Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 12.56.52
Summer Swee Singh on tour with Circa Survive. Photo by @nvs_photog

 

“Where did you get your Santa onesie?!” piped the chipper, slightly inebriated girl behind me in the public restroom line. She smiled at me, enthusiastically awaiting my response, using the propped-open door to steady herself while fixing her Santa skirt; I’d noticed that there were at least five other Santa-outfit-clad women in line with us. It was December 8th, 2018, and I was traveling in the capacity of a touring keyboard player, string arranger, string contractor, backing vocalist, and ensemble conductor with Chon—a primarily instrumental, progressive, math rock band from Southern California. A couple of the band members and I decided to enjoy a night out on the town with some of their local friends after the final show of the East Coast leg of our tour. The day of that show, coincidentally, was also the same day as the local Asbury Park (New Jersey) Santa Con pub crawl; yep, I just so happened to be wearing my Santa onesie that night. After all, Mario agreed to wear a Santa hat during the show, so I was confident I would not be the only extra-festive person on stage. I’d only packed my Santa onesie, because prior to leaving for tour, someone had floated the idea of wearing Santa hats while performing, as it was a special “Holiday Tour”; initially, the plan was to bust out my Santa onesie for the Brooklyn show, but ultimately, we decided to wait until Jersey. So, that night, halfway through the tour, wandering through the streets and into restaurants and bars with Mario, Esiah, Jules, Johnuel, Wills, and Cody, I found myself looking like any other local Santa Con pub crawler. Hah, of course I’d chosen the best (or potentially, worst) outfit to wear out that night.

 

 

 

That Chon tour was my first full tour run, but the third tour I’d ever been a part of, having previously performed on a number of stops on both coasts with Circa Survive in Fall of 2017 and a couple of SoCal shows with Anthony Green (his solo project) as part of his 10-year Avalon Anniversary Tour earlier in 2018. I’d previously dreamt of the touring musician life back when I was the resident pianist at a luxury resort in Newport Beach, realizing I had the playing ability and arranging chops necessary to go on tour, but zero industry connections. I already knew I would love touring way before I booked my first one—I would, theoretically, get to perform at famous venues with musicians I admired and respected greatly… and I would get paid! It would be a dream come true. Plus, I was already a seasoned traveler, having lived abroad twice in my early twenties in addition to being lucky enough to travel internationally extensively as a young child—a privilege afforded me simply because I was a flight attendant’s daughter who had tons of extended family living in Asia, Europe, and the East Coast (of the United States). I had a feeling that whenever my first touring opportunity presented itself to me, my previous travel knowledge might come in handy. Boy, was I right—the knowledge I’d gained from my non-touring travel experiences proved to be extremely helpful during my stints with Circa Survive, Anthony Green, and Chon. However, I must acknowledge that I also learned many new things about traveling from being on the road as a touring musician. Having been on the road in that capacity a few times throughout the past year and a half, and having befriended so many other hardworking and talented musicians during that time, I’ve been able to compile a list of our best travel tips. From things to do to what items to bring along. Which all have helped us survive and enjoy our time on the road. It would be selfish not to share these tips, as other travelers might find them indispensable, so here they are!

 

Kaikai

@kaikainoise

Guitar / Keys for Dua Lipa, Charlie XCX, Zara Larsson, Sean Paul, Example

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 14.55.48
Kaikai and Dua Lipa. Photo by @pixielevinson

 

“Firstly, it’s always important to pack with different seasons and weather in mind; I remember going to Canada into -17°F weather without a coat—not advised. On my last US tour, I picked up a mini, plug-in, Himalayan salt lamp from a truck stop. I keep it plugged in my bunk on the tour bus [to create] a super cozy vibe for myself. I also make sure I have some lavender pillow spray – it’s great for helping you get to sleep and always gets passed around the bus at bedtime. [Since] we do a lot of flying, I have a hypnosis-style app called Mindify to help me catch sleep on short hauls; I literally can’t last more than about five minutes before crashing when using the app. Finally, despite the fact that we don’t really drink much on tour, we do like to share a whiskey or two on a day off, [so I always make it a point to] have a nice bottle tucked away for the right occasion – usually a Yamazaki or Hibiki.”

 

 

Ericka Guitron

@erickaguitron

Backing Vocals / Artist for PARTYNEXTDOOR, Jason Derulo, Ericka Guitron

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 15.12.40

 

“There was a good two to three weeks where a cold/flu took out most of everyone on my bus. Luckily, I brought a lot of vitamins and natural remedies with me that got rid of mine in a week, haha – grateful! Another hard lesson was learning that Europe has different plug outlets than [the US], so I remember having [undone] hair and a dead phone my first day in Germany. Tour teaches you how to be a better planner, especially with little details.”

 

Ericka staring in Jason Derulo’s Goodbye music video with David Guetta and Nicki Minaj

 

 

 

Jessica Burdeaux

@jburdsbeats

Drummer for City Mouth, Naia Izumi

 

IMG_3027.jpg
Photo by @laurenfrank_creative

“I keep protein bars in my bag at all times. I don’t like to eat big meals before I play, so I love having one to give me energy before a set or any other time I’m feeling like I need a quick, healthy snack on the road.”

 

 

Jessica Childress

@jessicachildressmusic

Backing Vocalist / Artist for Portugal. the Man, Aloe Blacc, Allen Stone, Jessica Childress

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 15.34.12
Photo by Jill Jarrett

 

“I always bring a mini candle in a tin on tour. When you’re in a different city in a different room every night, it’s nice to have a little ambiance. Pro Tip: wet wipes—for when you’re smelly and you’re not gonna get to shower for a minute; for when your hands are grimy, but you ‘bout to eat that sammich; for disinfecting the tray table on your flight, because those things don’t get cleaned and that’s nasty. [Another necessity] is my saline solution! As a singer, getting sick is not an option, so I’m constantly irrigating my nasal passages to clean out any pathogens that are stuck in there and keep things moist. Planes are dry, dirty places, so saline solution saves me.”

 

 

Daniel Cooper

@danielcoopermusic

Keys / Guitar / Composer for Rachel Wammack, Gray Havens, Hillsong, Daniel Cooper

 

Screen-Shot-2019-03-06-at-15.43.44.png
Photo from Daniel Cooper

 

“After countless show runs through areas like the mid-west (of the United States), I learned that good, healthy food is not always readily available, so now I bring a selection of things like “Kind” and granola bars. This has been a lifesaver. I also always bring a box of string vitamins like Emergen-C and take them religiously. Additionally, I always pack a warm jacket, no matter what season or where we tour. Too many times we’ve left Nashville and arrived in a town that was forecast to be warm and some weird weather event has turned the place into a winter wonderland! Neck pillows are a must too unless your bus has beds, as well as noise-canceling headphones (instead of using your custom in-ears to ensure they don’t randomly get damaged off-stage). If you are flying at all, I’ve found that using earphones/flight earplugs (EarPlanes) for takeoff and landing has been a great way to keep my ears from getting blocked and fatigued from the constant pressure changes.”

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 15.42.38
Daniel on tour with Rachel Wammack and Brett Young. Photo by Shy Blakeman.

 

 

Ariel O’Neal

@_arioneal

Guitar for Beyonce, Normani, Desiigner, Keke Wyatt, Kevin Ross

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 15.59.05
Ariel on Tour with Beyonce.

 

“I always make sure that I bring a couple of very dressy outfits (for the club and maybe even a gala). You never know when someone is going to ask you to a special event, so you have to be prepared. Also, bring [a pair of traditional / older iPhone 6] headphones, just in case you’re on a long flight and you feel like watching a movie or listening to some new music they offer on the plane. Oh, and I never forget to pack at LEAST 4 packs of Maruchan Chicken Flavored Noodles—they go right into the front pocket of my suitcase; you never know if you’re going to end up in a place with shitty food!”

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 15.53.30
Ariel performing with Normani. Photo by @the_constantine_lens

 

 

Nicole Row

@nicolesrow

Bass / Backing Vocals for Panic! at the Disco, Miley Cyrus, Troye Sivan, Daya

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 16.11.16
Nicole on tour with Panic! At the Disco. Photo by Angela Goldstein

 

“Pack as little as possible—you’re going to have to haul it all around the world. My packing must-haves are my passport, charging cube, ear plugs, eye mask, melatonin, portable practice rig, noise-canceling headphones, and vitamins. I also suggest getting comfortable with your [touring family] because at some point there’s going to only be one bathroom for everyone and everybody poops… I’ve been touring regularly for the past few years now and have never found myself waking up saying, ‘I don’t want to go to work’. I’m not saying I don’t get tired or homesick—there are times where it feels heavy and I miss my dog and my family—but I definitely realize that I live a unique life that not many get to experience, [so I embrace touring and traveling]. Each day is new and different, and I love it.”

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-03 at 22.46.15
Nicole on Fire!

 

 

Summer Swee-Singh

@summersweesingh

Keys / Backing Vocals / String Arranger / String Contractor / Composer for Circa Survive, Chon, Anthony Green, Summer Swee-Singh

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 12.55.42
Summer playing keys for Circa Survive at Terminal 5 in NYC. Photo by @nvs_photog

 

“My phone’s battery life was horrible as it was on its last legs during my recent tour with Chon. I hit up a random Target with my TM in Boston so I could purchase a portable battery to charge my phone up throughout the day. You never know if you won’t have access to power outlets for a while, (if the venue won’t let you inside until a certain time, or if the outlets in the green room simply wouldn’t work for whatever reason,) so I’d charge up both my phone and the portable battery every night—needless to say, that extra battery came in super clutch for me and a few others in our camp whose phones were dying halfway throughout each day of tour. In addition to that extra portable battery, a handful of “just in case” items I keep in my backpack every tour are: granola bars or trail mix (if we don’t get breakfast or we come across a hungry, homeless person), a mini flashlight (because you never know if the power will go out and for how long it’ll be out), an empty reusable water bottle that you can fill up at any restaurant or water fountain (I love Swell bottles), mints or gum (if you pass out on a long ride or flight and aren’t able to brush your teeth immediately after), a small pill container of allergy meds and ibuprofen (just in case), Emergen-C (to attempt to avoid getting sick), and a paper copy of my driver’s license or passport (in the off chance I lose it or it gets stolen). Now, less to do with functionality and practicality, but more regarding bonding with the people you’re with, I’d also suggest bringing or buying a board game/card game to play with the band and crew during your downtime—it’s a fun way to pass the time instead of having everyone’s eyes glued to their phones; plus, you get to know people pretty well, very quickly if you play a game like Cards Against Humanity (my favorite)! Lastly, make sure to check-in to your flights online prior to getting to the airport—at the beginning of my last tour, no one else was privy to this alternate check-in option, so on our long, cross-country flight, we were all split up in random middle seats throughout the plane (Southwest). The day of our last East Coast show (New Jersey), I sent out a group text with the check-in link and booking confirmation code to the Chon guys to ensure that the five of us checked-in for our flights back to California online, 24-hours in advance. Doing this, we received far better boarding numbers than we’d had on the flight over, and it allowed us to snag a few rows of seats for our whole camp, making it a much more enjoyable and comfortable flight back.”

 

IMG_3024
On Tour with Circa Survive. Photo by Hank Ford.

 

In sum, whenever you find yourself traveling next, aside from packing the obvious necessities (travel documents, your phone and charger, underwear, etc.), my touring musician friends and I suggest packing emergency snacks / food, vitamins / Emergen-C and sanitizers, noise-cancelling headphones, clothing appropriate for unexpected weather changes, your preferred sleeping aid(s), something to share that will allow you to bond with your travel companions, and a couple small things that remind you of home. Whether you’re about to embark on a long vacation, preparing to study abroad, leaving on a business trip, or possibly you’re a touring musician yourself (you can find us all both on Jammcard and on the ‘gram!), hopefully you can take our anecdotes and advice to heart and can put them to good use next time you’re about to head out on your next adventure—who knows, maybe some of these travel tips may help you avoid a future travel disaster and you might even catch some of us on stage with your favorite artists the next time you attend a concert or festival.

 


This article was featured in The Lores Issue n1. To read more articles from this issue, download our travel magazine app which is available on iOS and Android devices.

4-4088798008-1554358543186.png

 

About The Author 

Summer Swee-Singh is an award-winning pianist, composer, music arranger, keyboardist, string contractor, music director, backing vocalist, and music educator based out of Orange County & Los Angeles County. Her studio and touring credits include Chon, Circa Survive, KSHMR, Chief Keef, Anthony Green, and much more. Her talents has been praised by Skrillex, Carlos Rafael Rivera, DJ Paul KOM, Dustin Kensrue, and many more. You can find more information on her website. Her music is available on Spotify and Apple Music.