One thing I’ve learned about playing music: if you hate driving, stay away. This weekend, we trekked all the way down to Jacksonville, Florida to play our tunes – leaving Saturday morning, coming back the Sunday after. For a total of a little over twelve hours, I sat in the driver’s seat of my Ford Explorer, watching cars pass on cruise control.
There’s a big part of playing music that an audience doesn’t see: I might even compare it to a glacier where what you see is only the tip, even though there’s a massive foundation anchoring it to the floor beneath. Especially for a band who doesn’t have a hundred people working for them, the back end of music might even be more time-consuming than the show itself – actually, I’m sure it is – and, along with loading in equipment, coordinating with clients/band members, and practicing setlists, driving is up there as one of the most necessary – whether it’s just to Greenville or all the way to Jacksonville.
But I don’t mind it. Granted, six hours is a lot, and if someone offered me a free plane ticket, I’d take it in a heartbeat, but fantasy aside, there are a ton of things you can accomplish in the driver’s seat with nothing to do but watch the road and let your mind wander. Of course, if you’ve got a passenger, conversation is key, but let’s say that passenger – I won’t say any names, but let’s just say they play bass – didn’t sleep much the night before, so they pass out for half the drive. Sure, you can play music for an hour, maybe even two, but you can only sing at the top of your lungs to keep yourself awake for so long. So, what do you do when there’s nothing left to distract you? You just sort of think.
That’s the beauty – and the curse – of driving: You can’t do anything but think. I, for one, like to write songs in moments like these because when else do I have moments of near silence and have almost no choice but to concentrate on a thought? I may not do it during the week when I could easily do something tangible or just take the easy way out and watch Netflix – but not in the car. It’s on those six hour drives that some of my favorite lines have come into being, when I’ve had those eureka moments and I say, “That’s the line I’ve been looking for.”
Some of the best reflection comes from being forced into it, and when driving is so essential to the job, it helps to look at it productively – like you’re killing two birds with one stone. I can’t say it’s my favorite part of being a musician, and I definitely can’t say I’m smiling when I’m three hours deep into a drive with a three more to go. But, I can say that there’s something therapeutic about watching cars pass with no distractions – except maybe that merging truck which shouldn’t be merging – because it’s an opportune time to take a step back and just ask, “What should I think about?”