It’s not really the life of a rock star being on the road. Sure, it looks like fun – just two hours of playing music (everybody loves to play – right?) and riding around in a big fancy tour bus, seeing the country and having a great time!
Well, part of that description is correct. We do love to play and we do love to travel. But it is a lot of work too. The band spends countless hours practicing, writing music and arrangements, coming up with a new theme for the show each year, trying new songs and picking the tunes for the set list.
We also record a new CD each year and there are mechanical licenses to secure, graphics for programs, posters, CDs, photoshoots to coordinate. Work visas to apply for (if performing outside of Canada) and equipment and merchandise manifests need to be prepared. Backdrops, sets, and any visuals need to be designed. The shows all need to be booked, confirmed and logistics arranged, tickets & posters printed, costumes designed, scripts written, and then there’s the usual chaos of telephone messages, email and mail correspondence.
We usually get together as a band for only a few days prior to the start of a tour to “run” the show, including a dress rehearsal at one of the local retirement homes. Then we hit the road!
We travel in a very modest but comfortable Prevost tour bus, designed and built for the way we use it. It is 45’ long and has a lounge, kitchen, bathroom, shower and 6 bunks for the band and a rear queen bed for Scott (and his dog – Melody). All our equipment needs to pack small enough to fit in the cargo bays under the floor. Instruments, CDs, programs, photos and other supplies go in any empty bunks and beside Scott’s bed. Personal luggage has to be kept to a bare minimum.
For most evening shows, we typically drive in the morning to our destination and arrive around 1:00 p.m. to start our set up. We always use our own PA, lights and backdrop, so it all has to get unloaded and carried into the venue (sometimes up stairs). It takes 2-3 hours to set everything up and do sound check. By 4:30 or so we head back to the bus and make a light supper for ourselves and have a quick shower, and then are back in and changed ready to greet the audience coming in.
The band often helps with programs, ushering and even taking tickets sometimes. They also look after the CD table – and then rush backstage to be ready to start the show. They don’t get a break at intermission because they are busy again with CDs and chatting with the audience. After a quick costume change, they are back on the stage for the second half.
After the show, it is autograph time and then we change into work clothes to pack up all the gear and load the bus. By 11:00 pm we are usually heading to a spot to park for the night. We all sleep on the bus – some will go straight to bed, while others may have schoolwork or other business to do before retiring for the night.
The whole thing starts again early the next morning – sometimes travelling several hundred miles to the next town. But of course, every few days the bus needs fuel… and water… and then there’s the not-so-pleasant job of emptying the holding tanks. The onboard generator needs to be serviced on the road so I carry tools and fuel, air and oil filters to do that. Sometimes there is rain or mud or snow to contend with. Sometimes there are mechanical or technical issues to fix.
Oh – and I do all of the driving of the bus and usually have 4-5 radio or newspaper interviews spread throughout each day to help promote our upcoming shows.
This routine continues day after day – usually with only a very rare travel day or day off. Doing the dishes, laundry and washing the bus as well as vacuuming and walking the dog all need to be done too. But I guess that is really what makes it feel like home! And if you are wondering why we do all this – it’s because we do really love to play music!