Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Get A Van, Hit The Road And Thank Yourself Someday - Road Tales With Husky Burnette

Yattie and Husky following the road less traveled

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For musicians that tour around the regions, countries and the world, the road is a crazy place. There are lows and highs both, but if you have the right mindset and do it for the right reasons, it can be pretty damn magical and rewarding. 

Life on the road can be very satisfying. It can be the Devil and your worst nightmare as well. Regardless of how it ends up on any given night, there's just something about getting out there and playing your music for people that nothing else can compare to. 
When I was young I heard the word "tour" and thought of Led Zeppelin and the likes, playing huge arenas on huge stages with huge record deals and huge crowds. Once I started playing out, I did a few out of town shows in Tennessee and Georgia while playing with Roger Alan Wade, nothing major. 

Life on the road is always there to write a new song

The next step was playing guitar with the band Polecat Boogie Revival. We toured as the support band for Hank Williams III in the spring of 2005 and, at that time in my head, I had made it. Touring, Like a "real band" does, finally. We had a pretty solid run too...a great time overall. What I didn't realize is that it went so smoothly because we were on a run with a major label act AND the fact that Polecat was already somewhat known because it was made up of 3/4 of one of the greatest southern punk/rock n roll bands in history... Hellstomper. 

Fast forward two years when I'm out of the band and out of jail. I had begun working on the gig I do now, just me as a solo act with a band behind me. It was brand new for me and I was starting from scratch. What a reality check. Other than having some true fans from the Polecat days, I was someone that nobody had ever heard of outside of the Hank III/Polecat Boogie Revival run and some friends and fans in Chattanooga. That being said, my first tour was the biggest bust of a tour you've ever seen. THE BIGGEST BUST. 

Husky Burnette live on Memorial Day 2014

I spent money, I lost money and time. I wasted a lot. It was horrible. I won't go into detail but, I did come out of that tour with some good songs about those hard times of poverty, drugs and not giving a damn. (Listen to "Mile Marker 68 from my first album Facedown In The Dirt...a true story about a night in Texas on that tour). We even decided to call the run quits halfway through and drive from Albuquerque, New Mexico straight to the Minnesota  / North Dakota line and play two weeks worth of last minute gigs to replenish the cash we'd lost. It was that bad. 

Would I change it though? Hell no. Did I have a fucking blast eating bologna every day and love every minute of it (well, almost every minute)? Hell yea I loved it. I don't know why I loved it but, I did. Sometimes i wonder why us musicians like the road so much when it can beat you up like it does. But, if any band or artist wants their songs "out there" for people to hear and gain some success and notoriety then it's obvious you have to tour or at least play somewhere out of your hometown. That's part of why we go: promotion. You can't play in your hometown forever. Who's going to hear you? The same folks that came to the last 4 shows? Yes. They might be great, hardcore, dedicated fans but, in the end you want and need way more people than that to hear your music if you're trying to make something of yourself. Plus, you're just going to saturate your town if you play too much. So you hit the road, even if you don't know how, and you starve a little bit until you figure it out.

The song "Cold Dog Soup" by Guy Clark comes to mind:
"There ain't no money in poetry
That's what sets a poet free
I've had all the freedom I can stand
Cold dog soup and rainbow pie
Is all it takes to get me by
Fool my belly 'til the day I die
With cold dog soup and rainbow pie"

This lifestyle is instilled deep inside of us and we're born with it. So it's not all about the money all the time. A true artist doesn't do it for the money first, they do it for the art and for themselves. We're a different breed. We make things...and those things are all that matter. You're married to the art first, then comes everything else. You have no choice, that's just the way it is. (This is probably the reason none of my relationships ever work!) If you're lucky enough to have the means to risk a few things, or possibly everything, then you have a shot at making money doing what you love. Even then, there's no guarantee and it's a fine line to ride when you're able to do your art for a living. It's an evil game of Business vs Pleasure. If you fall too far on one side you can't pay the light bill or get groceries. Fall too far to the other side and it's not gonna be fun anymore because it's all about the money and it becomes too much like work. So, you have to straddle the fence just right and find that perfect balance the best way you know how.

This quote has always been a favorite of mine:

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson knew how to strike a pose

There are people that pull it off all over the world. Their source of income is music...original music. Bands/artists do it, it can be done. My buddies do it, I do it. Hell, if I can do it then anyone can.

We also do it for the fans though. Without the fans where are you? After you get out on the road and gain a little success of any kind it's not about doing it for yourself 100% anymore. It's about you AND them. Your fans make you. They make you feel good about what you're doing if it moves them. They praise you. They have your back. In this hard way of trying to make a living you need that support because it is such a struggle sometimes. The fans are the ones who are gonna be there until the end. If you're a true music lover, how many bands, big or small, do you love unconditionally that are either dead, broken up, etc? Music that you still listen to, and always will, no matter what? Exactly. It's a dedication unlike any other. You can be having the worst day on the road and not want to play at all that night but, when you hit that first note everything goes away. It's just you, the music and your fans. 

It's definitely a tough thing to get into, though, horrible even. Band members disagree, tempers flare, phones, shoes and bottles get thrown, you risk going broke...all for the love of music??? Yes, because if you play the cards right it's more than rewarding. It can be the most fun you've ever had if you let it be. I'm actually on my way home from tour as I finish writing this. Certain points of this 3 week run were completely awful...I won't lie. Yet as I'm riding and typing in the back of the van right now, nothing bad comes to mind first because the good times, the fans/friends I got to see and those shows where we were on fire that night completely outweigh anything negative that happened. Why? Who knows but I'm betting that the love of music and traveling is the answer. 

Enough said. Get your music out there for everyone else to enjoy in person. This world we live in now of social media and all-things-digital helps tremendously but, can only take you and your music so far. Get a van and hit the road. You'll thank yourself someday.

-Husky Burnette 

Getting to hang with friends on the road is worth the journey