Guest column from Q Magazine – The psychology of the touring musician by The Gaslight Anthem

With The Gaslight Anthem releasing their new album Handwritten today (23 July), the New Jersey band can expect to be spending a lot of time on the road over the coming months. In a guest column, their drummer Benny Horowitz explains what touring does to your mind...

From Q Magazine:

The psychology of the touring musician. What brings us to this? The lifestyle and the attitude of the touring musician tend to be so unique, there must be some common thread that binds us together, no? The nomadic nature, travellers and seekers in the romantic, Kerouac sense. Fear of responsibility, listless and an aversion to the “normal” 9-5 grind in the classical, dare I say republican, sense?

I’ve noticed some trends among my legions, but nothing that really stands out. In essence, the bulk of touring relationships are moderately fickle. Based on good times, music and general mutual interests. But rarely do they turn into a childhood, family dynamic – pain, love, fear and loss – typically the things that would drive our subconscious into the people we really are, and the decisions that drive our lives. The Spinal Tap image that most people perceive of us on the outside, is basically true.

The more I’m opened up into this fantasy land of bus parking lots, backstages and hotel rooms, the more I’m astounded at the mediocrity of its inhabitants. They are just people. People with a certain creative talent that are put in a position where people listen to what they have to say. And are asked, quite often, to say a lot. With these questions in place, I’m trying to investigate further. Like most members of the advanced human civilization of our time, I Googled my questions to see if anyone has thought of it yet, so I can appropriately steal from them and pass it off as my own.

I stumbled upon Michael Brein, the travel psychologist, who lists many reasons for people, not musicians, need for travel. The most interesting seemed to be the idea that it improves your self-esteem. He says, “Anything people can do to enhance their own images of themselves elevates their estimates of their own sense of self worth in their own eyes as well as in the eyes of others.” This could most likely apply to the psyche of many musicians I know, insecurity, low self-esteem and a feeling of being an outsider leads many traveling musicians to their calling.

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