Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Psychology of the Touring Musician

"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.  I travel for travel's sake.  The great affair is to move." - Robert Louis Stevenson

What brings us to this?  The lifestyle and the attitude of the touring musician tend to be so unique, there must be some common thread that binds us together, no?  The nomadic nature, travelers and seekers in the romantic, Kerouac sense. Fear of responsibility, listless and an aversion to the "normal" 9-5 grind in the classical, dare I say republican, sense. 

I've noticed some trends among my legions, but nothing that really stands out.  In essence, the bulk of touring relationships are moderately fickle.  Based on good times and music and general mutual interests.  But rarely do they turn into childhood, family dynamic, pain, love, fear and loss.  Typically the things that would drive our sub-conscious into the people we really are, and the decisions that drive our lives. 

The Spinal Tap image that most people perceive of us on the outside, is basically true.  The more I'm opened up into this fantasy land of bus parking lots and back stages and hotel rooms, the more I'm astounded at the mediocrity of its inhabitants.  They are just people.  People with a certain creative talent that are put in a position where people listen to what they have to say.  And are asked, quite often, to say a lot. 

With these questions in place, I'm trying to investigate further. 

Like most members of the advanced human civilization of our time, I googled my questions to see if anyone has thought of it yet, so I can appropriately steal from them and pass it off as my own.  I stumbled upon Micheal Brein, the travel psychologist, who lists many reasons for people, not musicians, need for travel.  The most interesting seemed to be the idea that it improves your self esteem.  He says "Anything people can do to enhance their own images of themselves elevates their estimates of their own sense of self worth in their own eyes as well as in the eyes of others."   This could most likely apply to the psyche of many musicians I know, insecurity and low self esteem and a feeling of being an outsider leads many traveling musicians to their calling.  It's actually amusing when these types of people are put onto pedestals of coolness, because their lack of coolness typically brought them there to a certain extent. 

For the older players, his idea of re-connecting and re-validating our lives holds water.  Saying "Travel enables us to make our current lives 'more real' by re-examining the present in light of the past."  This was best summarized by a T.S. Eliot poem saying.

And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. 
We shall not cease from exploration

I like this, and like I said before, it can illuminate the more romantic side of the traveling musician.  Using the places and the people and the music to highlight the better parts of the past.  And to further suppress the things we're all running away from in the first place.  I realize this all my sound judgemental, but please know it comes from the most personal and sardonic place.  In essence, all of our perception is based most closely to our own likeness. 

But...I can't help but look at the people and places around me in an anthropological context.  The idea of what drives people, and myself, is fascinating.  With the personalities I'm surrounded with on a daily basis, it's hard not to try and figure it out.  I may be barking up an endless tree, but I'm not done in my quest to figure out the psychology of my people.  The nomads, the wanderers, the seekers...the traveling musician. 


  1. I am totally agree with the Benny. If you are do traveling to go any where then your traveling is not become enjoyable. So, always go there where you want to go and enjoyed a lot.

  2. Simply put- Traveling is not only learning about a new city but also, yourself! :)

  3. I 100% agree. I'm a traveling musician as well, and I feel that really describes me, my band mates, and so many other touring musicians that I know. It's rough most of the time, but it always feels right.

  4. Oh, what wouldnt one do to sit down and explore your thoughts tete-a-tete.


  5. Mixing two passions like music and traveling makes life worth living. :)