“We don’t get paid for playing, we get paid for riding”

The job of a touring musician is not just playing gigs.

For those who don’t live the lifestyle of a moderately successful touring musician, it is hard to grasp what goes in to a “day at the office.”

The physical and mental wear and tear of being on the road is real. In over 20 years of working with musicians who travel by plane, tour bus, sprinter van, even rusty Subaru with trailer, it’s work for all of them. One “A-List” musician patient of mine once told me something to the effect of “of course I’m blessed beyond belief, but I’m still not at home tonight.” Success of all types requires sacrifice.

The hour or two on stage is often preceded by the sound check, and the unloading of gear, the drive to the venue, the sleep on the bus the night before, eating out for every meal, and the list of stressors goes on and on.

When working with a touring musician it is critical to recognize the connection between mental, physical, and chemical stress. All types of stressors break people down slowly, and while on the road, these are no different.

Physical stress involves anything that directly puts wear and tear on your structure. Lifting, sleeping in bunks, carrying gear, vibration of buses, waiting on the couch in the green room, lack of exercise, not sleeping enough.

Mental stress of course has to do with the mind. Bickering band mates, tour managers, venues, loved ones at home, kids, being away from home, finances, performance anxiety, self induced expectations and high standards, fear, obsession.

Chemical stress could be anything from meals on the go, to cigarettes, to alcohol, to medications that you take. Chemical stress could also be not drinking enough water, eating too much sugar, stressing out to the point of increasing inflammation in the body. MEDICATIONS for pain kill musicians. Read more HERE.

Needless to say, others also experience these things. These are not exclusive to the touring musician. But like with all others, it’s how these stressors interact with your other daily activities. The majority of musicians don’t fly to gigs and stay in 5 star hotels with a personal staff. While tour buses can be pretty nice, they are still buses.

How do you determine if your stress from the road is finally getting to you?

The oversimplified answer is symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms of any kind, there is always a cause, and it is always stress in one form or another. If you have symptoms and your career, your passion, your future, your life depend on your music, seek help now. These tools for your tourbus may also be helpful.

If you don’t have symptoms, that doesn’t mean you aren’t heading toward them. If your “gut instinct” says you’re stretched too thin, you probably are. If people around you are concerned about your well being, there’s probably good reason for that worry. If you can catch a stress buildup before that stress causes symptoms that manifest, you will be preventing what could become career altering injuries or illnesses. There are tests, red flags, and warning signs that stress may be overloading your touring body, and knowing them puts you ahead of the consequences.

If you are interested in more information on what to look for, and how to test for stress overload, submit a request by emailing DRJ@DRLOUJACOBS.COM

Dr. Lou has been working with musicians of all levels and fame for over 20 years. He practices his guitar when he can, and he lives constantly in the presence of music. Telemedicine calls with Dr. Lou are available by appointment only, exclusively on Fridays, and space is limited. If interested in scheduling, call (207) 774-6251.