Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Coast To Coast #4: Love Is a Long Road
I'm writing y'all from a Starbucks in downtown Denver. I'm listening to the new My Morning Jacket single (!) on my headphones and trying not to make a scene in public. I'm failing.
Last we left off, I was in Seattle, waiting for my car to get new shoes at Firestone. What have I done since then? Driven. A lot. I've driven through Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, and now Colorado. I've seen mountains, I've seen snow, I've seen (I think?) Badlands, and I've seen buttes.
(Pausing for giggles...)
I was tempted not to post today, since I've done nothing but drive hundreds of miles in the interim. Where's the action? Where's the intrigue? But then I remembered that driving from show to show is about 90% of touring. I drive, I listen to music, I try out new podcasts, and I think. Outside the 45 minutes I'm onstage, that's life on the road. To keep a tour blog and not talk about driving endlessly would be a little silly.
From the outside looking in, it might look a bit more romantic. "You get to see new places! You get to meet fascinating strangers you'll never see again! Kerouac, man!" And all of that. And, to be honest, there is that. I do see new places, I do meet interesting strangers I'll likely never see again, I do chat up locals in strange locales, and I love exploring off the beaten path.
But that all happens when you have spare time.
When you're driving upwards of 12 hours between shows, trying to squeeze in some rehearsal, hanging out with your hosts and friends in each city, getting to the venue early for load-in/sound-check, waiting til the end of the night to get paid, packing/unpacking/repacking each morning, etc...the day fills up.
Add onto that the fact that I'm like most independent artists: I still do pretty much everything myself.
For example, I'm my own booking agent. This means I'm still booking more gigs while I'm on the road. I'm not only filling out this tour but already setting up future tours. I'm juggling anywhere from 15-50 correspondences a day to keep the shows coming.
I'm my own tour manager. Once a show's booked, it's gotta be properly advanced. Checking with the venue to make sure all the promo material 1) exists and 2) is accurate. Teaming up with the venue to cross-promote shows online (e.g. the venue inviting their fans to the Facebook Event for a concert, etc.). Contacting the sound guy at each club to give him my rider (i.e. what I'll need onstage). Coordinating promotion with the other artists on the bill. Reaching out to industry folks in each city. Etc.
And while I'm lucky enough to work with a great publicist, I still do a lot of press work. Inviting folks from print media, radio, and the blogosphere to each show? Sure, but first you gotta make the press release, and you've gotta send it to them at least 4-6 weeks in advance of the show. So, another 10-30 correspondences daily for a little press campaign.
Of course, I run my own website. I design it, and I'm responsible for every bit of its content. So, when I get a free minute, I'm updating it daily with new pictures, concert videos, and (obviously) tour blogs from the road. Not to mention adding/changing show information, adding news to the homepage, etc.
So, why on earth would anyone sign up for all of this? Because I LOVE IT. I love every moment of it. I love the good and the bad, the magic and the tedium. When I'm not touring, I get antsy to hit the road again. When I am touring, I'm always anxious for the next stop. It's a blast. And when you've finally advanced the show, and you've done all your promotion, and you get to the city, and you've found a rare moment to warm-up, and you've loaded-in, and sound-checked, the house lights go down, and you finally get to say, "Evening, I'm Chris Milam," and hit that first chord...it's all worth it. At that point, there is no outside stress, no additional job to do, no directions to search, no emails to return. I finally get to do what I love: sing you some songs.
Then, there's the feeling after a set, when I get to meet folks. Anytime someone introduces themselves, says they loved the set, grabs a CD, says they're sending friends in the next town to the show, etc...there's no feeling like it. It absolutely never gets old. For the 30 minutes or 3 hours of showtime, I'm the happiest guy in town.
Whatever town that is. Wait--where am I again?
Some things are never enough,