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  • Writer's pictureThe Rough & Tumble

Four Months into a Two Month Tour

Two weekends ago, Scott began accidentally telling audiences "We're four months into a two month tour." We were in Unionville, MO, and it became suddenly clear that we were in fact losing our sense of time. We left for the Hit Pacific Tour on March 20th, playing a show in Saratoga Springs, NY at Caffe Lena, then 5 days later played a show in Chico, CA-- sweeping an entire country to kick things off. From there, we hit a snow cancellation, some family time, some very well and very poorly attended shows, and so much beauty.

Since we are no longer living in a camper full time, touring feels a little more... well, like touring. When we lived in our rig full time, we kept a home-work balance by sectioning off weekdays for booking, management, and business and our weekends were spent playing shows. Usually we'd take one day off to rest, but mostly we were constantly on the go. Not having a home made us feel the hustle, the scarcity. Everything we had was packed into one very-falling-apart camper-- our career, our belongings, our family. If we slacked for a second, the fear was that it would all go away.

After 8 and a half years of that, switching to the "normal" touring life with a real life home to go back to is... kinda sweet. We make more time to see the sights, to linger, to love where we are a little more and not chronically keep looking at where we are going. It helps BIG to have a camper that isn't falling apart every other state (THANK YOU CAMP STARTER SUPPORTERS!) and gets us better gas mileage than we've ever had (due to the new outfit, but also that we don't have to carry EVERYTHING we own in it!). It also helps that this trip we passed through Northern California and got to see the REALLY big trees for the first time. If you don't feel a deep sense of profound spiritual awakening there, you've already let the grave grow up around you.

That's not to snuff at those Midwestern greens, those Great Plains, those unruly Western landscapes in between. We feel unbelievably lucky to be doing what we do. More than we've ever felt it before. Which, I think, means that our "Year of Pruning & Restful Work" is working. We mentioned at the top of the Year that we'd be cutting back a little. From the outside, it might not look like much. We're still touring like crazy, we're still writing and coming out with a new EP at the end of the year, we're still keeping up with our Patreon with new perks. But what we aren't doing is pursuing all of the opportunities at once.

We really made a lot of swings last year-- the conferences, the big festivals, the push and the shove to get the scoop on who books that really great series that we've wanted to get into for years. We released a new record and regretted the amount of money we put into promoting it. We made music videos, had to get a new-to-us truck and camper months apart. We had to trademark our name because an Australian band was trying to steal our likeness after functioning under this name for thirteen years. It was fun. A lot of fun. Mostly. We met friends. We made "progress" (whatever that looks like in an ever changing indie musician's life). We spent all of our money and lost some to those big swings everyone assured us were necessary. And then, we got burnt out.

We didn't want to quit exactly, but we knew we weren't functioning at a sustainable pace. So we decided that we would pursue this year with gratitude. We'd play the shows we love, not the ones we are told we should be getting at this level. We'd spend less money and make more art and let the creativity fall where it would. It's not forever. We just needed a year to regroup.

Now, when we proposed this, we were not unaware of the Compare-and-Despair. We've touched on this quite a bit, and anyone who does anything at all knows this feeling. The second you open that social media app, you're susceptible. The feeling that everyone else in your field is getting the gig, getting the press, getting the festival, making the waves that you hoped you would get. It's a quick spiral from doing all right to feeling behind. Behind what? Beats us, but suddenly there's an imaginary line that has become unfathomably real and is dooming you and your career to the royal poophouse.

It's all completely false. But here we are. So in January, when we hopeful and bright-eyed made this pact to work restfully, to work slowly, to take some time to appreciate and not overreach, Scott wisely spoke up--

"Now, come June, we're not going to feel this way. We're going to see everyone else who made the big swings get their due, and we're going to feel like idiots for not doing more."

He was wrong. It was actually May 22nd of last week when he began wringing his hands after a successful day of laying low and booking shows. It just wasn't enough. Everyone else was ahead. When asked ahead of what, he flustered and retorted "You know what I mean!" I did. But instead of joining his spiral, I suggested a walk. He was reluctant, but Puddle convinced him, and soon enough we were walking around some pretty green woods in Eastern Iowa talking about how everyone else but us is successful. It was this exact time that I reminded him what he'd said in January.

"Boy, weren't we zen back then," he said.

"No, well, maybe," I said, "But we were also right. And you saw this coming. So now what?"

Now, we are four months into a two month tour, and we've got some stellar shows coming up. We planned our Year perfectly to be able to visit with friends, to get our work done unhurried, to see parts of the country we crave when we make our calendar at the end of the year. By the end of our walk, we remembered. This year is a home run. No, not a victory lap. No, not resting on our laurels. Just resting. Doing the work we know how to do, and enjoying it. Because one day, our bodies might not let us. Our finances might not let us (though that part has never stopped us before). Our circumstances or the world's circumstances may suddenly change and might not let us.

We lost ourselves there for a second. We lost our sense of time, our sense of self. Or rather, some lost time brought us back to ourselves. Do we want to keep growing and getting bigger audiences and better shows all the time? Heck yes! We're still working, we're still eyes ahead. But we are also feet planted firmly where we are. And where we are now is playing shows we only dreamed of playing 13 years ago when we started this band. We are writing songs we thought were only from the professionals-- for the real musicians. It was a real time-meets-reality check last week when we encountered the thirteen year cicadas-- The Great Southern Brood-- in Downers Grove, IL. Those exact cicada eggs were being laid thirteen years ago when we were writing our very first songs as The Rough & Tumble. And now, they've hatched. I wonder if they were as surprised as we were to see us thirteen years later when they finally woke up, still singing along with them. What a head trip.

We've been listening to a lot of music lately. That sounds ridiculous coming from a couple of full time musicians, but listening to music is another thing that gets lost to the hustle. Instead of listening, you critique, you inspect, you judge, you compare, you check the backstory and see what famous musician helped that artist get where they are. So in our year of restful work, we've laid those other things down and really started to listen again. This month, the new Sarah Jarosz record has been on repeat (along with TS and Beyonce), and this line is a zinger for a couple of kids who are trying hard to keep their nose to the work and their timeline in the present--

This is the way it is now / It's a hard time, but it's our time / And someday we'll be looking back / Missin' the way it is now / This is the way it is now.


Well friends, we are solidly two months into a four month tour. Come on out and see us. We'll be the ones taking our sweet time in that ballad, remembering what it is like to love the song we're given.

1 Comment

May 29

Thank you for the wonderful tale. I love that you are living a good life this year. We love you!

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