The Post-Tour Blues

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Musicians and crew members can end up going on tour for most of a year, sometimes an entire year, barely getting holidays off. If you’re used to having a routine in your life, it’s difficult to be pulled away from that for so long to tour. It can also be just as difficult to reintegrate yourself back into the swing of things when returning.

There’s PTSD, postpartum depression, reverse culture shock, and all kinds of different levels of depression and difficulties that people suffer from when having to change their lives so drastically and then return to the way life was before, like nothing ever happened. Symptoms can be anything from having feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, confusion, depression, fear, self-destructive behavior, social isolation, loneliness, emotional detachment; the list could go on and on.

For musicians who spend most of their years on the road, dealing with these symptoms can be quite common. As a touring band you can end up driving 14 to 20 hours in one day, then play a rowdy 45 minute set that same night, and then have to get right back on the road for another 16 hour drive to the next gig; you do this over and over again for months at a time.

Just going out to see a show already sounds exhausting to some, so a tour appears practically suicidal.

So how do these musicians and crew members survive these adventures? Sure, touring has its positives, with tons of good times, new friends, and experiences for the books, but all of that has to take a toll on any functioning human’s body and mentality.

It can be related to what the media is now calling “reverse culture shock” about students who study abroad and then develop depression once returning home. They get used to the experiences and a new life immersed in a different culture, so returning to their home lives can be straining.

Keith Anderson has been a freelance tour manager for 30 years and is constantly on the road. He’s worked with bands and musicians such as LCD Soundsystem, TV On The Radio, Ween, Jewel, David Byrne, and is currently the tour manager for Hugh Laurie. He explains that even though traveling was always appealing to him and he always intended to work in the music industry, he never planned on being a full-time tour manager.

“I had friends who played in a band and needed someone who could drive to a gig and help set up gear,” Anderson tells BTRtoday about how he got his start. He explains that at the time he was working an office job while juggling travel with bands. “It got to the point where I had to make a choice, so I decided to take a chance and quit my office job to go ‘on the road’—luckily for me, I moved pretty quickly into tour management and have been able to make a career of it.”

Though the world of freelance can be intimidating and unpredictable, Anderson confesses he doesn’t really have any complaints and loves what he does. “It’s hard to think of a down,” he says. “If any, I’d say being close to an artist whose head got turned upside-down by the demands of success and seeing their personality change, when you know there is a good person in there.”

Since his profession requires him to be on the road for most of his life he’s been able to adapt. He explains that whether it’s a two week tour or a 10 week tour, the key is to be able to put yourself on some sort of schedule—a work schedule, travel schedule, even a leisure time schedule.

Whenever he does get time off and can return home he mostly just wants to enjoy being carefree and not have any structure. “It can be difficult if there is a demand or expectation of your time and attention, when you probably want to decompress for a few days,” he admits.

He adds that certain types of tours make it harder to transition back to domestic life. “There are some tours where everyone gets on so well and has a great time, that some guys feel a little separation anxiety at the end of a tour—it can take a few days to get into the swing of a home routine,” Anderson describes.

The higher-profile tours, where he’s put up in a five-star hotel and flown around in private jets, are actually the types of tours that make it easier for him to transition back home. Anderson confesses, “When you get back to your house, it’s nice to do something ordinary like push a trolley ’round the supermarket buying groceries; it’s a reminder that the ‘real world’ is very different.”

He advises anyone with a career in tour managing to maintain a sense of humility. “Civility costs nothing,” he states. “Don’t arrive home with a sense of entitlement just because you had people doing things for you and you stayed in some nice hotels.”

Traveling can be fun, but when you have to do it everyday of your life it can be extremely stressful. Anderson has been able to develop from his 30 years of experience–a thorough tactic in keeping up with the demands of touring. So, if you’re a tour manager or a touring musician, don’t be alarmed if you return home and have forgotten how to integrate yourself back into society; just remember to keep yourself on a strict schedule next time you’re on the road.