*SIGH*…being sick on tour can be such a drag; but seems to be an inevitable obstacle when touring as a musician. You’re in different airports, bus terminals, bathrooms, homes and bars; the odds of you picking something up along the way is extremely high. Your work as an entertainer is SO dependent on you being a healthy to moderately healthy human being, so it can be extremely stressful and worrisome to get sick any point along a tour. I don’t know about you, but when I get that initial tickle in my throat, I can immediately hear the gong sounding ( BONNNGG!) and I can pretty much see the cane coming from side stage to drag me off by the neck! Haha. What an awful feeling! I tour an awful lot by myself, so there really isn’t anyone to turn to when things go from a tickle in the throat to a full on flu bug. So you need to be prepared and put your health first!
I was on tour two years ago and got sick in the middle of a tour of Saskatchewan and it was just…awful. I started out sounding a little raspy and then had to call it quits halfway through the two hour set because I couldn’t sing a note! It was so embarrassing. I was sniffling, sputtering and coughing all over the place. It was kinda super gross. I really felt bad for the front row (or as I called them…’splash row’. They didn’t find that so funny). I had to cancel five gigs after that. Looking back on that tour, I probably didn’t take as good of care of myself as I should have to ward off the bug I caught. SO here are five pro-health tour tips, for what it’s worth….most of these are pretty obvious…BUT SO IMPORTANT! For example…..
1) WASH YOUR HANDS: No seriously, wash your freakin’ hands. Sounds redundant, this is a big one. Not just after you use the bathroom, but really whenever you can. You meet so many people on tour and until the formal head-nod takes over handshaking in North America, handshaking is an inevitable part of the music business and just human interaction in general. Very important as not every human you meet will be honest about them just getting over a bad cold or their day job as the head diaper-changer at the local daycare.
2) KEEP YOUR HANDS AWAY FROM YOUR FACE: This is kind of in line with washing your hands, but I try and keep my hands away from my face whenever I can. This is tough; you gotta itch on your nose, applying foundation, etc… But I really try to keep this as a rule. The further away I can keep germs from my mouth and vocal chords, the better!
3) DON’T BURN THE CANDLE AT BOTH ENDS: Hey, maybe staying up until 5 in the morning drinking with new buds at the bar after a long gig sounds like a fun way to wind down, but if you need to drive five hours the next day to perform AND talk to people at your gig; do yourself and your paying customers a favor and get your sleep! You have people showing up and paying to see you at your best, so give it to them. Sleep and rest is the best way to stave away those nasty bugs and keeps your energy high when you’re running on empty.
4) PREP FOR TOUR A WEEK BEFORE: A week before I take off on your, I significantly cut down on my intake of coffee and alcoholic beverages and I also start pumping the vitamin C and Echinacea supplements every morning and night. I get lots of sleep and eat lots of veggies (they’re hard to find on the road). This will give you a great running start on your tour!
5) CUT DOWN ON THE STRESS: Stress is what usually gets me sick I’ve realized. If I’m not prepared for a tour, or if I’m run ragged right until the day I leave for tour; it doesn’t matter how many vitamins I pump into my system, I get sick. I find a great way to alleviate the stress, is to take time for yourself to prep. Take a few days before your tour to have peace and quiet, plan your route, get your maps ready, make sure your car is in working order, etc.. By having all of your details of the tour worked out far in advance, your stress level can be significantly lowered; and that way if you DO end up getting sick, at least you don’t feel like a crazy person trying to work out the gig details on the road while feeling like a snot zombie.
Well! those are my tips if they help you avoid the uncomfortable experience of being sick on tour. BUT sometimes it happens, like me…right now. You think you do everything right and you still wake up feeling like you were hit by a bus.
Part of the gig though! So try and be prepared! Be good to yourself!