Dessa's tour diary, Vol. 3

Dessa with Jessy Greene in Los Angeles

Dessa with Jessy Greene in Los Angeles

From a theoretical vantage point, tour is a funny thing. In order to spend 45 minutes disseminating your musical ideas on stage, you have to haul your body around for 23 hours and 15 minutes everyday. 

Now, half way through the Every Never is Now Tour, I've got my sea legs. I've become an aficionado of disposable amenities, with a marked preference for the sink-side dispensers that offer pre-lathered soap and for the French Vanilla gas-station creamers. Sims and I are on the phone every week to keep our tour inventory stocked. From Minneapolis, he ships cardboard boxes of cds and t-shirts so that they'll land in our path, at a venue a week away. When we arrive, we find them waiting in an empty room, to be counted and added to the contents of our rented trailer.

Even surrounded by tour veterans, there are some persistent frustrations on the road. Imagine yourself in a van for eight hours. Some of the challenges are intuitive: you're stiff, you're cramped. Perhaps less obvious is the way your mind reacts to the restless confinement. Once every 30 or 40 minutes, you are gripped by the certainty that you have lost your cell phone. You search, with rising panic, the few cubic feet allotted to you: the bench seat, the cup holder, the floor of the van littered with water bottles and knotted cables. You ask someone in the van to call you. You speculate on how difficult tour will become without a cell phone: no text messages from back home, no wake up calls to make sure you're at the van on time...  Then, almost always, you locate your phone in your lap. You lean back, relaxed. It occurs to you that during your search, you didn't happen to see your wallet. How will you get a bracelet for tonight's show without your ID? How will you get into Canada for the Montreal show? You will have to find lodging somewhere along the border while the tour continues without you. Panic rises.

We've talked, though only briefly, about fame and celebrity on this trip. It's an awkward subject to broach--none of us would presume to have any degree of celebrity...but it's hard not to speculate about the world of artists who live in the public eye. It's fashionable to say, "I hate the idea of being famous." I can't speak for anyone else, but to me some degree of notoriety seems prerequisite for a successful musical career. I mean that's what we're all doing isn't it, trying to get noticed, to be listened to? It's a frightening prospect to imagine the challenge of reconciling fame with any modicum of humility. How do you restrain the appetites of your vanity, how do you stop it from devouring and internalizing all the attention? But if you surrender your self-concept to other people, you may be buoyed by their praise, but are also wholly vulnerable to their indifference and their criticisms. Musical careers follow a chilling parabola: you work for years in anonymity; you attract the attention of the tastemakers who hail you a 'newcomer'; you ascend with the current until your wave crests; then the tide begins to recede. If you've allowed yourself to believe that the fanfare was somehow integral to your life, or worse, your value as a human being, you are unequivocally fucked.

Wasted worry? Probably. But a life in music seems so multi-faceted, with so many attendant financial and psychological thrills and challenges.  And I've really got a lot of time in the van to mull it all over.

Overthinking it since 1981.