A captivating voice, haunting imagery, and vivid narratives: this describes Lauren Pratt the singer-songwriter. But how about Lauren Pratt, the traveling artist? Mother Church Pew is proud to present Pratt’s tips for the road, told in her own voice:
If you’re a traveling troubadour (I can’t believe I’m typing that phrase) you’ve experienced the “icks”: dry throat, headache, unease at a venue (especially if you’re a solo female), and detail nightmares without a tour manager. Here are a few things I’ve done to get me there and back again healthy, wealthy, happy, and wise.
1. Get plenty of sleep – True to form, I live for the nighttime and endless socializing, but this can wreak havoc on your voice, your skin, and your mood. The best time to get sleep before a gig is two days before. It’s like a little reservoir of energy you can pull from. I bring a lavender-scented eye pillow.
2. DRANK (It’s not what you think) – I drink a glass of room temp water in the morning with some lemon juice in it followed by a cup of coffee. Around noon I’ll drink a glass of water with some salt in it. Driving and A/C and different regions of the country can all dry you out. Salt keeps you retaining some water (again with the reservoir). Find what works for you, but make sure it involves water. If you’ve been drinking at the venue (no judgment) make sure you down a glass of water before going to bed (preferably with Pedialyte or something that will prevent a hangover on your early morning drive).
3. Stay Moist (that’s right, I said it) – Make sure you moisturize your face (this is also for the guys). When you travel your skin dries out; dry skin produces excess oil to protect itself. Save the camera, your audience, and yourself some heartache and moisturize before bed and upon waking up. And do NOT sleep in your makeup. Moisture also applies to lungs – I have a vocal warm-up box that makes me look like Darth Vader, and a mini-nebulizer so I can keep my vocal cords plump and happy.
4. Remember the Name – Be nice to everyone (except the jerk whose behavior is described in #7)! Unless proved otherwise, people deserve your respect. Don’t trash the green room or write a phallic symbol on the wall (why are there SO many sharpie genitalia everywhere? Stop it.). Say please and thank you to the waitstaff (seriously). Keep handwritten thank-you’s with your business card in envelopes in your case. When you get to the venue, write down the name of your in-person contact on the envelope and hand it to them when you accept your payout at the end of the night. It shows that you aren’t standing there with a “please sir, may I have another” look on your face and that you’re a professional, which is classy. Being a diva isn’t classy.
5. Google Calendar is my tour manager – Everyone has a tour manager – whether or not you interact with yours or use it to its full extent is your choice. Until the stars align and I can have a booking agent and tour manager and other delicacies (delicacies?), I have Google Calendar (or “Cal” as I call her). Everything in my life that requires promptness is color-coded and in my calendar. Any music performance is dark purple, and non-performance music events (podcast, radio interview, etc) are light purple. I copy all the applicable day-of info into the notes section and add the venue’s location so I can tap it and my GPS takes me there.
After the show, I will go to my notes section and add a comment about what I enjoyed and if I liked the venue, if people seemed responsive or bought merch, etc.
6. Car living – When possible, sleep under a solid roof. If you can’t do that, I got some tips for sleeping in the car. Keep pepper spray nearby. Crack the windows a tab so you don’t suffocate. Park in a well-lit Walmart parking lot. I have a backseat air mattress that prevents falling off the seat on the floorboards along with your unconscious dignity. Keep spare plastic grocery bags and a flashlight and water in your car and within reach. Ladies, I recommend having a few GoGirls on hand, because you can’t always get to a bathroom. No shame in surviving and thriving. Throw out any trash or wrappers each time you stop – don’t let it collect. Ants are real. Bring a yoga mat – you never know what vista will be your stretching/warm-up background. Keep a few $20s in your console for emergencies. Stop regularly for walking stretches at the gas station. Too many true crime podcasts tout the wisdom of only doing this in public populated places (NOT rest area hiking trails). Keep baby wipes in your car. They’re perfect for long hauls, lacks of shower, car spills, makeup removal, whatever. They get the job done.
7. Safety – As an avid true-crime podcast listener, I find myself hyper-aware of dangerous situations when I’m traveling alone. (Still can’t figure out my irrational fear of being shot through the passenger window, though).
I keep pepper spray in the console when I’m driving, and have a terrifically loud noisemaker on my keychain (a Christmas present from my practical parents). I’ve never had occasion to use it but at least I know it’s there. Most people mean well and want to keep themselves and you safe, but it just takes one terrible person to ruin it for the rest of us.
The same applies to playing alone at a bar or other seedy venue (or just sitting at a bar at home without playing the venue or carrying an instrument – just being female) and you receive unwanted attention from a fellow patron. It’s not your responsibility to protect that person’s ego. If you feel unsafe, verbally shut it down (do not be polite). Also, get someone on staff at the venue to walk you out to your vehicle.
8. Get Your Wings – Some airlines are better for traveling with instruments than others. While Southwest is great for multiple reasons, they do not have an instrument-friendly policy. Oftentimes the gate agents will try to check your guitar but BE AWARE – there is NO GATE VALET on Southwest. Gate valet is when you leave your instrument at the end of the jetway and pick it up at the end of the jetway immediately when you get off the plane at your destination. Southwest does not offer this. Instead, your precious instrument goes flying through the baggage terminal and crash lands at the end of the shoot with every overstuffed suitcase. So, if you’re flying Southwest, spend the extra dollars to get the early boarding.
If you have the extra cash and time, fly Delta – they are great with instruments and are constantly delayed so they offer cash vouchers. I paid for a trip to and from Folks Fest this year with a Delta voucher.
Also, if you feel more secure with the power of the law on your side, check out Folk Alliance’s page on air travel: https://www.folk.org/page/traveltips
Stay safe and healthy and play good music always.
Mother Church Pew can’t thank the fabulous Lauren Pratt enough for sharing these tips for the road! Make sure you check out her wonderful music available on Bandcamp and your favorite digital providers.
About Lauren Pratt: With a personal mission of discovering the empathetic connection that exists between audience and performer, Lauren is intent on continuing the quest for “civil discourse about the truth in our lives.” With her recent release of Young American Sycamore, Lauren Pratt reaffirms her artistic roots and sheds the proverbial bark of the past through her musical mission of kindness and compassion.
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