“The stress of touring and being a machine – those expectations of having to churn it out day in, day out, night in, night out on the road – as well as deal with ordinary everyday things – does get crazy. I was fortunate to be able to read the temperature of my stressors on the road, and address those things so that I wasn’t overworked. I allowed myself time so that I could recuperate. That allowed me to 100 per cent be there when I touched the stage – that was very important to me.” Troy Jamerson (Pharoahe Monch) [Touring & Mental Health – Music Industry Manual]

Life on the road can be exciting and rewarding, but it’s not without its challenges. Mix together hectic and unpredictable work environments, long days of travel, separation from loved ones and supportive routines, then you’ve got a situation that may leave you vulnerable to stress and reduced mental wellbeing. Taking care of yourself (and your people) on tour can be tough at times, but with some prep, a little creativity and a holistic awareness of what matters most for your mental health, you can set yourself up to thrive on tour.


PRE-TOUR

Reflections and preparations before you hit the road, to ensure you’re getting what you need

Know what you need

Tours come in all shapes and sizes, with varying budgets, lengths, accommodations, amenities and modes of transportation. One constant is that you’re going to be away from home. So you’ll need to pack appropriately given the length of time you’ll be away and the types of places you’ll be going to. For most of us, that means clothes and shoes, toiletries, electronics (and entertainment – like movies, games, books), meal prep or food storage stuff, and other supportive self-care items, such as medication, headphones, journals, etc. If you’re crossing through certain countries, you’ll need to have certain visas or even vaccinations to be let in. 

If it’s your first time on tour, it’s a good idea to speak to others who’ve done it before to know what to expect. Be mindful of the items and activities that help keep you healthy, grounded and connected while at home and see what might be viable to bring along.

Remember who you are

When on tour, it can be easy to become enveloped with the show/festival/tour and lose our identity to it. This leads us to fuse our sense of self with the role we hold as part of the tour, festival or show, e.g. “I am a guitar tech”, “I am on the road with ***” – which can make us feel good and important while we continue to hold that role, but it leaves us vulnerable once the tour comes to an end, and we’re left asking “who am I now without this?”

Keep things in perspective and remind yourself that this is a moment in time, and a job you’re doing. It is one part of who you are and there are still a lot of other aspects to who you are that continue to go on, long after the tour comes to an end. Be sure to continue cultivating other interests while on the road, if possible – things like photography, journaling, crosswords, or video games. This gives you a bit of mental space outside the tour.

Clarify connection

One of the most challenging aspects of being on the road is the time spent away from friends and family. Our loved ones are often our support network, and the people who can help keep us regulated, keep us grounded and sane. Fortunately, we live in a high-tech time where we can use the internet to stay in touch with loved ones, but often it requires some dedicated scheduling and planning if we want to keep in regular contact (not to mention coordination, especially across time differences)! 

Discuss when and how you’ll keep in communication with family members and friends, so that expectations are managed and so everyone can find some middle ground around what is going to feel the most enriching and the most helpful.


ON TOUR

Rituals and habits to practice on the road, to support your health, vitality and sense of connection

Look out for each other

The pressures and practicalities of being on tour may increase your vulnerability and susceptibility to mental health problems or inflame any existing condition(s). Be mindful of your own mental wellbeing and check in on your tour mates particularly if they are managing mental health issues. If you’ve noticed that someone’s not quite their ‘usual self’, act on it and start a conversation.

Get help

Give help

Take care of yourself

Self-care doesn’t take a backseat once you hit the road – in fact, it’s more crucial than ever, given the disruption to your regular practices and support systems. 

Ingest Wisely: Notice what food and drink you’re putting in your body to fuel you. Get into some greens when you can, drink plenty of water and be mindful of how hard you’re going on drugs & alcohol.

Move Your Body: Find fulfilling and practical ways to keep moving and stay fit while on tour. Exercising regularly with an activity you enjoy and that works for your body, will help increase vitality, and regulate your mood. Utilise apps and virtual classes, sign up to a worldwide fitness & wellness membership (like Class Pass), work out with tour mates, or take a solo stroll around town.

Rest & Winding Down: When you’re always on the move, it can be challenging to get quality sleep and have the space to wind down and relax. But our bodies and minds need this to operate at full capacity. So section out some time where you can in the schedule to rest, relax and get some sleep. If you’re working long shifts, take micro-breaks and monitor yourself for fatigue. 

Work-life balance

When you’re on tour, it’s easy for the realities of life on the road to consume you. You can lose touch with your life back at home, and without the clear delineation between work space and home space, tour-life can bleed out and get you out of balance. Be sure to keep in contact with loved ones and take part in hobbies and activities that are separate from work/tour life. 

10 top tips to set yourself up for success when on tour


POST-TOUR

Reflections and restorative practices for when you’re back in the “real world”, after being away on tour

Ready for re-entry

Once you’ve adjusted to life on the road, it can be confronting to return home and slot back in with life’s “business as usual”. You might recognise the moments you’ve missed with family, feel excited to be home, feel overwhelmed with domestic expectations, be grieving the loss of touring life and your work family, or feel uneasy about where the next gig is coming from. There is no one normal way to feel, once you finish up with a tour. Be gentle with yourself and take whatever time and space is available to ease back in.

Rekindle connection

Once the tour comes to a close, it can be a great time to touch base with people that you’ve missed or communities that you’ve been apart from. Depending on how much time has passed, you might feel like certain relationships have changed or shifted, and that’s okay. Time away can transform relationships, but making a concerted effort to reconnect and re-establish bonds can be therapeutic and meaningful.

Find fun & purpose

Without the tour occupying so much of your time and life, you might now have more space to pursue different hobbies, learn something new, get involved with a sport you love, make art, see music and play simply for the sake of playing. Allow yourself to connect with activities that are separate from “work” life, and recognise what other parts of your life imbue it with meaning and purpose.


THE NEEDS OF CREW

Always the first to arrive and the last to leave, crew workers work diligently and intensively to ensure the show goes on.  The crew consists of people like backstage working personnel, front-of-house staff, roadies, riggers, lighting technicians, security, promoter reps, venue staff, ushers, drivers, production staff, touring staff, box office and ticketing staff, caterers, set designers and more.

“The pressure and demands of the live music industry can be immense for those in the spotlight. What is often forgotten is that it can also be a highly demanding job for live production crew and their families. It is an industry that functions on time constraints, incredibly tight deadlines, and demanding weather conditions.” CrewCare

Find out more about CrewCare here.

It can be a challenge to stay safe, keep focused and remain calm and grounded, given the high job demands faced for crew workers. Consider this to be your digital support pack, for when you need to take a moment and come back to baseline.

OTHER HELPFUL RESOURCES

Touring and Mental Health

by Tasmin Embleton

The Resilience Project

Hugh van Cuylenburg