What’s it really like to be on tour?
Hi! I’m Eric Hutchinson. I just released my new album PURE FICTION and am midway through my Tell The World Tour, my biggest and best tour ever. For this tour, I’ve partnered with Skype and House of Blues’s Ones to Watch program. Here’s a day in the life of my Tell The World Tour.
10AM – WAKE UP
I never know where I am when I wake up in the morning. It’s how I imagine it feels to be kidnapped, drugged and wake up in the trunk of a car. I can hear something going on outside but I have no idea where I am. It’s a dangerous thing going to sleep on a moving bed, you can wind up almost anywhere. I awake from what feels like the deepest, darkest sleep ever and I’m in a pitch black cave, my bunk of the bus. I can still feel the bus rumbling around on the highway. I reach for my phone and drop a map pin to locate myself and see how far away we are from tonight’s venue. Our bus sleeps 12 people (me, my band, my tour manager, my crew and the opening act, Saints of Valory) but the mornings are quiet. I’m usually the first one up and I lie in my bunk checking twitter reviews from last night’s show while everyone is still asleep. I sleep really well on the bus. Some guys don’t like it, but I find it very soothing, the way it rocks you to sleep.
10:30AM – VENUE ARRIVAL
Our bus pulls up and parks in front of the venue. It won’t move again until late tonight after the show. We have a great bus driver named Mike Smith. He sleeps all day at a hotel, then boards the bus around 2am and drives us all night to our next destination. Driving at night saves time because there’s no traffic. I love multi-tasking and there’s nothing better than sleeping while you travel. A lot of bus drivers can be pretty eccentric. It’s an interesting job and takes a certain kind of personality. But our Mike Smith is a real peach and about as friendly as they come. He’s a big bearded southern man from Birmingham, Alabama who wouldn’t look out of place on Duck Dynasty. He loves music and knows lots of secret places to eat on the road. This is the only time I see him all day. Mike is such a important part of the tour, and yet an invisible one. He says some of his family doesn’t even understand what he does.
11AM – FRESHEN UP
I get off the bus, retrieve my toiletry bag and venture into the club to clean up. You know those cool, slick, intoxicating music venues you like going to so much at night? They are dirty, dirty warehouses in broad daylight. They are painted in all black and feel pretty depressing in the morning. Like hanging out at your friend’s crappy off-campus apartment the morning after a rager. I brush my teeth in the women’s bathroom. They’re usually cleaner than the men’s.
12PM – LUNCH
I love to eat. I try to do it everyday. A bad meal on the road puts a serious cramp in my style, so I take finding food very seriously. I’ve developed an intricate system that combines cross-referencing Yelp Reviews + Eater.com updates + Twitter recommendations. It takes a good portion of my day to compute all this, but people who travel with me know the system always works. Stick with me and you’ll eat like a king! Best lunch so far was Ninfa’s in Houston. Here’s a picture of me in love with my tacos.
2PM – LOAD IN
My band and crew loads into the venue. I’m very lucky to have a crew. I’m often out performing at a radio station during this part. Whenever I’m feeling guilty for not doing the heavy lifting, I remind myself that I did all this myself for many, many, many years. I once spent a whole summer playing out of the back of a Jeep Compass at street festivals. I lugged my gear all over the country in my Honda Civic. When I outgrew the Civic, I traded it in for a very cool Toyota Sierra minivan. It was great for gigs, not so good for picking up girls for dates.
4-6PM – SOUND CHECK
Sound check is a tedious part of the day. It’s usually spent hammering out technical problems and standing around while the stage is set up for tonight’s show. I have a wonderful guitar tech and stage manager named Cal Knapp who sees that this all runs smoothly. Once the levels are set for sound check, the band and I will run through songs, review notes from last night’s show, try new things. If we have enough time, we’ll mess around and play a weird cover song. Yesterday we played “La Bamba” for 30 minutes. Sound check is not my favorite part of the day. I’ve never liked rehearsals. It’s like practicing your first kiss on a mirror (everyone did that, right?). There’s no magic, no surprise. You need that other half of the connection. I never know anything about the show I’m putting on until I step in front of an audience, look them in the eye and sing a song.
The second that sound check is over, I disappear, off to find dinner. I need to eat as soon as possible to allow enough time to digest before show time. I eat alone, quickly and quietly, sometimes next to fans who are coming to my show that night. Always fun to eavesdrop and hear what they have to say about me.
7PM – VOCAL WARMUPS
I have a very vocally demanding show. I love those energetic soulful melodies. Every tour, I promise myself I’ll stop writing songs that are so damn hard to sing. Then I forget when I’m recording the next album. I work with an excellent vocal coach named Liz Caplan who has changed my life when it comes to singing. She has tons of guidelines, tricks and exercises to help keep my voice in the best shape possible. On the road, I sing to a warm-up lesson that I have recorded and stored on my iPhone. It involves me making lots of weird vocal sounds and tongue gyrations.
8PM – RELAX
I love this hour of the day. Everyone else is in the venue, buzzing around and I get the bus all to myself. I lie down and rest before the show. I think of myself like an NFL quarterback: I only need to perform a limited amount of time per day, but when I get the call, I need to be able to execute everything perfectly.
9PM – SHOW TIME!!!
The best part of my day! The shows on this Tell The World Tour have been electric! I’ve never been prouder of my music or happier onstage. My band is so great and every night with them is so fun. We try to crack each other up and surprise ourselves musically. Once the show kicks off, it’s non-stop for me. Sometimes I’ll call an audible if I’m feeling it. The audience is 50% of the show. They are the spinach and I am Popeye. They build me up into a superhuman for 90 minutes. Without them, I’m just some drunk sailor.
10:45PM – MEET & GREET
After the show I head out to the merch table to meet fans, sign my CD and take pictures. Getting to talk with people after the show and hear their feedback really completes the night for me. Here’s a pic of me and some fans from the other night:
11:30PM – WINDING DOWN
I’m back in the women’s bathroom, brushing my teeth again.
MIDNIGHT – GOODNIGHT
I board the bus and hang for a little while. I usually check my fantasy baseball team or catch up on Mad Men in my bunk before bed. It’s not exactly a rockstar life I guess, but it’s all worth it when I hit that stage every night and can sing every note exactly the way I want to. That makes all the discipline worth it to me. It’s the end of the day. I always marvel at how fast the day goes after soundcheck is over till now.
3AM – BUS ROLLS OUT
I am fast asleep as Mike starts the engine and the bus rolls on. Tomorrow I’ll wake up and do it all again in Denver. Or is it Seattle? No wait, it’s Omaha. Definitely Omaha.
Eric Hutchinson is a singer/songwriter and pop musician. His new album PURE FICTION is available everywhere. He lives in New York City 57% of the year.