Wellness on Tour: Seven Country Music Artists Share their Tips
Navigating a career in the music industry can be tough at any level. But it can be especially difficult for up and coming artists. During CCMA Country Music Week this month, we met with a number of artists at different levels of their careers to get real about self-care and mental health in the industry. Read on to see what tips they have for keeping their voices healthy, addressing mental health challenges, communicating boundaries with bandmates, and avoiding burnout.
What are the top three things you’re doing to stay healthy during the CCMAs?
James: We’re pretty busy this year, so I haven’t done as well as I usually do, but I often run with our bandmates. I’ll run with our drummer when we’re on the road and I try to stay on John’s case to eat some healthy food. John enjoys sugar, so I try to stay on him.
John: So, the other thing James and I do is we try to sleep as much as we can. We really try not to stay up late, rest our voices in between shows, take naps during the day. That’s honestly the best thing for our voices.
On top of resting, do you have any weird vocal care tips and tricks you’d like to share?
James: We just drink lots of water. We do warm ups and stuff like that, if we do end up having a few drinks and having a good time with some people, and this is probably bad, but pickle juice seems to work for me to rehydrate me. You know, I’ll drink the brine.
When you’re out on the road, what do you do to keep your mental health in check?
John: I think one of the things that’s really important is calling home and making sure you create an environment that’s consistent because the road is so inconsistent. You’re in a different city everyday. So whether it’s stopping at Walmart parking lots or making sure we have regular calls home, checking up on each other, making sure the bus is clean, making sure there’s a bit of routine. That’s something that provides a bit of stability and helps to keep our heads in the right space.
James: We’re really conscious of making sure we have a culture around the band that allows people to be able to express themselves, how they’re feeling, make sure that everyone feels comfortable enough that they can talk to each other. John and I are also pretty optimistic people in general, so we try to make sure everyone feels as encouraged as possible in their roles in the band.
What are the top three things you’re doing to stay healthy during the CCMAs?
I happen to be walking an hour a day. That’s been one of the big things, every morning I get up and I go walk for an hour on the river and it’s incredible. I also wear earplugs at all times, which sounds funny but it’s actually a life-saver. And I just leave events when I need to leave. I’ve been really making an effort this year to be mindful of not sticking around too long.
Do you have a piece of advice for someone starting out on their mental wellness journey?
Just do something small. Don’t think it has to be this grand thing. Just start with baby steps. Right, like just be proud of that. Don’t be ashamed if you just went for a 5 minute walk to clear your head, like, that’s HUGE…And don’t be afraid of where you’re at. Don’t be ashamed of not getting better right away.
Darren Gusnowsky (of JayWalker)
What are the top 3 things you’re doing to stay healthy during the CCMAs?
Top 3 things – getting lots of water in for sure. You’re always talking to people, up early, to bed late. Staying hydrated is very important. I’m a vegetarian, so getting some good food in my system is important. I use this app called Purple Cow, so any city I’m in I’ll use that to see what options I can find. And then I do yoga everyday. If I can get enough time to get a run in, I’ll get a run in as well.
Hydration. Good food. Exercise. Bang! I hit ‘em all.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their wellness journey?
Apps are really helpful, I’ve tried a few different ones. The one I use now is called Yoga Studio, and it’s got a bunch of short little programs, like 15-20 min or hour long things. I just find it really helpful. I’ve got a good running app, too. If I’m around somewhere in a different city, I can plug in the app and it’ll give me routes that I can take.
Do you follow any sort of workout routine to keep your physical health in check?
Yeah I’ve started to commit a little bit more this year. I’m not 20 years old so I don’t bounce back as much as I used to, and I was on tour with Brett Kissel this year for a million tour dates – like we did 100 shows across the country. We started doing a little tour workout group together. So it would be a couple guys from the Kissell band and some of the crew. Everyday we’d have a half hour workout. It helps with all my energy on stage, and you’d think it’s the opposite, you think I’d be tired, but it pumps you up a bit.
What’s on your workout playlist?
It’s usually, honestly, it’s all crazy hardcore metal. It’s like Every Time I Die and all these hardcore punk rock bands. Sometimes it’ll be bluegrass like old Ricky Skaggs stuff, Michael Daves, and Chris Thile. Very rarely is it country when I’m trying to be beast mode guy.
How do you balance networking and performing, but also taking care of yourself?
One of the pieces of advice I got earlier on is just to make sure you’re putting your worth and what you feel is important first. You need to have other things outside of music and work. Whether it’s family, or boyfriend or girlfriend, or your best friends or a hobby, a sport, reading, working out, whatever it is. Make sure you have that escape to balance it out. Because it is easy to get burnt out, for sure.
What’s your favourite thing to do that’s outside of music?
I do enjoy working out. I live back in Nashville and I use Class Pass, and it’s the best thing. Cause I’m the kind of person that gets bored of the same old same old, so Class Pass allows me to just try different things all the time whether its barre, boxing, hot yoga, pilates, it just keeps it fresh and exciting.
The Washboard Union
As vocalists, do you have any vocal care tips?
David: Hydrate, because that is the number one thing you can do for your voice. Honey, oregano, whatever, but water is the number one thing to keep your vocal cords healthy. And you gotta do it hours before you start singing. You can’t do it a minute before you sing.
Chris: We spend a ton of time on the road, and voices can get tired when you spend so much time singing night after night, so I’m a big believer in zinc for your throat.
When you’re out on the road, how do you communicate boundaries with bandmates when you’re tired and fatigue sets in?
Aaron: We found that the best way to sort of approach that is to set open communication, have a conversation with them, and then debrief with everyone to make sure we say “Hey, we’re all here for a reason, we’re here to do a job and we’re here as a team. If we can’t work as brothers or sisters in a team, then the whole thing falls apart. So, let’s get to what the problem is, let’s figure out what our roles are, so we can set expectations and then deal from a strong base and move forward.”
David: People get angry when they’re hungry. After a week of drinking everyday, they get very short-tempered, and people who don’t sleep are short-tempered, too. So those are three big things: food, alcohol, and sleep. You gotta really moderate them because it’s the worst thing for a band when people are at each other’s throats.
Touring can be really hard on someone’s mental health. Is there anything you do to keep your mental health in check?
It’ll make me sound probably pretty insane, but I talk to myself all the time. I think self-talk is such a huge thing…I was a hockey player before I was a musician. Hockey is huge for self-talk, focus, and discipline. They tell you in hockey to handle an emotional moment. And I had a coach tell me that when you have success it’s okay to feel high, feel the rush, and when you have a failure it’s okay to feel low. But you never stay high, and you never stay low. You just try to find that middle ground where you can work your best.
So, let yourself feel bad, learn from your mistakes, and get back up to that middle line. You get up, have a good time cause you have success, get down, realize how you can do better and then get up again and get back to work.
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