A Guidebook to Your First Cross-Country Tour
By Zach Kleisinger
Across-country tour is huge . It ’ s an undertaking that will bring you extreme highs and , at times , terrible lows , but it will all add up to one unforgettable experience . In the months before , you ’ ll spend endless hours preparing , and you still won ’ t think of everything . But , this is OK — you don ’ t need to . While I am no expert in anything , and now that touring is slowly restarting , I ’ d like to share a few topics I feel are important to consider before heading out on the road .
1 ) Pick the Right Car You ’ re probably tempted to buy that vintage van from Craigslist for its serious looks , but is it worth the potential hassle ? Conversely , a rental with solid insurance might dissolve most headaches , but it ’ ll also eat up your gig income . If you have your own vehicle , and it runs decently , you should trust it and go .
If you don ’ t have a vehicle , ask around and see what turns up . You might have a friend of a friend who moved across the country and needs someone to drive their car to them . Maybe you know someone who knows a guy with a car lot where you could buy and sell back to . You don ’ t know what ’ s out there , so start looking . But , pick something mid-range that ’ ll get you to each show safely and on time .
2 ) If You ’ re Broke ( You Probably Will Be ) Make instant coffee and tea , and gas stations have free hot water for you to use . You could be extremely cheap here , but the point is to avoid spending $ 10 each day on caffeine .
Bring a cooler — not a second guitar . Your late nights will catch up to you , and you won ’ t last long on fast food and pub fare . Bring a cooler , be wise , and buy yourself some quality groceries .
Don ’ t spend on accommodations and contact everyone you know in the area . Contact those who used to live there . Someone will know someone . Also , ask the venue for hospitality . With your job , you don ’ t have a home to go back to afterward , and though it may feel awkward asking , you deserve the basics . Many venues won ’ t offer food and accommodations at first , but once asked , they will try .
Sell yourself — 95 % of the people at your shows won ’ t know you and won ’ t care either . Also , don ’ t place your merchandise in darkened corners . Don ’ t announce your merch once . Introduce yourself to people after your set , and thank them for being there . If you ’ re with a tour partner , circle the bar during each other ’ s sets selling t-shirts . Offset your expenses .
3 ) Find the Good in the Bad Shows Even with the 50-drunks crowd , look around and there will usually be one or two people that are listening . You won ’ t have their full , unrestricted attention , but it ’ ll be more than the rest . Play for them . Let them know you see them . And , if no one is listening at all , work on your timing and concentration . Try out a new song . Focus on something that ’ ll make you better for the next show .
When there ’ s a tiny crowd , whatever you do , don ’ t let your ego get in the way . Meaningful connections with other humans are what it ’ s all about , so don ’ t overlook a precious opportunity . Remember , those three people are giving you their time . Practice your interaction , let them in , and be a respectful and engaging performer . Don ’ t take yourself too seriously and notice the little things — it ’ s what we ’ re here for . If you ’ re lucky , those people will be dedicated fans for years to come .
4 ) Don ’ t Make Too Many Plans & Be Open My first tour across Canada ended in Montreal , after which I spent two weeks in the city . I was vehemently against booking an Airbnb because I didn ’ t want to know where I ’ d sleep . Montreal had this golden veil surrounding it , and I was convinced that everything would be okay once I arrived . Sure enough , the musician who opened our show was in the process of moving in with his girlfriend , and they offered for m e to stay in her apartment . There I was in Petite-Patrie with a beautiful apartment all to myself . During my stay , I made incredible , enduring friendships , which have brought me back to Quebec on numerous occasions .
Now , I am by no means advocating thoughtlessness , but there is a reason you spent so much time preparing . You need to allow the world to unravel a bit and not try to control everything . The road has a funny way of showing you what you need , so let it .
5 ) Pick the Right Person If you aren ’ t going alone , you need to find someone with whom you can jive . This doesn ’ t mean agreeing on every topic , but it means finding someone you can respect , trust , and be decent with each day . It doesn ’ t matter if they ’ re 20 years older than you , eat differently than you , hate or love Dylan , but they need to be patient and have your best interests in mind — and you need to do the same for them .
A drag of a person , even if you love their art , will ruin your tour . You will be each other ’ s backbones for the next month , so pick a strong one and kill it .
Zach Kleisinger is a Vancouver-based musician , freelance writer , and occasional leather and woodworker . He has toured relentlessly in Canada , the U . K ., and Europe , and has shared the stage with Charlotte Cornfield , The Deep Dark Woods , and Sam Lynch . His most recent record , Their Symposium , received acclaim from notable figures in the music industry , including CBC hosts Odario Williams and Shauna Powers . www . zachkleisinger . com
CANADIAN MUSICIAN 29