On the Road

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Erin recently wrote this article and I thought you might find it to be interesting……

“On the Road”


Fifty thousand miles, two hundred fifty shows, four thousand gallons of gas, six instruments, and two girls in a big green van.  For the past two years, my sister, Amber, and I have been traveling the country, playing music wherever we find an audience.  We call ourselves Scenic Roots, and the journey has indeed been scenic.

We started traveling as soon as we graduated from South Plains College (where we studied bluegrass music) in 2010.  Amber was 21 and I was 23.  We were too young to rent a car if our van broke down, but at least we had cell phones.  We got ourselves a GPS and an atlas, packed up our instruments and some sound gear, and started calling everyone we knew to see if we could play music for them.  Our first tour was not even completely planned before we left home.  We literally hit the road without knowing if we would be able to cover our expenses.  Somehow, we managed to actually make money, and we were hooked.

Since that first trip, we have gotten into a routine of traveling.  The GPS still goes with us, and it is really helpful– unless Amber changes the language to Italian.  We got really good at making U-turns in a full-size van before we figured out how to change it back to English.  I also got better at reading maps.  We determined that the best way to pass the time on a ten-hour road trip is to read books.  I read out loud while Amber drives; she calls me her “book on tape that feeds me”.  Every once in a while, she lets me drive a little too.

Some things frustrate us on every tour, like finding food.  A girl’s got to eat, but that can be a real challenge sometimes.  Take an average show day.  We get ready for the show around 4pm, get to the venue and set up, play for two hours, visit with fans and tear down, and by then it is nine or ten o’clock.  We are starving, but where can we eat?  IHOP here we come!  Many of our host families feed us, which can be good or bad, especially if you don’t like bacon or livermush or mystery food.  Pizza is a popular choice, but you can only eat pizza so many times!  Don’t suggest packing a cooler.  We’ve been there and done that– boiled eggs, crawfish gumbo, and fruit salad all get pretty rank after a few days in a not-so-cold cooler.

Then there is the routine before our shows.  It usually starts with an awkward first moment when we have to figure out where we are supposed to be and who is in charge.  It’s not a good sign when we walk into a coffee shop, tell them we are the band for the night, and they say, “We’re having live music?  I don’t know anything about it.”  It’s also not a good sign when they say, “You can use our sound system”, and then we discover it is at least fifty years old with only one microphone in-put.  Most days, though, everything goes smoothly and our sound system is up in twenty minutes.  We call the set-up and tear-down our work-out program.


Music is about improvisation, but so is everything connected to the music business.  No matter how many times we rehearse something or how many shows we play, there are still moments that catch us off guard and make us change our plans.  Flat tires, broken pipes, cell phones with no signal, dead computers, grumpy days, and lack of sleep slow us down.  Exuberant fans, helpful strangers, home cooked meals, great jams, happy students, and encouraging words keep us going one more day.  It is all about sharing the music that stirs our hearts.  That makes the journey good, scenic as it may be.



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