touring

Experience, learn, always laugh, sometimes cry, repeat. by Nick Bullock

week 6 Experience, learn, always laugh, sometimes cry, repeat.

Some people love to say how difficult their chosen "career" can be. They complain. Sometimes it comes in the form of a joke, sometimes their words and actions straight up drip with venom, and sometimes its a subtle comment of desperation and frustration.

It's usually easy to imagine, feel, honor, glorify and visualize our next grand accomplishment in the career of our dreams. But that's not all there is to it. What does it mean to follow your career path? It means if it's true, it will be hard. If its TRUTH, it will be the hardest. Follow your instinct, follow your gut, follow your dreams and they are guaranteed to lead to hard times. But if they are really your truth, you don't have a choice anyways. So, if we choose to go the hard way and follow our truth, then we do it intentionally with the knowledge that we are not going to have a breezy stroll down career street. We can, however, learn to discipline our minds and hearts over time. We can learn how to honor our feelings of self doubt and frustration, but not live in them. We can start to take command of our subconscious. And slowly over time, we get really good at what other people might call having a thick skin, or "no worries". Its really just the ability to deal with in a healthy manner, all the negative bullshit that surrounds following your truth.

So, experience, learn, always laugh, sometimes cry and repeat.

ps: for week 6 of 52 in 52 go to https://soundcloud.com/nickbullock/grand-design

Patience, Wisdom, Courage and Strength by Nick Bullock

Cartoon girl:guitar Strength (from Webster's Dictionary): the quality that allows someone to deal with problems in a determined and effective way

Strength is easy, it's really about taking action. Do it. Whatever that is. That is having strength. It has nothing to do with size, and everything to do with intent. To dare to dream is great, but it's in the first step, and the second step that strength is shown. So write your song, book a show, show your face... it takes strength to make those first steps (as well as every step there after)

Courage (again, Webster says): the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous

Yup, strength's big brother. Before the step can be taken, you need to come to a realization that you are not doing what you were put here in this planet to do. This might be one of the hardest things to admit to yourself... "yeah, I don't love my job, but it does have great benefits" etc. I'm not shitting on anyones desires to lift themselves out of poverty, or anyones goals to make more money, but money is just energy, and so is courage. It builds until one day you say "f the benefits, i'm miserable". Whether your happiest when writing a book, or poem, or acting, or singing songs or whatever, courage is recognizing that steps (strength) that need to be taken, and admitting your truth. And doing it everyday if need be.

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Wisdom (Webster's Dictionary): knowledge that is gained by having many experiences in life

That's the thing... experiences... you don't know you love acting until you have the unique experience that comes with it. The first time I saw a guitar player doing his thing, I thought it was really cool. And, as a small child at the time, I remember thinking I wonder how you do that... Where are those sounds coming from? Fast foreword about ten years and I have the experience of picking up the guitar for the first time, and the wonder and frustration that comes with learning a new instrument. Fast foreword another ten years and I have the experience of going to school to study the instrument, and playing my first professional gigs with it. Maybe, beginning to build a little bit of wisdom on how to use the guitar properly, for me. Another ten years, and I have all the experience and wisdom that I have now (and i'm still working on it!). You can't fake passion, passion doesn't start with knowledge, but it can go hand in hand with wisdom. Without all my experiences, I wouldn't have cultivated whatever knowledge I do have in my early thirties about playing guitar, being a professional musician and making music. Without that wisdom, I wouldn't understand my passion nearly as well as I do, and I wouldn't be able to do what I do... Without the experiences and wisdom gathered, I would be lost. Even with courage and strength.

Patience:

More often than not, this is the one that I struggle with the most. But in all honesty, it might be the most important. When you're playing a solo live, improvising your way through with your band mates and friends, patience can be what makes or breaks the experience. When you're in the studio, searching for the right tone and part, patience is the saving grace, other wise you settle for less than what your creativity is demanding of you. When you're writing a song, patience is being able to take a deep breath, and stay present and with it until you've figured out the next line in the story you're telling. It's also knowing a good song when you have one, and not becoming negative about it when the first person you show it to/play it for doesn't loose his or her shit and have a come to Jesus moment like you think everyone one should. And patience is being able to smile and relax when you are meeting someone who wants to help you along your path to success. In this case, it's the comfortable pair of jeans that never looses its popularity, because patience tells you that you are worthy of success, and it doesn't really matter if the person you are meeting with right now actually comes through or not.  patience is being in it for the long haul... the long game.

Queen Cartton

*clearly none of this artwork is mine

Touring: Experimental Existentialism and Shut Up and Play by Nick Bullock

Have you ever toured before or wanted to hit the road in a van, with your best buds, playing your music? Who wouldn't want to, right? A few weeks ago, my band went on a ten day tour, starting down south and eventually ending up north to play a festival set near my old stomping grounds of Ithaca NY. All in all, playing eight shows along the way. I thought I would share some thoughts on my experience, both anecdotal and practical. First, a brief background for those of you who don't know where I'm coming from. I spent the majority of my 20's, in a van touring with my best friends. tour6

We lived together, worked together, partied together, did chores together, wrote together, and recorded together. We were, in some ways, living the dream. One day at a time, we were figuring out how to be professional musicians in a professionally touring band, playing original music. We hit the jam band circuit hard for years, playing well over 150 shows a year for the majority of our time together. That is a lot of days on the road, I don't care who you are. We sacrificed much of our personal lives for the greater good of the band, and for our shared vision of what we wanted out of life. I'm very proud of those days, and I don't regret a single moment. Being in that band taught me many many things.

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But, like all things, everything comes to an end eventually. When we split up, we all went our different ways, and I, out of my creative restlessness started a new band called The Sound Awake a few years ago. In the time that has passed since my "touring as a living" days, I have gotten married, started a business, sold that business, moved to Nashville, and started my studio, and a new musical/professional life here in music city.... so this tour that I mentioned above, was really like a dipping of the toe back in the warm waters of the touring lifestyle. More than anything, I was curious to see how I handled everything... so here we go.

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The Existential Experiment:

Playing music you write to a room full of enthusiastic people is really one of the greatest feelings I've ever experienced in my life. It is an experience that I would encourage anyone who writes their own music to aim for. The good news is it's a reachable goal. I didn't realize how much I missed the camaraderie of being in a band, hitting the road, and doing it together. There is a bond that gets formed, regardless of personal differences, or personality traits or whatever... it's unavoidable. You get tighter as people (sometimes this means you see both sides of people's humanity, the good and the bad), and tighter as a band. There is definitely a thing called "tour tight"... its kind of unexplainable, but after so many shows on the road, you all just gel better musically. We weren't out there quite long enough to get deep into that tightness, but it was there, lurking, and I could feel it. I wanted to drink it in more, I wanted to let that feeling wash over me more. I got a taste, and it was sweet. Touring is also an amazing social experiment, and way more times than naught, you get reminded of people's innate goodness. The kindness of strangers is a wonderful thing to behold. It is so easy to believe that the human race is going to hell in a hand basket, but when you get out there, meet people face to face, give them a genuine smile, you would be surprised at how many genuine smiles you get in return. Maybe that speaks more for the power of music, than anything else, but the fact remains, there are a lot of kind people out there who will offer you a couch to sleep on, buy a CD to support your dreams, cheer you on,  buy you a beer, talk guitar tones, or lend you an amp if yours breaks. I could go on and on. Touring is also a great time to catch up with old friends that you don't get to see on the regular. It is truly one of the best things about being on the road. I would go through and name all my friends that I got to see and spend some quality time with this last time out, but there are too many to name. I miss them already. All in all, the tour was very successful. When we got up to upstate NY to play the Grass Roots Festival (which is attended by about 10k-15k people), we were in shape, and we brought our A game. Nothing compares to the roar of a crowd after a particular enthusiastic song or musical moment... and my end goal all along was to get that roar, and we did, more than once. I can't tell you exactly what it feels like to be the target of a crowds raging storm of energy, but it feels so good. Its a drug, and I want more of it.

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I don't know what it would be like to do 150 dates a year again, and quite honetly, where I am in life, I would have to get paid way more than we did on this tour to consider doing it. I missed my wife, I missed sleeping in my bed. I didn't enjoy sleeping on couches quite as much as I used to remember. And I like my AC (sorry, it's true...). Touring is hard work. You drive all day, hurrying along the freeway, watching the mile markers count down, only to get to the venue to see there is no sound guy, or the bathroom doesn't have a door on it, or the PA that the venue said they have doesn't actually exist... or all of the above. If you are going to put yourself out there night in and night out, the one thing I would say, is that the music has to be the life blood, it has to be the source and the purpose, it has to be the thing that gets you off the most. And you have to believe in it, more than you believe in anything else, at least for the moment. So, if you're still into it, here are some very practical thoughts I can share with you on the my experience.

Shut up and Play: I'll keep this pretty straight forward.

Start booking the tour at least four months in advance. If you're booking yourself, it takes more time than usual to get all the ducks in a row, line up the routing properly, and make as much of a promotional splash in the market as you can before the concert date.

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It's up to you to get people through the door, and once they are there, to keep them there. I don't buy that it is only the clubs or promoters responsibility for the success of the show. We, as artists, are in charge of our carriers, not the venue. That being said, usually when venues see that you are working hard to promote a show, they will get on board and pick up the slack on their end too. A win win is what we are all aiming for, after all.

Advance the show! At least once, if not twice. Go over all the details with the talent buyer at least a month before the show. This can clear up any little hang ups, and make sure that communication is clean and obvious. This will ensure that you have little to no headaches on the road, it will help you rest easier knowing that all the t's and i's are crossed and dotted. Ultimately allowing you to concentrate on the music and relationships that can form while on the road.

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The music comes first. Don't drink too much, serisouly. Don't overdue the excesses, because it will be easy to. When I was on the road this last time, I started smoking again (why oh why! after months of successfully quitting)... why? because I'm human, and thought I could handle the temptation. Beware, is all I have to say. Have a good time, but music first, and music last. (I am now more than a week quit again, thank you very much... get back on that horse!)

Appreciate your band mates, you are all in it together. You are a team. If someone is in a bad mood, it doesn't hurt to give them space. Don't take everything to heart, people are people, love them for who they are and where they are in their own personal journey. As long as everyone is treating the music with the respect it deserves (see above), all will be good.

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Don't be afraid to warm up! In the van, in the green room, wherever. What ever you can do to make the show a better experience. Warm those pipes, warm those fingers, and don't be embarrassed about it.

You are there to provide entertainment. Read the room, it might not be a great time to take a set break after playing your second ballad in a row. You will get booked again if you keep people in the room, buying drinks. Unless your touring larger venues, and drawing hundreds of people, know that the one thing that will help you achieve your goals is to get rebooked, and get playing for more people next time. The people that were there had such a great time listening to you that they tell their friends, buy your merch, sign your mailing list and spread your gospel.

Have a mailing list. Have your merch table in a well lit and obvious place. Seems like a no brainer right? Bring a light, bring a cool table cloth or patchwork blanket to lay down... anything to make your products/merch look cooler, or more professional.

Know that nothing is perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect tour. Have a a does of thick skin, if the promoter or bartender is being a total jerk, walk away respectfully. If the show is poorly attended, play your ass off regardless. Touring has its limitations, enjoy it for what it is and know that doing your best is all you really can do at the end of the day.

A big thank you to Kevin and Russ, bass and drums extraordinaire, you guys are the rock to my rock n roll. Thanks for making the tour possible. #tsatour

What are some lessons you've learned from touring? What about touring most excites you? Share you thoughts, we would love to hear them! 

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Play For Me... by Nick Bullock

famwash

Hi, Musician on stage... I'm here, I'm the only guy in the room... can't you see me? I'm listening, I'm clapping, I'm engaged in your music... this is your soul, remember, and I am liking your soul... hello? I don't need or want you to stare at me the whole time, thats just creepy, but some eye contact would be nice when I'm the only one clapping. Just saying.

And at the end of the show, come say hi, because I stayed, I am still here, and I'm not counting the wasted girl who is flashing the bartender, or the drunk dude passed out and slowly sliding off his stool, they doesn't count. Lets talk, and get to know each other a little bit.

I was hanging at the Family Wash over on the East side in Nashville, which is quickly becoming one of my favorites spots to hang, and saw a band there in this exact context. And you know what, the singer made eye contact, and came over and said hello, and thanked me for being the only one paying attention.

It makes a difference.

A little eye contact goes a long way.

 

 

Ten Thoughts on Touring by Nick Bullock

Do you ever wonder what it's like to drive cross country with your best buds and play music that you love? If you are thinking about making that move, here are some thoughts on it that I hope you'll find helpful. tour

I miss touring! I spent about ten years of my life playing well over a thousand shows and living out of a van. Touring with the same guys night in and night out. We were lucky, we made our living playing our music for audiences around the country. Touring can be such a fun way make a living, and it can be a very tough lifestyle. Here are some thoughts/tips/advice (call it whatever you want)...

1.) Don't be an ass and drink when it's your turn to drive.

Seriously a dick move here. It's a great way to build resentment in the van, and can make for a very angry band in the morning, and at the next show, which of course, an audience can pick up on. Pull your weight, I don't care what you play.

2.) Set up your merch every night, even if you don't want to. When the show is over, go and hang out by the table.

An obvious one it would seem, but I've been to so many shows where it'll be 4 or 5 bands on the bill, and only two of them have their shwag out and viewable. Even if you don't have any t-shirts, and the record hasn't come out yet, at least have a snazzy mailing list, a pen (yes!) and a light by which to see. Also, when you can, place the merch by the door, so people walk by it on their way out.  (Admittedly, I could take my own advice here sometimes too!)

3.) When you crash with strangers, treat their house with respect, make your bed, do the dishes, say thank you with your actions, not just your words.

The strangers you meet on the road are the real reason we do this. They are friends in the making and fans for life. It builds good will, and the next time you're in town, they are likely to have you over again, come to the show, tell all their friends that the coolest band in the world is coming to town etc.

4.) Try not to eat at too many greasy spoon joints.

When  I finally learned this lesson, I started the habit of packing and bringing some healthy food with me, especially on the shorter runs of shows. You aren't always in control of what your eating options are, but make healthy choices when you can. A good trick is to shop for breakfast at a local grocery store instead of the diner. More now than ever before it seems like they'll have an organic section with some healthy options. If you're touring, your in it for the long haul, your gut (and your wallet) will thank you.

5.) Be on time, even though no one else will be.

Hurry up and wait is the name of the game. But being on time is a good way to build trust with venues and promoters, even though most people won't be. It is also a good way to guarantee you a sound check, which will make the show that much better.

6.) Never, ever, ever talk shit about another band you are playing with. 

Word will get out, and it's not the other bands that will suffer, you'll be known as a prick. Don't be a prick.

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7.) Don't stare at your shoes.

The show is for you, AND the audience. Look at them, or at least pretend to. I still struggle with this one sometimes, but inevitably, when I come out of my shell, the show takes a turn for the better. Have fun, you're playing music.

8.) Tip the bartenders at every show.

They, more often than not, have the ears of their bosses, and promoters. Treat everyone you meet well, and they will more than likely remember you for it, even if it doesn't seem so at first. Oh yeah, and of course when you do meet an asshole, ignore them.

9.) Give your band mates space when they need it. 

Everyone gets pissy now and again. We miss our significant others back at home, we're hung over, we don't want to drive 5 hours today, we're missing the game, whatever the case, don't take things personally. If someone says something that (you know) they don't really mean, let it roll off your shoulders at the moment, and when calmer heads prevail, bring it up then if you really need to (maybe after the kick ass sold our show you just played). Communication is of course key, but timing is a good thing to get a feel for too.

10.) Stop to smell the roses.

There are so many wonderful experiences to have when you're out there on the road, playing show after show. You're with your best friends (at least some of them!), you're getting to see the country and meet so many cool people, making friends every where you go. Don't take it for granted. Some of those friendships I formed I still cherish dearly to this day. Stop and smell the roses, and smile.

So what did I miss?? What are some other things that every band should know when they start touring?