in saturated fats. I say ‘no’ to soda and ‘yes’ to water. I love coffee and tea. I always try to eat balanced and clean. Think: Tuna on whole wheat, salad with a chicken breast and a light vinaigrette, sushi with brown rice, lean beef with spinach or broccoli, an egg white omelet, greek yogurt with local honey and blueberries, or grilled salmon with sweet potato and veggies. Always choose ‘grilled’ over ‘fried’. Eat smaller meals every 3 to 4 hours. Eating heavy bogs me down. I pull long hours and I have to have energy to play drums in a very physical style. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your diet and tweak things until you find your perfect eating philosophy. Focus on how the food and combination of foods makes you feel. Remember: ‘Eat light, eat often’!

Get Some Exercise
Get out there and move! Exercise burns calories, keeps your muscles toned, helps with endurance and helps rid your body of toxins. Exercise reduces your chances for acquiring a disease and extends your life span. I have found that I have to regularly ‘mimic’ the amount of energy that I expend while playing the drums and the cardiovascular intensity I exert when I play a live show. This is essentially a “chop” that goes away very quickly. If I don’t play show for 30 days and I don’t exercise regularly, I will immediately notice a difference when I come back to playing live shows. You have to exercise! I prefer a mixture weight training, cardio (street runs, treadmill, stair climber, elliptical trainer) and fitness “boot camps”. Keep experimenting, find something you like and stick with it. Your body will thank you!

Don’t Over Do It
Musicians are always surrounded by a limitless supply of booze and drugs. If you want it, it’s easy to find and it’s usually free of charge. I don’t do drugs. I never have. DON’T DO DRUGS! Opening that box can take you down a dark path that you may never find your way out of. I do like to relax and drink socially. Please realize that it can get out of hand quickly. Know when to say ‘when’. Alcohol is something that can very easily keep you from reaching your maximum potential in the music business. Enjoy it responsibly and make sure it never interferes with your gig, your relationships and your quality of life!

Save Some Cash:
The music business is like a roller coaster… Lots of ups AND downs and very unpredictable. Tours come and go. Artists like to take time off or even cancel tours. Make sure you set aside a bit of cash to get you through these unavoidable moments. You just need a bit to get you through to the next tour or project. Save some cash!

“Redmond’s Rules Of The Road”

Always warm up and stretch before a show
Always take bottled water from the back stage area for your hotel and bunk.
Always have protein bars, nuts and any healthy snacks for future use. Dump them in your backpack and go!
ALWAYS know where your luggage is and always have it with you.
Have tags and your contact information on every piece of your luggage. I use plastic tags, strips of bright colored tape (neon pink or green), AND the airline tag.
Never pass up a hot shower. Who knows when your next one will be?
Always be kind to everyone. Especially the runner. The “runner” is the person the venue hires to drive people back and forth from airports and hotels, pickup food, make gym runs and take band members on personal errands (post office, anniversary present shopping, and of course this one…”Can you take me to buy a couple of pairs of underwear? All of mine are dirty and we have another week on this tour!”)
Don’t eat too heavy before a gig. Save it for after. You don’t want to look or feel bloated when you are trying to put on a sexy performance. Ha!
Use text messages, email, Skype and Apple’s “Facetime” app to keep in touch with loved ones, family, friends and other musical colleagues. These are an indispensable and mostly FREE ways of keeping in touch and nurturing those precious relationships.
Have a ‘system’ for storing your most important items in your backpack. I have everything ‘compartmentalized’, so when I go thru airport security, I know where everything has to end up after I take it all out and put it in those annoying plastic bins. Constantly perform an inventory: Keys, drivers license, passport, phone, wallet, watch, computer, Ipad, passport, flight itinerary, house keys, Ilock for Pro Tools, chargers…all of it. Know where it is at all times. It’s very easy for things to get misplaced and left behind fast. Have a system.
Always write down the name of your hotel or take a hotel business card from the front desk. If you are jetlagged or get turned around in a foreign city, at least you have the name and address of the hotel.
Always have a little cash on you. It’s such a cashless society now. I find myself without cash most of the time. When you want to tip that baggage handler or cabbie, it’s way easier to have cash.
Take pictures! Life is short! I have snapped pictures every step of the way with my journey in the Jason Aldean band. We all look back at these experiential snapshots and laugh. We’ve had such a great time. Pictures are the proof that it happened! Don’t miss your opportunity to archive the times of your life. It’s even better when you share it with the world.
Shoot Video! You will look back and smile at all of it.
Share your journey with your fans via social media. Facebook and Twitter are very effective and FREE ways to promote your band or YOU as a creative brand. Coca Cola and Pepsi are brands. YOU are a brand. You just have to not be afraid of letting people know you exist. There is only ONE you! Share your experiences. Be transparent. Be friendly. Be YOU. Build your brand. Post photos, videos and insights into your life. It’s powerful! “Be Yourself. Everyone else is already taken”-Oscar Wilde

I’m always happy to answer questions via email. In addition to session drumming, you can contact me about production work, songwriting, drum lessons (via Skype or in person), drum clinics motivational speaking engagements, guest artist appearances with high school/collegiate ensembles or playing drums on your next recording via the internet. Thanks so much!


Remember: Play from the heart, it will set you apart!

Many Cheers,

Book Rich

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