The Lessons I've Learned by Touring

Written by Mary Bryce

There’s a list that the musician Thor Harris made about how to tour with a band. You can read it here, and as it turns out, the rules for touring without losing your mind are fairly universal. The only thing I would add is wear a pair of shoes that slip on. I danced, walked, and slept  comfortably in these ones from Passport Vintage.

In my personal experience, touring with five to six people in a van for a month, with nothing but a few changes of clothes and some instruments is hard and fun. It’s wildly liberating to be on the road with nowhere to be but the next gig. It’s all liminal space, like being at the airport permanently. When you are nowhere, where are you?

Figuring out where exactly I am, is my perpetual question. While touring I never found the physical discomfort of sitting in the backseat or sleeping on a stranger’s floor, nearly as uncomfortable as I found sitting with myself. Like most of us, I deal with my share of crippling self-doubt and anxiety, but with none of my ordinary “real life” settings to blame my bad mood or attitude on, I remembered just how responsible for my inner world I really am.  And taking responsibility for those emotions, good and bad, is something I struggle with.

I’ve been thinking a lot about acceptance lately, what it really means. And perhaps that’s the great lesson of being on the road: when you accept where you are, there is no rush, nowhere else to be, no one else to be. When you accept physical discomfort as a constant, then you are not upset about it anymore. I don’t mean acceptance in a passive way, but acceptance as a vehicle for enjoyment of the moment.

Now that the tour is over, I can’t stop thinking about it. That accepting where I actually am, personally, physically and otherwise, is perhaps the only way to be truly happy, regardless of whether or not I’m surviving off Taco Bell, Tito’s Vodka and Slim Jims. Because somewhere within acceptance lies a deep strength, the strength to keep singing when out of breath, to smile and put on the show when you don’t feel like it, to hopefully bring a second of relief and uplift to someone you will probably never talk to or see again. When everyone in the bar got quiet in Las Vegas while we sang our quietest songs, or dancing in a backyard in LA, or letting nights unravel in Hattiesburg on stranger-become-friend’s floors-- if the goal of life is to simply live fully, to be truly, blinding alive, then I don’t know what else there is to do. I want to make music and chase an artist dream, as desperate and effortful as it often is. I’m trying to dig my heels in and really accept it, accept the work and labor-of-love, accept that the dream is big. Accept that perhaps heaven really is on earth. If only I can let it.


Mary Bryce is a writer and musician. She sings alone, and also with others in a band called SMiiLE. 

Photo by Mike Manewitz.

Photo by Mike Manewitz.

Chelsea Francis