The Mental and Physical Burden of Touring

Featuring insightful and eye-opening interviews with artists, managers, songwriters, executive producers, and more, “Quit the Chaos. Keep the Gig,” is a new series that takes a look at how substance use affects everyone in the music & entertainment industry.
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Named "Female Vocalist of the Year" at the 2017 California Country Awards and recipient of the "TeX Award" at this year's South by Southwest, Alice Wallace is a singer/songwriter who's toured nationally, performing at more than 150 shows a year. 

In conversation with Ron Roecker, Alice discusses the intense physical and mental burden that touring puts on an artist and how more resources are necessary to help them bear it. 

What's been your experience with people struggling with substance use in the entertainment business?

Alice: It has never been an intimate part of my professional life, but I have certainly seen it and have known people who have been affected by it. Sometimes, I have been far too naive about it. I don’t readily notice someone suffering since I have never personally struggled with it and I don’t recognize the signs as quickly. Alcohol is easier to see the signs. You watch someone have too many drinks. You hear them slur their words. I’ve been at shows where one of the band members falls over on stage, unable to stand because they are so drunk.

As musicians, we play every night in venues with alcohol. You draw more strange looks by not drinking than you do have by having a drink. To think that isn’t going to spiral into alcoholism for many people is ignorant. Drugs besides are alcohol are harder to recognize. But they are also an accepted and sometimes encouraged part of our business. It is an environment that fosters drug and alcohol use and abuse, so it’s no surprise that many people fall victim to it.

How has that affected your own business as a recording/touring artist?

Alice: It hasn’t really affected me personally. I’ve very purposefully surrounded myself with musicians and producers and other folks who are not struggling with any substance abuse problems. Life as a touring artist is hard enough without that added burden. And though it hasn’t affected me personally, I see the dire need for support for those it does affect.

Are there resources for you to use or reference? If not, what would help?

Alice: There may be, but if there are, they aren’t readily known. Music is a business of do-it-yourself-ers. There are few things tying us all together, and so it can be difficult to feel there is a larger support system in place the way someone who works for a company might experience.

What do you think touring musicians need?

Alice: Any kind of resources for health and wellness for touring musicians would be so helpful. I have never had a job so physically demanding as being an independent touring musician - driving for eight hours with only a couple short breaks to fill up on gas, get out and immediately unload a trailer’s worth of equipment, jump on stage and play for anywhere from one to four hours, only to load the trailer back up and hopefully only have to drive for another hour or two to the place you get to sleep for the night. Then get up and do it all over again in the morning. It’s no wonder so many people turn to alcohol and drugs to lighten the burden. It’s an intense lifestyle.

Why do you do what you do?

Alice: I want to tell stories and sing songs that impact people. There is no greater feeling than when I am standing on stage singing a song, and I look out and I catch someone’s eye, and I can see that they get it. They understand my words. They understand my story. And my story is just like theirs. I live for those moments.

Why is it important that musicians are able to cope and continue to work for society in general?

Alice: Music is an incredible force for bringing people together. Music moves us. It makes us sad. It makes us happy. It helps us see we are not alone. We are all fallible human beings, and musicians get up every day and stand on a stage and demonstrate that for all who will come witness it. And the people in the audience see that, and feel more connected because of it. We need musicians and songwriters to keep getting up and sharing their art with the world to remind us that we’re all in this together.

Learn more about Alice Wallace.

Ron Roecker is an award-winning writer, as well as music/entertainment and brand marketing expert. His career includes Vice President of Communications & Artist Relations for the GRAMMY Awards, as well as a music/entertainment spokesperson for brands and media outlets including Nestle, Live Earth, Mattel, CNN, MTV, Entertainment Tonight, BBC, Today Show, Rolling Stone and more. Ron is a keynote speaker who talks about business lessons from Hollywood to Public Speaking and Crisis Management. For more information, visit www.bedifferently.com.

Evo Health and Wellness is an outpatient addiction treatment program in Venice, California that respects where you are and where you want to go. Learn more about Evo's program for entertainment professionals.