Andy Grammer's 7 tour survival tips
Three years ago, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Andy Grammer's touring itinerary could be written on a Post-It note, with most of his gigs taking place on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California. "I had the busker thing down," he says. "I knew my spot, I knew the best time of day to hit it, and if I was lucky, I could make money. Street performing wasn't as bad as some people make it out to be."
These days, Grammer has a lot more choices over the kinds of venues he plays. The success of his 2011 self-titled debut album, buoyed by resistance-is-futile pop hits such as Fine By Me and Keep Your Head Up, bumped him up from street corners to clubs and festivals nationwide; subsequent tours with the likes of Train, Colbie Caillat and Natasha Bedingfield even gave him a stamp or two on his passport. "Seeing what kinds of songs work in other cities and other parts of the world was pretty eye-opening," Grammer says. "I know it changed how I approached the second record big-time."
That would be his just-released Magazines Or Novels, a grander, denser, more introspective but no less engaging construct than its predecessor. But whereas Grammer's breezy melodies once tended to interlock with briskly strummed guitars, more and more they work off subtle hip-hop beats and artfully employed electronics. "That's no accident," he observes. "The first album was more born from busking – they were the 'me-and-my-guitar' songs. Going out on the road and opening for big acts changes you. You look out at those audiences and start to think, ‘OK, I need to write some music that’s a little bit bigger.’ So maybe you don't start with the acoustic guitar; you might start out with a beat instead."
The bevy of revved-up hooks throughout Magazines Or Novel's 12 tracks would indicate that Grammer's newfound mindset has paid off. Whether he's flirting with modern country (Honey, I'm Good), evoking vintage R&B (Forever) or pumping out a heart-on-his-sleeve pop anthem (Back Home), he hits his marks with uncanny precision. Grammer is currently playing a series of album release dates, but come September he'll be on the road with American Authors, with gigs stretching from Portland, Maine to Auckland, New Zealand.
Asked whether he would ever entertain the thought of opening up his guitar case on some street corner and knocking out an impromptu show for old times' sake, Grammer laughs and says, "You know, I’m not opposed to it at all. I do radio gigs, three-minute spots, solo shows, so I still get plenty of practice at the sniper attack – me at a piano or with a guitar, having win people over fast. When I get back with band, the lights and the whole production, that's me with the full artillery. A quick radio performance keeps me sharp for the big show.”
You can purchase the new album, Magazines Or Novels, at iTunes. On the following pages, Grammer runs down his 7 Tour Survival Tips.
Avoid back seat pockets on planes
“Seriously, never, ever, ever put anything in the back seat pocket on a plane. There’s at least a 50/50 chance you’ll forget whatever it was you put in there. Rest in peace my last iPad mini.
“Maybe normal people can use back seat pockets on planes and not have any problems. With me, I’ll do a show, get on a bus and then take a red eye flight to get somewhere else, and I’m like a zombie. I just don’t remember anything. On tour, we all have a saying: ‘If you put it in the pocket of the seat in front of you, you basically don’t care about it.’”
A Mophie charger is a must
“It's a little bulky, but it gives you an extra full charge on your iPhone. That’s a big deal.
“Like right now, I’ve been going nuts on social media all day, and my battery is still at 100 percent. That extra charge becomes clutch when you don't know where you're sleeping or when you'll get there. Power up that added juice and get the most out of your phone.”
“And a whole hell of a lot of it. La Croix is a soda water with just a little hint of flavor. I pound back something like six to 10 bottles a day as opposed to six to 10 bottles of soda. I love the stuff.
“When I’m on tour, I tend to nervously drink whatever's around – Red Bull, Coke, you name it. But that stuff gets you all sugared up and wired. La Croix is a little, little bit of a treat, but it doesn’t make you feel weird and heavy.”
Always have an auxillary cable in your backpack
“The kind of cable that goes from your iPhone and plugs into the stereo of your car – you've gotta have that.
“You never know when you’ll be out on a long drive, but trust me, if you're promoting a song to radio, you will be on some mighty long-ass car journeys. An auxillary cable can turn a boring six-hour haul into a damn good time if you can listen to Spotify in your vehicle."
For guys – one pair of all-purpose badass boots
“If you have to take just one pair of footwear out there with you, make it count. With cool boots, you get functionality and looks.
“The pair I’m wearing right now is Steve Madden – I think they cost about two hundred bucks. Not cheap, but they work for practically all occasions. Shoes take up a lot of space in the bag – you’d be surprised at how much real estate they demand. Spend a little more on a nice pair of boots and rock them hard the whole tour. Easy. Done.
"And for girls: This isn’t a tip or anything, just an observation of amazement. How do you do it, girls? How is this possible?
“I have no idea how you all still look so fresh and pretty every night while on the road when us guys look so rough and worn down. You are clearly the superior sex. I tip my hat to you."
Tour bus etiquette: number two is a no-no
“Just don’t do it – ever. I’ve never been guilty of it myself, but you get this message pounded into you the minute you start your first tour.
“Buses don’t have great ventilation, and I’ve been told the smell lingers, man. Going number two on the tour bus is the quickest way to become an outcast on a tour. And everyone knows it was you. Wait till you get to a hotel or restaurant or venue – or wherever. Anywhere but on the bus. This should probably be tip number one – it's that important.”
Get in a touring state of mind
“It took me one tour to realize that I can’t possible pack everything I’ll need for the entire trek. You just can't cram seven weeks’ worth of stuff into one bag with an allowance of 50 pounds on a plane. So don’t even try.
“Get OK with the fact that when you lock the door behind you, you’re saying, ‘I’m leaving with about 20 percent of what I'll need. I'll get the rest out there.’ Trust me, you will."