Band on the Run: A Roadie Without The Heavy Lifting

Alright, this is the first post of a new series entitled “Band on the Run,” (as you can see above.) This is a blog about travelling on the road as a musician here in North America. It’s about what we see and where we’ve been – the stories that go along with those journeys and the images to accompany them. It’ll be like you’re the roadie that gets to witness what happens behind the scenes without having to carry any heavy equipment.


(I mean, I’m the bandleader and I don’t even get out of carrying the heavy stuff!)

Specifically, I’m a Canadian musician with a Canadian band who performs more than half of my shows south of the border. And yes, I have provincial license plates on my van and work permits for the U.S.of A. for all of my band members, so I’m down on American soil legally, don’t worry!)

We are on the road A LOT, which sometimes means that we’re home less than we’re away. In fact, at one point just a few years ago, we peaked at 200 days on the road during the year. I am happy to report that we’ve calmed down slightly and probably are out only half the year now. That’s slightly healthier all around, for everyone.

The downside of this life is the fact that we’re travel-tired most of the time and we spend copious amounts of time in moving vehicles, most notably our van (or occasional rental vans if there’s a flight involved.) Sometimes we joke that we’re professional drivers who moonlight as musicians.

Sometimes it feels like that.

The upside of this life is that we get to make music for different audiences sometimes four and five times a week. Music is what we love to do the most in this world. Music is the drug of choice for this band; it’s the art; it’s the heart; it’s the fuel. Without it, why would we do this to our bodies? Why would we sit in a van for ten hours in a row, for example?

Honestly, music has taken me far and continues to pull me farther still. I am tempted by its long distance promises and its moments of brilliance on foreign stages, no matter what it takes to get to them. (So tempted that I sometimes make bad touring decisions, but I’ll leave that for the blog as they happen…)

Music is my nightlight. It’s the good dream. It’s consistent.

Stylistically, it’s a rather mixed-up folk-jazz-funk-pop-world combo (check out samples here). It’s lyrically-driven music and the show is as much about what’s being said in the songs themselves as it is about what’s being said between the songs. I sometimes write about topics that people don’t want to discuss. I also write about love and beautiful summer days and funny situations worth laughing at. All in all, the music has listeners and that’s all that matters.

After ten releases (counting the 2005 documentary-stye DVD, of course), five vans (we’re on our fifth now), uncountable tours across various parts of Canada and the U.S., eight trips to Australia, two tours to New Caledonia (link to where that country is, as it’s little known!), and one solo trip to China, the adventure continues.

We’re not famous, but we’re well-known in some circles. We have fans – listeners and supporters and friends – and we continue to sell albums. We continue to perform live. People continue to buy tickets to hear those shows.

Life is good.

We’re independent, too, which is important. These tours are not being funded by big label tour support or sponsorship dollars or product placement. We aspire to sustainability and this means we ride waves of occasional prosperity and occasional poverty. In the midst of it all, we find the balance of a living and breathing career that has careened along the corners of mountain passes for over a decade now.

No complaints.

I don’t think it’s poised to stop anytime soon. It always changes shape a little as time loops around us, but the wheels keep turning on these travelling vehicles and we keep finding ourselves in them along with gear and contracts and passports and a well-calculated number of clean underwear tucked away in our suitcases and stashed around guitars and amps and on top of boxes of CDs to stop that incessant rattling of plastic against plastic.

It’s not all glamorous, but what is really?

Behind the scenes is just behind the scenes. It’s my job to strip the scene for you, I suppose. It’s my job to bare all.

(But it’s not that kind of show, so get your mind outta that sticky trench now!)

Now if you do enjoy these stories and we end up in your town all of a sudden, we won’t deny you the opportunity to lift some heavy stuff if you show up early to help us load in or you stay long after the rest of the audience has gone home until we’re finally loading out.

In fact, temporary roadies are the BEST.

They have enough strength to lift the bass amp…

And that same strength didn’t require a meal buy-out.

Love it.

[All photos except the van shot by Desdemona Burgin, a fantastic friend and photographer]