This is a guest editorial by Pell, a 27-year-old recording artist from New Orleans, Louisiana. Pell is fresh off the June 2019 release of his third studio project, Gravity.
I went out on my first ever headlining tour back in 2016. I was stoked to finally reach a point in my career where I was able to expand my live show outside of my hometowns of New Orleans and Starkville, Mississippi. I had been grinding so hard for years to get to that place, and I was hyper-focused on not allowing anything to get in my way.
While touring can be a massive tool for artists to promote their music and gain exposure on a larger scale, I learned firsthand that it could also do a lot of harm if you don’t have the right skills to maintain your mental and physical health. I was so wrapped up with what everyone else was doing, I forgot to take care of myself. I dropped my first album and broke up with my girlfriend at the same time. My grandmother was very sick. Internally I was battling demons.
Sometimes when we get overwhelmed and have too much going on, we keep our heads down to push through our pain. But when you ignore what’s hurting you, you can quickly start creating bad habits. My habits were drowning myself in Jameson and staying up all night. These habits are easily forming on tour as there are no real-life repercussions; you’re on the road. Plus, this all coincides with the preconceived idea of what tour life is supposed to be—that is until gravity hits you.
For me, “tour life” habits started to feel like an addiction. Social drinking became a prominent part of most tours—a quick drink before a set to get the edge off, afterparties, pre-games. Everyone offers you a congratulatory shot after a show. I felt the pressure to keep up and didn’t have time to stop and deal with the real-life shit happening at home. The quick drink before the show became two and then three, and then I could feel the drinking spilling over into my daily life, not just on show days. I started to disconnect completely.
I slowly became aware of my newly formed bad habits. Jameson had entirely replaced water. I was even drinking a beer with my cereal in the mornings. I also lost touch with my friends and family while I was on the road, and even became distant from my tour crew. I told myself I just needed to keep pushing until I was off tour.
I was more than halfway done with the tour when my mother called me and told me that my grandma had passed. I was upset because I hadn’t done a good job communicating with her, even though she was the centerpiece of my family on my mom’s side. I was distraught.
I knew that she was sick while I was on tour, but I got so caught up that I forgot to stay connected and check-in. One thing I will always carry with me is a saying my grandmother always told me:
“Once you have your hand in the water and you’re in the flow of things, you can’t take it out. Because if you do, it’ll dry out and shrivel up.”
I love that quote because it put into perspective how important it is to keep feeding the soil of your relationships; when you don’t, they’re gone before you know it. Unfortunately, I received that message a little too late. I was so wrapped up in having a perfect tour experience that I neglected the real people in my life who were waiting for me back home.
The tour was a success, but afterward, I felt empty. The feelings I had bottled up came spilling out. I hadn’t been doing any of the things I used to do while at home—my self-care routine—like going on a run in the morning, starting my day off reading articles and answering emails, stretching, maintaining a pescatarian diet, and enjoying clean entertainment.
I had created new habits on the road—habits that were harder to break once when I returned. I call this post-tour depression.
Returning to New Orleans to see my family helped me to overcome my depression. I now return home after every tour run! New Orleans has always been an excellent anchor to help me get back to my roots. Being around friends who know me best helps to keep me humble. I always leave recharged and with a clear head.
The next time I went on tour a year later, I took more time for myself, and it made me so much happier. The time away from my loved ones and my home was much more manageable. The attention I put into my music and business was still there, but I had found a way to keep a somewhat natural flow of things in my life.
On tour, I like to meditate. I keep it simple. I start with a prayer, then keep focusing on one thing until I stop thinking about everything else, and later try my best to let that thought go. I’ll do this consistently for 15 to 20 minutes, and it makes all the difference. There are guided meditation apps, but I don’t enjoy people talking at me.
I’ll add some time in my calendar to make sure I fulfill my social needs, like talking to my people. If I have enough time, I try to pick up something physical to read to acquire some new information. I have noticed an enhanced mood and work ethic.
I’m falling in love with my new process while continually adding things to the mix. I’m keeping my hands in the water, and it shows in my flow. I’m wet.