By Me For Queen
I’ll start with the one thing that I want to pass on, which is a fairly transferable piece of advice that I have used many times before now and continue to live by: ‘The idea of the thing is almost always worse than the thing itself, once you’re doing it.’ Honestly, try it. It works for basically everything. So, my main advice would be – reckless as it may sound – if in doubt, just do the thing. You probably won’t die. (Within reason.)
As with anything, one person can only speak from their personal experience. So, it’s worth stating the obvious here that my idea of touring could be wildly different from yours. Four to five months into my pregnancy, I was due to be touring Germany for three weeks. Three weeks sounds like a long time. Germany is far. Driving is tiring… But because I’m a totally independent artist/manager/agent/tour manager rolled into one, at this stage in my career anyway, this meant that I could be a lot more flexible than, say, someone touring in a band, on a bus with ten other peoples’ schedules to coordinate with. As it happened, I was touring in one car with a friend and fellow artist, the gorgeous Anna Pancaldi, who was blessedly relaxed and happy enough to go with the flow – whether that be sitting in a café all day or finding a nearby lake/sea/puddle for me to swim in (swimming happens to hold one of the keys to my sanity). In many ways, it felt more like a holiday with gigs in the evening.
Fast-forward to seven months into the pregnancy with a UK tour and it was different but still totally manageable. Mainly driven by these simple facts:
1. My album was scheduled for release in September 2018 and I wanted to tour it.
2. Touring is one of the few things that offers the glimmer of an opportunity to make money from what I do. So, I did the tour, because I need to eat.
Having booked all my shows myself, I was able to communicate directly with the venues and promoters, which meant I could email ahead and find out whatever I needed to – mostly, whether there was a sofa in the venue. Or even better, a green room with a sofa in it. Again, this gives you an idea of the stage I’m at in my career. I don’t know if the hustle ever really ends, but just now it really feels like I’m knee deep in the proverbial hoopla of the always unglamorous ‘hustling stage.’ I have to remind myself I am basically unknown and as such, perennially grateful, hungry for the shows I play and the audience I’m trying to reach. Repeat it enough and it becomes true. I think.
On the whole, people were understanding and generally did the best they could to accommodate my (pretty straightforward) requests. I won’t lie – it was exhausting. Touring can be stressful – but rubbish sound engineers, promoters who don’t do their job (i.e. try to sell tickets), traffic or running out of clean pants are all things that are annoying whether you’re pregnant or not.
It all depends on your attitude. I for one feel strongly that pregnancy is not a disability – in fact it sometimes can feel like a superpower. If anything, I felt more energetic, more ambitious, and more determined to launch my album – a body of work I spent the best part of two years on. As for people who, very sweetly, have congratulated me at this point, I say hold that thought! You can congratulate me in 5/10/15 years time if I have managed to continue making work I am proud of. Maybe there’ll even come a time when my partner gets equally congratulated for ‘carrying on’ whilst bringing up children.
There’s no denying that freelancing is a precarious way to live. The sums don’t really add up for me just now – indeed most people I know have other jobs so that they can eat on a daily basis. So, with two weeks to go before this human being is due to be released from me, I’ll finish with a prayer: that I continue to find the freedom to make good work, that I can get past the struggle to ‘justify’ seeking and maintaining that freedom and that I can in turn support my partner in this same quest.
Should have found myself an investment banker really. Maybe that’s the takeaway point. (Sorry feminism)*
*OBVIOUSLY A JOKE