Being a Traveling Musician

traveling and performing musicOver the years I have had some long touring summers that seemed like they would never end. Don’t get me wrong, I obviously love being a musician and being able to travel the world with my craft is an absolute blessing. I don’t know too many people whose full-time job it is to go traveling from town to town exploring all that this world has to offer. Most of my friends who I went to college with are stuck in their corporate offices working under fluorescent lighting wishing they could get away. So in that sense, I am so happy to be doing what it is that I’m doing.

But like I said, sometimes being a traveling musician can be hard. Spending weeks upon weeks on the road away from home is tough, but the worst part by far is not being able to sleep in your own bed. Hotels are great but they’re just not the same as your own bed.

But enough about the downsides, let’s explore the wondrous world that is being a traveling musician.

When I was a kid growing up, I always wanted to travel the world. I loved studying history books and learning about all of the great sites that America had to offer and I wanted to be able to visit them all. I can still remember that when I was ten years old my one dream was to take a cross-country road trip. Little did I know what I would doing that full-time just 15 years later.

I remember my first tour. It was a nine state tour spread out over 2,000 miles. I started in Texas and went all the way up to Seattle. Boy was that and experience. I had never been to Texas, Arizona, Oregon, or Washington before that tour and I had the experience of playing three shows in every state in just the matter of a few short weeks.

Playing my first show in Texas was definitely an experience. I wasn’t exactly sure how the crowd would react, being that country is so big down there. Now, I’m not exactly a country act, but I’m not too rock and roll either. I like to think I have a little bit of Johnny Cash in me, but a little bit of the Rolling Stones too. You know what I mean, a nice blending style that is influenced by all of the greats? Of course who doesn’t think that about themselves, though, ha!

I played at a western style bar and after my first song I still couldn’t get a good read on the crowd, but after my third or fourth song the crowd was really feeling it and they were singing along and dancing. One of the most rewarding things to a musician is to see new listeners enjoy and appreciate your music. Traveling to a brand new city where people have never heard of you or never heard a single song enjoy what it is that you’re making. Having those people support your music, that’s what it’s all about.

College Jam Bands: Getting to Know Your Style

jam bandJam bands are some of the best ways that you can really find and discover yourself as an artist. The first jam band that I got involved in was the start of my sophomore year in college and it was one of the first moments in life that I realized I wanted to pursue a career in music long term.

A jam band is really unlike any other group to play in and it’s really different than any other type of show you can play at. It’s a much more intimate setting than—say—a stadium or a nightclub. The crowd is usually smaller and oftentimes interacts with you while you’re playing on stage. Sometimes they’ll request songs, sometimes they won’t. But the main thing that sets a jam bands apart from other bands is the relationship that you have with the other people in the band.

We shouldn’t really be too surprised when a “jam band” is basically exactly what it sounds like should we? What does the term “jam band” conjure up in your mind? When I first heard it, I just thought of a couple of guys getting together and jamming out. No official set list or songs that need to be completed, but just rocking out together. Well that’s exactly what they are and that is exactly why they are such great groups to be in for beginning artists. They allow you to test out new genres and figure out which ones you like playing with best. Not only do they let you test out new genres, but jam bands (at least the ones that I have been involved in) have been all about the music. Most of the time we focus almost exclusively on the music and lyrics are almost an afterthought, if we have them at all. This really allows you to dig down deeply into what you like as an artist and where you want to go with your music.

Of course, jam bands aren’t for everyone. A lot of people view them as “hipster” type of bands and try to write them of as a simple fad, but they’ve been around for a long time, so the critique of them being “hipster” isn’t all that accurate. They’re just recently becoming popular and widespread making them popular right now, but not necessarily hipster. That and jam bands can cover any and all genre types, not those that are generally thought of in the hipster, indie music scene.

In the end it all comes down to the music and jam bands focus almost exclusively on just that. I, obviously, am a big fan of them and encourage everyone to join one or start one of your own. I think it is a great experience to try at least once in your life. You’ll meet some really incredible people and it will always make for a good story. If you have different thought than me on them, let me know below. What do you think of them?