I’m not addicted to the road, like many of my friends who are touring musicians. I don’t want to be in motion all the time. I regret time spent away from my children. I never bought a tour bus; the implication of that level of commitment was too much for me, so there have been a lot of airports and a lot of 14-passenger vans. I seldom even rented buses because I was always doing strategic strikes, since I had kids and I wanted to make the parent-teacher meetings and the school plays and help with the homework. Three days out, four at home. One week out, three at home.
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The past three years have been more intense, since my last child went away to college and I’ve been touring a lot more, but the reward—the connection with the audience—had outweighed the daily drill. They needed something from me, and giving it to them gave something back to me. I loved them. They knew it. I could bring songs to life in a way that connected them to their own feelings. I reveled in standing next to John or in the middle of the band. Downstage, under the lights, every single night I thought about how extraordinarily lucky I was. I sang to the back corners, I searched out pockets of need and joy and went to those places, I let the audience guide me, I played with their energy. I got inside the songs and found deeper layers and different meanings; I lived in between the notes.
I’m not 25. The other 22 hours were brutal and rest evaded me. Sleep became the holy grail, grabbed in three-hour chunks. It was the first subject of every day, as the band and I met in the lobby, waiting for the car to the airport: “How much sleep did you get?” If someone got nine hours on a day off, I was inordinately jealous.
Lately, the road has been taking away more than just my sleep. Two years ago, I saw a cardiologist, and after a routine EKG, she sat down and looked at me for a long moment before she said, “You are going to have to evaluate the level of stress in your life and make some decisions.”
I feel a little guilty about how much I love being quarantined in my house, with my husband and our son, Jake, who came home early from his study-abroad program. I’m examining every corner, wandering every room, pulling open every drawer, counting my pots and pans, writing.
A planetary reset seems to be taking place. And maybe that was inevitable. The lid on the bubbling pot was bound to blow, for reasons a musician shouldn’t have to deconstruct. The economic, social, spiritual, political, and artistic bloating that had exceeded all rational tolerance or emotional understanding was not sustainable.
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In the past few days I’ve begun to think about the future, my work, touring, what it means, what I will lose, and what I will gain. Touring is a high-risk business for disease transmission. Airports, airplanes, hotels, restaurants, backstage catering, dressing rooms, stage crews, drivers, meet and greets, equipment—every single moment and surface is risky.