Tell us about your tour vehicle. Any notable breakdown stories?
Ohhhh….the tour vehicle. The problem that never ends!! We joke that we are cursed by the vehicle gods. We are actually in the process of writing a song called “Bad C-A-R-M-A” about all the tour vehicles we’ve gone through, and the issues we’ve dealt with along the way.
Currently, we are driving a 2017 Ford Transit, one of the hi-top extended 15 passenger ones. It’s got about 85,000 miles on it now. We wanted something big enough that we could fit the band, our merchandise, and our gear, without having to take a trailer. I also like that it’s tall enough that I can stand up straight when I need to use it as a dressing room on the road. We’ve even got a bed in the back.
We thought that buying a close-to-new vehicle (purchased with 22,000 miles on it), would alleviate us of some of the problems that we had with older, more high mileage vans…but boy, were we wrong!! The transit has broken down on us 3 times! I’ve got some great (or terrible, depending on how you look at it) breakdown stories!
It’s December 22, 2018. We had just finished a 6 week run opening for the Brian Setzer Orchestra. It’s the last day of the tour, and we just finished playing our biggest show to date, for about 7,000 people at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. We were going to spend the next day relaxing in LA, and then we had a few shows on our own between California and New York, to get us home in time for our New Years Eve gig.
Well, on the way back to where we were crashing after the final Setzer gig, the van breaks down on us. In a way, we were so thankful that it waited until after the big tour was over. We were still screwed, as it was Christmas week, and most repair places were closed, or were planning to close early for the holiday. We spent the majority of those next few days hanging out in the Ford waiting room, drinking beer, playing music, inviting friends to visit, anything we could do to make our presence known, so that they would try to get it done before Xmas, and get us the hell out of there! I spent that Christmas sleeping on a cot in my friend’s kitchen in LA! It was an interesting week to say the least. Have I mentioned that we also had our dog, Dolly with us this whole time?!
So it’s now December 28th. Christmas has come and gone, and we’re still stuck in California. They manage to get the van fixed minutes before they close for the weekend. The problem turned out to be with the body control module. We had already had to cancel all of our shows for that week between CA and NY, but we had a big NYE gig back home that the promotors were hounding us to get back for. We spent those next 48+ hours driving straight across the country, only stopping for gas and bathroom breaks! It was pretty intense, but we made it back home right in time! And guess what? The van broke down again as soon as we hit our parking lot!!!
There’s a lot more van stories to be told, but we’ll save those for another time!
(We did have to replace the transmission for $7,000 this past year).
How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?
Our eating habits on the road have changed a lot over the years. We don’t live on fast food and deli meat these days. There are a lot of things that you can’t control once you’re out there (traffic, the weather, vehicle problems, show cancellations, etc) but one thing that you can control is what you put in your body, and we try to make good decisions, in that regard. Out of the 4 of us in the band, two of us are vegetarian, one is vegan & gluten free, and one will eat most anything (but hates mushrooms). By default, these dietary restrictions have forced us to eat better on the road. There was one tour where we went to the Whole Foods buffet almost every day. It’s definitely not the cheapest route, but there’s something for everyone, and it’s fast and healthy. You can also load up there on van snacks like granola, nuts, fruit, etc.
Other days we try to hit a good lunch special. Most Thai, Japanese, Chinese places have affordable lunch specials that can get some vegetables in ya. We’ve also found some spots around the country that have a salad bar, which is always a crowd pleaser in our band. Yelp has really been helpful in letting us find good restaurants in places that we aren’t familiar with. Usually once we find a spot to eat that checks all our boxes, we remember it and always go back when we are in town!!
How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?
I actually don’t break that many strings, and neither does Eddie, our lead guitarist. Maybe 3 per year tops, if that! Regardless, we’re fortunate that part of our endorsement through Gretsch Guitars includes Fender strings, so that isn’t an expense for us at this point.
Where do you rehearse?
For most of the past decade, we rehearsed in a back room in our old apartment, that doubled as the laundry room. It wasn’t glamorous or huge, and was often pretty messy and strewn with unfolded laundry, but it had no windows, and was kind of a room within a room, so we could play whenever we wanted without disturbing the neighbors. It served its purpose, and we wrote, fleshed out, and learned many a song in that little room.
Last year, Matt (my husband and bass player) and I bought our first home. There is a semi-finished garage the property, and we’ve converted it into our rehearsal space/home recording studio. We closed on the house and moved in on March 11, 2020, just as the world was about to shut down due to Covid, and all of our shows and tours were cancelled. Needless to say, we found ourselves with a lot of time to work on the studio and the house. We lucked out that week when we inherited a room’s worth of sound panels, intended to be used for a NBC sound booth at SXSW, but when the event was cancelled, we were given almost enough insulated walls to line the whole garage. Matt got clever and used his old band t-shirts that he didn’t wear anymore, and made sound panels out of them, stuffed with rock wool for insulation. He lined the ceilings with those. It looks really damn cool, and helps with volume control.
We’ve spent most of the past year rehearsing and recording in there as a duo. It’s just recently that we’ve started to have full band rehearsals again, now that we are all vaccinated, and shows are starting to come back! I look forward to making a lot of memories and writing new songs in our space, and I intend to rent it out to other bands in the area who are looking for a place to rehearse.
What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?
Lyrics from the first song I ever wrote!? Woah, we’re getting deep here!
Here we go:
“My throat is red, my eyes are tired, but I’ll still walk the thousand miles just to be where you are. I know where I am now, but where will I be tomorrow?”
I’m not sure I remember the name of that one, I don’t think I ever actually played it out anywhere.
Describe your first gig.
My first gig was when I was 20. I was in my college band, an all-girl indie/pop/rock group called “The Red Hopes”. There was an iconic rock n roll bar in Albany, NY (where I first started going to college) called “Valentines”, and we played our first gig there with my friend’s band “Slim Pickins”. We had all of our friends come out, and I definitely caught the show bug that night. I never stopped gigging heavily since then.
What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?
For the past decade I’ve been fortunate enough to play music full time (or at least that’s what I did before the pandemic hit). I’ve had one gig that has been steady throughout this time, and was actually what motivated me to quit my last day job, which was selling advertising for an arts & culture magazine called Chronogram. I’ve been performing as a country/western entertainer at one of America’s longest running family resorts called “The Rocking Horse Ranch”. I get to put on my best western wear and either sit around a bonfire, or a BBQ lunch, and play my favorite old country tunes from Johnny, Patsy, Hank, Willie, Dolly….whatever I want really (as long as I keep it family friendly). I go solo for the bonfires, and I bring Matt and Eddie (our guitarist) for the BBQs.
How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?
The more we’ve played/toured and gained recognition, the easier it’s been to make ends meet financially, although it’s still a struggle at times, especially this past year. Pre-pandemic, it felt like things were getting a little better each year, and as long as we were moving in the right direction, I didn’t mind struggling, as long as it was to pursue my own goals.
Matt and I have always kept our finances low in order to be able to afford playing music full time. Historically we’ve always had a roommate, we cook at home most nights, we don’t take vacations. We’ve done what we needed to do in order to continue to pursue music.
Matt and I also play as a duo so that we can always keep our schedule filled, and be able to play at different types of places that the full band wouldn’t be appropriate at (house shows, restaurants, small bars). As long as I have my bills paid, food on my plate (and in my dogs bellies), and can gas up the van, I feel like I’m succeeding. Freedom to do what I want with my time and play music regularly is the payoff. Ideally, things will continue to move in the right direction and get easier. I imagine life would be less stressful if we were making more money with our music, but until then, I just got my real estate license, and plan to start to pursue that avenue alongside performing, at least until the world is back to normal.
What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?
You are your own best advocate. No one is going to care about your music and your career as much as you do (well, maybe your parents). If you aren’t willing to put in the work, no one else is going to want to do it for you. After all, it is the music “business”. Find the line between taking yourself and your band business seriously, but not so seriously that it’s not fun anymore. Put in the work. You have the ability to make your own decisions, and lead yourself and your bandmates down the path that you choose, but you have to have the discipline to make it happen. Don’t use playing music as an excuse to get drunk every night.