Hello there, musician friends! I thought I might take some time out of my busy schedule to offer some insights and advice on the life of a touring musician.
Touring is not for the faint of heart and is not for everyone. It is an activity that will test your ability to navigate and utilize specific skill sets. The best touring musicians possess easygoing and flexible personalities, can easily adapt to last-minute changes, have the ability to take direction without putting up their guard and most importantly, are open to the idea of waking up in a new city every day.
The grand perks of a touring musician’s travel schedule include meeting new people and making new friends around the world. You also get to experience new cultures, foods and traditions.
I have toured nonstop with multiplatinum country rocker Jason Aldean since 2005. Outlined below is a 30-day account of my recent travels. This time frame coincided with the release of Aldean’s sixth studio record entitled “Old Boots New Dirt” and the television dates booked to promote its release. To make things even busier, the dates were booked while playing a very dense series of live shows to finish our 2014 cycle of the “Burn It Down” tour.
This hectic period found me playing a variety of rigs that included my normal touring drum set that moves around the country on an 18-wheeler semi truck, a variety of “backline” drum sets (gear provided by a third-party instrument rental company) for TV shows and a smaller percussion setup for acoustic “unplugged” dates. This required lots of preplanning with my drum tech Jon Hull. Hull and I made specific and meticulous notes about what gear was needed for each event. Preplanning is crucial for this kind of demanding schedule.
Let’s face it: Drummers sweat! Since, I sweat so much, I usually pack heavier than my bandmates. By looking at my tour schedule and our daily itinerary, I was able to find little pockets of time that I would be able to break away and do laundry.
Here’s a trick: If find yourself staying at a swanky, over-priced hotel and don’t want to pay $5 for each pair of underwear to be “sent out,” simply find out where the hotel sends its laundry and go there. The price will be way cheaper, and you’ll get out and see the city you are in.
Laundromats are great places to meet interesting characters, and I always get lots of business done there. The last time I was in a Laundromat in North Hollywood, Calif. I starting making a few calls and by the time my clothes were dry, I had organized a happy-hour gathering for that evening with 40 of Los Angeles’s finest drummers.
The life of a touring musician
In this 30-day time frame, I traveled on a tour bus and caught lots of early-morning flights to make all the appearances happen. TV shows are always notorious for very early hotel lobby calls. Get your rest when you can and set several wake-up calls. I call the front desk for a wake up call and set wake up alarms on my iPhone in five-minute increments.
A typical show day involves waking up in a new city daily. The band has free time until our daily sound check at 3:30 p.m. I enjoy filling the time with teaching local lessons, giving master classes, doing a drum clinic or speaking at a local high school, college or corporate event.
I also squeeze in as many workouts as possible. Regular exercise keeps me focused, clears my head, releases any toxins and keeps me stretched and limber for drumming. I try to keep it fresh. Sometimes I will opt for a hotel gym workout, a backstage burn with workout DVDs on my laptop or a “get to know the city” run or walk.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served in catering each day at 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. After sound check, I work out, visit with friends, tend to more business, etc. Then, I usually try to dine with my band. This is a great time for us to bond. After dinner, we fight for shower space and get changed for the show. My warm-up ritual is from 8-9 p.m.
We take the stage at 9:15 p.m. each night for 85 minutes. The schedule below has some other twists and turns in it. Check it out. Here we go …
Sept. 11: I film more footage for my “Drumming In The Modern World” DVD all day long in Nashville, Tenn. I also make sure I was packed the night before and rush off to catch my 9 p.m. bus call.
Sept. 12: This is a show night in Knoxville, Tenn. Drummer friend Ray Luzier (Korn) comes to check out the show with his family. Luzier had just relocated to Nashville, and we joke that we had to both be on the road to actually visit each other. A post show “drum chat” goes on for some time after the show.
Sept. 13: It is a show day in Lexington, Ky. I teach drum lessons all morning for my friends at The Drum Center of Lexington. I do an official “meet and greet” for drum shop customers in the early afternoon along with Sean Fuller (Florida Georgia Line). I return to the venue at 2:30 p.m. for my 3:30 p.m. sound check. The show is at 9:15 p.m.
Sept. 14: Show day at Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio. My drum tech Jon Hull’s parents come to sound check, and I enjoy visiting with them. The show had energy for days.
Sept. 15: We spend the majority of the day traveling on our tour bus to Denver. We check into the hotel, and then it’s time for a hot shower and a hot meal. Night off in Denver!
Sept. 16: Day off in Denver. My bride Cindy visits me on a break from her schedule as a touring entertainer.
Sept. 17: First of two sold-out nights at Red Rocks Amphitheater. I spend the day visiting with my wife Cindy in a gorgeous outdoor setting. My brother Mike also stops by for hugs and family gossip.
Sept. 18: Second sold-out show at Red Rocks Amphitheater. I spend the day visiting and spending quality time with Cindy. Members of the management team visit the show as well as people from Target who will shoot a commercial later that day. I decide to run the stairs at Red Rocks. It’s great exercise in a beautiful outdoor setting. I am sure to take lots of pictures.
Sept. 19: Show day in Albuquerque, NM. Cindy heads to LA for work. I press onward with the tour.
Sept. 20: Show day in Phoenix, Ariz. I enjoy lunch with Steve Fischer (inventor of The Drum Dial). I recommend getting “off campus” as much as possible. Every day can become very much like “Ground Hog Day” — the only thing that changes is the size of the dressing room and the speed of the wireless Internet. I recommend getting out, seeing the sites or having lunch with friends. Just make sure you are back at least a half an hour before sound check!
Sept. 21: Day off in North Hollywood. I go for an awesome early-morning run along Ventura Boulevard and meet with a producer friend about doing a project together over brunch.
Sept. 22: We film “The Jimmy Kimmel Show Live” in Hollywood. Cindy rejoins me for a visit. Jimmy Kimmel has the best green room in the business! There are always lots of celebrities and smiling faces backstage at his show — the epitome of a TV show in the heart of Hollywood.
Sept. 23: We film “Yahoo Live” in Santa Monica, Calif. This is an unplugged gig, so I play what I call “rock n’ roll djembe.” The song “Burnin It Down” needs a little help with forward motion and “lope,” so we decide to overdub a Latin Percussion soft shaker as a consistent rhythmic bed. It really brings the song to life. After the taping, 15 amazing food trucks are parked outside the building for the lunch hour. I decide to go with a burrito that fuses Asian and Mexican food traditions. It is a good choice! Our schedule has been intense, so I take a nap while the bus travels from Santa Monica to San Diego.
Sept. 24: This is a day off for the entire organization. I book two events. I present a “CRASH Course For Success” speaking event first thing in the morning at a local high school and then again in the evening at The Staump School Of Music. Both groups are fun and very open to my message. Between events, I ask my friend Tim to take me to the best Mexican food spot in the city. It is the real deal. Wow! After my evening event, I meet my friend and local San Diego drum educator Simon Das Gupta for a late dinner at the rooftop bar of our downtown hotel — perfect weather.
Sept. 25: Sound check and show in Chula Vista, Calif. My friend Simon Das Gupta comes to the show, and we visit again after. This particular venue has a tradition of hiring a Mexican food truck for post-show catering. I look forward to this gig all year, as these street tacos are the best I have ever put in my mouth — truly world-class food! I skip dinner to make room for this culinary tradition.
Sept. 26: Show day in Irvine, Calif. Cindy drops by for a visit, as does Drum Workshop Educational Director Juels Thomas. Juels is the best in the business and a great friend. We catch up on all things and soak up the California sun.
Sept. 27: My day starts early with a drum event hosted by Dennis Gast in Mountain View, Calif. My friend Troy Luccketta of the band Tesla decides to come by. It is a nice surprise to all the attendees, and we end up doing a nice, double-drum jam! Troy also comes to sound check, has dinner with me and watches the show. We even hang after the show! It was a great day with one of my favorite drum brothers.
Sept. 28: Show day in Sacramento, Calif. I meet with friend Chad Dwyer to sign items for charity events. It’s a great show. I’m always grateful to be playing a band with a singer and a band that are consistent. Our No. 1 goal is to execute every night no matter what!
Sept. 29: We return to The Beverly Garland Hotel in North Hollywood. We film an iHeart Radio Live event in Burbank, Calif. A few of the band and crew guys gather in the hotel lounge. Hurray for fellowship!
Sept. 30: Today, we tape “The Ellen Show” in Burbank, Calif. This show is always first class. The staff is so organized and knowledgeable. Sound check and camera blocking are a breeze! Whenever we play West Coast TV shows, my drums are provided by Center Staging in Burbank (thank you Johnny Lord and friends). Today, they set me up with one of my favorite DW finishes called “Gun Metal Grey.” After that, it’s time to hurry up and wait. At least it’s in a very nice green room with tons of health-conscious craft-service items. Lots of coffee … Thank God, we have been at it a while now.
Oct. 1: Today, we fly from LAX to Winnipeg, Canada. It’s a long travel day. I always get lots of work done on flights. (I wrote this article on a flight from Vegas to Nashville).
Oct. 2: Today, I present an educational master class hosted by drummer Josh Ward in Winnipeg. The show that night is great!
Oct. 3: Show day in Sioux Falls, S.D.!
Oct. 4: Travel day from Winnipeg to Las Vegas.
Oct. 5: Tonight, we headline the Route 91 Festival on the Vegas Strip. The scene is awesome. With a sea of smiling faces and the lights of Vegas all lit up, I have the best seat in the city! These are the kind of moments you savor.
Oct. 6: We fly from Las Vegas to New York for a night off! I catch dinner with some band and crew guys — great times. I try to get to bed ASAP for the ridiculously early lobby call in the morning.
Oct. 7: I meet my under-slept friends in the lobby for a trip to NBC’s “The Today Show.” Billy Idol is on the show promoting his new memoir. He is very nice and takes the time to come over to me and say “I f*&^ing love your drumming mate.” Who doesn’t love a compliment, especially from a rock legend? From that taping, we go immediately to a sound check for “The Tonight Show.” Taping is smooth and effortless. The new studio for the show has a great sound and feel. The Roots sound amazing, and the house audio crew is top notch. I say hello to the ever-friendly Mr. Questlove in the hallway. We have yet another night off in New York. I spend some time with my band and crew friends. My pal Sammy Merendino (drummer for The Tony award-winning musical “Kinky Boots”) drops by for a visit as well.
Oct. 8: The entire organization has a day off in New York. A limo picks me up and takes me to Garfield, N.J. for a photo/video shoot for percussion manufacturer Latin Percussion. This is my first opportunity to meet the entire staff. We also share a nice lunch and talk about future plans. I head back to the city for an early evening dinner with Anthony Citrinite of The Collective Music School. Anthony lets me know that he is adding me to the adjunct teaching staff as an “artist in residence.” I will make several visits to the school each year to teach an international roster of drum students.
Oct. 9: Show day in Erie, Pa.
Oct. 10: Show day in Auburn Hills, Mich. I have a 1 p.m. interview with my friends for the “Detroit Drums Dreams” podcast. I catch some catering, do my sound check and get ready for the show.
Oct. 11: No sound check. Free day. I visit with some family members who just happen to tailgate at 5:30 p.m. It is always great to visit with family. Showtime is 9:15 p.m. We are on the bus by 1 a.m. and head back to Nashville.
Oct. 12: I wake up in Nashville and have a day off catching up with my wife on a Sunday — great day. I am happy to be home for just a bit!
The end of the road
So there you have it. A drummer’s diary presenting a month in the life of a touring musician! I hope that I provided some insights into the experiences presented to me daily. The moral of the story: hard work does pay off, you just have to believe in yourself and make the effort.
Many cheers! Questions or comments? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me through my Rich Redmond social media sites.
Rich Redmond is a top-call recording drummer/percussionist based in Nashville and LA. Redmond’s versatile, dynamic and rock-solid drumming is the sound behind many of today’s top talents. He has toured/recorded/performed with: Jason Aldean, Ludacris, Kelly Clarkson, Bryan Adams, Bob Seger, Chris Cornell, Joe Perry, Jewel, Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, Thompson Square, Steel Magnolia, The Pointer Sisters, John Eddie, Pam Tillis, Susan Ashton, Deana Carter, Montgomery Gentry, Alabama, John Anderson, Trace Adkins, Keith Urban, Emily West, Lauren Alaina and many others.
As a Grammy-nominated drummer, Redmond has played drums and percussion on 18 No. 1 singles with sales well over the 20 million mark. He has also appeared on the trail of television shows such as “The Grammy Awards,” “The Tonight Show” (with Leno, O’Brien and Fallon), “The Today Show,” “Conan O’ Brien,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” “Good Morning America,” “Ellen,” “The CMA Awards,” “ACM Awards,” “CMT Music Awards,” “ACA Awards” and many others.
Redmond is a partner in a production team known as “NV” (New Voice Entertainment), which constantly develops new talent such as Thompson Square and Parmalee, which together have celebrated three No. 1 hits. Redmond also brings his “CRASH Course For Success” motivational drumming event to drum shops, music stores, high schools, colleges and corporate events across the world.
Redmond received his master’s degree in music education and was voted “Best Country Drummer” and “Clinician” by both Modern Drummer and Drum! magazines. He has also been featured in Drumhead and Rhythm magazines. Redmond’s first book “FUNdamentals of Drumming For Kids ages 5-10” published by Modern Drummer and distributed by Hal Leonard is a best seller.