I’ve always talked about wanting to go places.
I’ve always wanted to go to all types of different places near and far, meet all kinds of people, experience various cultures, and to live the type of life that produces stories and where explanations are demanded. Because going to a place unalike what you already know is enthralling and somehow breathes more life into you. It teaches you more about yourself and the people who surround you. And mostly, you come face to face with life’s greatest lessons, even though some prove to be more thrilling than others.
The opportunities came pouring in, and I couldn’t even begin to thank the big dude upstairs enough for the flood of experiences.
First impressions aren’t everything, but they do imprint memories onto you. I’ll never forget it: the first time overseas, the first time on an international tour. We hopped off the plane in Luxembourg, greeted by a large sleeper tour bus costing well over a million dollars after all its renovations. The whole thing was all for us. We didn’t have to share it with anyone else. It was all too surreal, but it wasn’t illusory because it was real life. Everything about the vehicle screamed rich and famous, like it was straight out of an episode of an MTV show featuring artists living the high life, kind of like Pimp My Ride—fully equipped with a snack-filled kitchenette, sufficiently stocked refrigerators, a nice lounge area perfect for pillow talking and video gaming and movie indulging, and leather seats (or should I say, sofas). We each had our own little bunk with a curtain for privacy if we so desired, and the little poop room was as fancy as potty rooms and showers on classy tour buses go.
And as expected but only sometimes welcomed, the next several weeks would be ones where God would mold and stretch me left and right because that’s what He likes to do. He is going to grow you whether you like it or not because God is in the business of making you a better human being. He wants to give you a glimpse of what it looks like when you are living life to your maximum potential. So, molding and stretching might be an understatement. Because when you’re living out of a bus with eight other people from eight different walks of life, and the only real time you have alone is the four or five hours in your hotel room after a show before the next early morning call time; it teaches your things. It teaches you A LOT of things. Top four:
1. Pack lightly.
The truth is: You can take all the precautions in the world and pack all the things, but you could still end up under-prepared. You might think packing everything is for safety, but really you’re just holding onto something you knew you never really needed to begin with.
I’ve been there, trying to decide what to pack and what to leave. Going back and forth between what is necessary and what I could do with out. But even then, I would have a habit of filling suitcases to the brink with superfluous items. The thing is: when you’re feeding your suitcases with all those objects, there’s more room for your baggage to sleep. And eventually, all that baggage becomes a part of you and it gets harder to clear. It’s too difficult to travel with all that weight on your shoulders. Doing simple tasks like climbing up two tiny flights of stairs or walking up a little hill becomes a bigger challenge. I know because I’ve heaved around luggage packed with heartbreak, disappointments, failures, and lies. It gets heavy. It’s a chore to unpack. When you have too much junk in the trunk, there isn’t any room for the good and the new to fit anywhere. And, your suitcase will become much too overweight to bring on board with you anywhere.
2. Be flexible and open.
Every tour, I create a master schedule complete with all the details and information essential for travel as well as a timeline (by the hour) to paint a picture of each day on the road. It’s aggravating because “those are the plans” but we rarely stick to the schedule. At some point, I just had to be okay with that. The reality is that plans are just that, they’re plans. They’re guidelines. And more often than not, God decides that He wants to shake things up and erase them like on an Etch-a-Sketch because He has something else in mind.
Things happen. Life happens. We have our ups and our downs, our glowing moments and our ugly cry face ones. It’s all part of the growth process and the adventure. I’m still learning this, because one tends to always outweigh the other just a little more for me. Truth is, there are going to be those days where production for upcoming shows falls short, and people neglect reading your rider in detail so you’re missing backline equipment. Band members will get sick. Shows will be cancelled. Strategies will be wrecked. And your tour bus could very well have unforeseen maintenance issues that will leave you stranded for a number of hours in some random German town at the most inconvenient of times—when travel hours are tight and you’re needing to get to the next destination for sound check. But it’s in those moments where you just have to take it as it is and roll with the punches. The unpredicted might turn into something positively breath taking, like a room with views of the Mediterranean Sea from the 28th floor of the Hilton, served with all-you-can-eat hor d’oeuvres on the 32nd floor lounge. Or, you’ll get to explore German castles and swim in the Aegean Sea until your skin oozes salt. There’s a constant teeter-totter, and it’s in those moments where you just have to be open to allowing God to work in the way He wants to. You never know what the unexpected may bring.
3. Have grace and be kind.
Have grace and be kind to your sound guy.
Have grace and be kind to the people running the venue.
Have grace and be kind to your band and team.
Have grace and be kind to the big people and the little people.
They are all people, and they are all human.
I’ve caught myself in so many distasteful moments, and it is so easy to be pushy or frustrated because you’re thinking to yourself that you have a particular expectation and goal in mind. Goals and expectations aren’t bad things, but attitude and tone, and the words that come out of your mouth make all the difference.
The thing is: No one wakes up in the morning and decides, “I really want to fail at life today. I want put on the worst performance of my life, forget all my lyrics, and play super sloppily.” No one is purposely trying to do this life thing poorly and half-assed. Or maybe they are, but there is always a reason behind it and maybe they just need you to be present for them whether emotionally or physically. (See the section about “packing lightly” up above). Not everyone will pack lightly, and that’s the truth so be sensitive to where they are coming from and the baggage that they’ve decided to carry along with them while traveling. And if it gets too heavy, help them out a little. Entitlement is detrimental to relationships; so don’t expect people to do things for you. Instead, be kind and see how you are able to contribute. Always do more giving than receiving, without assuming anything in return. You can remain professional and efficient, and pursue excellence but still have grace and kindness. It’s possible, I promise.
4. Eat the snacks.
This is self-explanatory. Snacks are the lifeline to any type of travel. No one wants to have conversations with a hangry person. And when you’re making hours upon hours of long treks, no one wants to be stuck in a vehicle with a hangry person. Just be careful when you’re making steamed green beans and salmon. There are other people on board too, and the last thing you want is for anything fishy to be going on.
The rumors are true: the music business is a beast.
It’s intimidating and scary. It’s unstable. It’s where dreams are fulfilled, yet at the same time where dreams are crushed into smithereens. And fast. Discouragement is a real thing. Failure becomes very tangible. And “making it” just doesn’t happen for you over night. Trends come and turn quicker than you can say “YOLO,” and everything deviates so quickly (just check Twitter, the trending hashtag is fluctuating by the hour). And as honest as honesty goes: No one’s really “made” it because success is merely subjective and you don’t always see the results of which you sow. Most of the time, you have to start from the bottom up and it’s a lot of exertion, usually taking longer than you anticipate. The reality is that you are persistently sowing because there is a lot to be done. Lots. And I mean, lots.
It’s never been about the glitz or the glam, or being “famous” because it’s never been about me.
I remember stepping into what we would call “home” for the next few weeks, exhaling loudly and thinking, “It’s all coming together. I’m starting to see the fruits of the labor. I feel full. This is what I want to do with my life.”
I want to dream big dreams—I want to go places, to see places. I want to be a leader but also a supporter. Back in high school, I knew that God had given me a heart for the artist. Since then, God has only grown that. There is nothing more gratifying and gives me greater joy than being a part of the whole process with an artist, who also becomes more than just your business partner because you are also friends. It’s the process of doing life together: going through and embracing the struggles, turning around defeats, crossing goals off the list because they’ve been tackled, and witnessing the reaching of their dreams while you are striving for your own because you get to work on different parts of the same vision. You are a unit. You are a team.
I want to be full. I want to work and be around people who fuel my spirit and give me life. Who are my closest of friends and are constantly speaking words of encouragement and truth into my life. I want to be around people who support and push me to be a better version of myself, and I, the same for them.