Tips for Staying Healthy on the Road

Editor’s Note: Touring can be challenging for all artists, especially those with substance use or mental health concerns. On our Resources-Tools page, we are assembling wellness tips from and for artists who spend a good deal of time away from home. We kick off that effort here with ideas from musician John Solomon, and invite others to send us your tips, too.

By John Solomon

Hint #1: Routine, routine, routine. One thing that makes touring so stressful is the constant changes. No matter how hard you work beforehand to schedule a tour, the plans never seems to stick. The key is to find routine where you can. I focus on making my mornings identical. I wake up at the same time no matter what. I travel with my own coffee setup. I try to eat a mild breakfast and lunch at the same time each day. It seems inconvenient, or maybe a little boring, but in the long run, establishing a routine lowers the stress levels and gives you something familiar to hold on to in the middle of the tornado.

Hint #2: Exercise. Playing shows every night, riding in buses or vans for hours, and sleeping in new beds or moving vehicles every night punishes the body. Getting up and moving every day for your own sake will lessen a lot of that physical stress. I don't work out on the road like I do at home. I just work out to give myself some time to reset and get some fresh healthy feeling in my life in the midst of the chaos.

Hint #3: Consider what you are putting into your body all the time. I don't drink, but a lot of my bandmates do, and it's easy to lose track of days on the road when every night seems like a Saturday. Drinking, and eating pizza and fast food, probably won’t hurt you if done once in a while. But after the third day of tour, you'll stop remembering what day it is, and if you don't get in the habit of eating healthy and staying away from booze, then you might fall into unhealthy patterns without even realizing it. 

I know … establishing routines, exercising and eating healthy might seem like bummers compared to what you expect touring to be, but I like to remember that the tour will be exciting enough. The goal is to make it through with as many good vibes as when you started.

John Solomon is a singer, songwriter and guitar player for the acclaimed indie rock band Communist Daughter. He is also a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in addiction studies and a former board member and ongoing advisor for Dissonance.

* Banner image above by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash. Used with permission.
* Photo below, courtesy of Communist Daughter, shows John at a roadside stand in Georgia in 2015.


Visiting Ghosts

By Katy Vernon


Editor’s Note: This is the third dispatch from Katy during her 2017 tour of the United Kingdom. Most of this was written on a train in Wales, where both of her parents were born and raised. The picture above is Katy at her mother’s favorite beach, in the precise spot where, according to relatives, her family had many picnics when she was a child. If you haven’t already, please make sure to also read her first post, The H.A.LT. Tour, and second post, Not Today.


I think I've gotten so used to feeling disconnected that I lost track of the connections I have.

After I lost my parents in my teens, I decided to make my own family, married very young, and became a homebody creating a safe little nest. I realized somewhere along the way that I wasn't a risk taker. Although I had left my home in the United Kingdom and travelled halfway around the world to live in the United States, I was a very anxious and unadventurous person in many ways. I had anxiety about getting on the wrong bus, saying the wrong thing, failing. It became easier to just stay on track and try to do all of the right things.

I tried to control everything and everyone in my life.

That doesn't work. Not for me anyway.

Once I finally admitted to myself that I was struggling, I started to learn the process of letting go.

A year ago, I would have agonized about playing a concert overseas. The sheer amount of things that might go wrong would have overwhelmed me.

The idea of taking time away from home would have also trapped me. Not due to any lack of backing from those I love, though. It was all self-inflicted.

So this year -- in a healthier place personally, and with the encouragement of friends and family -- I dove in.

Six weeks of travel and shows. All over the UK. Almost every few days, I have taken trains, buses, and tubes to all areas of Britain.

The kindness and generosity of strangers has been overwhelming. People literally opening their homes and hearts to me.

I have also walked the routes of my past and visited my ghosts.

The home I grew up in, the  schools I attended, the park where I walked my dogs. So much has changed, and yet most of it is the same. I was scared about how that might make me feel.

I recently stood outside my childhood house, and for the first time in years it just looked like a building. Windows, a door, a little garden. Most of it the same as it was, but just a house, not my home.

As part of this tour, I also was invited to play at the hospice where my mum spent her final days. My last memory of her is there. I rode my bike to see her that day, on my own after school. She had asked me to bring strawberries, and I sat in her bed and ate them. She had just had her 47th birthday, and there were cards in her room. I was so nervous making my way there alone, but I'm so grateful today. I didn't know at the time that it would be the last visit, but my Dad didn’t want me to see her once she went into a coma.

It felt so huge to even think about going back. I knew that meant I had to do it. I went back with my ukulele to sing for people there. I didn't say what my connection was to the place. My reason for being there was to use my voice to bring some beauty and happiness to people's day. I have finally learned that I have that to give. Yes, I have experienced tremendous grief. But it helps me to help others, and I can now see that, as much sadness as I carry in my heart, I have equal, if not more, joy to give.

With that deeply meaningful performance at the hospice behind me, I boarded the train to Wales -- making my way, in less than 24 hours -- from the place where my mum passed away to the house where she grew up. My cousin wrote me a family tree (something I have never had) for the occasion, showed me around the old place and and shared her memories of my mum. As it turns out, my mum was her favorite aunt. And to hear her talk about how much she loved my mum was amazingly touching.

This house, too, was just a building, with windows and a door, and a little garden. It was a perfect full-circle moment.

I don't need to visit ghosts because they already live on inside of me, my cousin and my daughters.


Katy Vernon is a Minneapolis/St. Paul-based singer-songwriter. She grew up in London, England, and has been writing and singing as long as she can remember.


Stumbling Into Peace

by Johnny Solomon

About three years ago, I walked into a yoga class because it was freezing outside and I didn’t want to spend another winter hibernating at home. I wanted to get ahead of the coming three months of Christmas cookies and soup. I wasn’t looking to talk about chakras, though. And the last thing I wanted to do was sit through Yanni-inspired sitar music. My yoga goals were not lofty, but it was November and the promise of a polar vortex was right around the corner.

At that point, I had been sober for about three years. I also had my bipolar disorder relatively managed but still experienced bouts of anxiety that kept me isolated and unattached from the rest of humanity. I toured full time as a musician, so my schedule was pretty much the opposite of a “schedule.” And I was a year into writing my new record, feeling both crippling self-doubt and a sense of career-ending procrastination. According to everything I knew at the time, it was the kind of life an artist could expect.

Years before, I had pushed my way into some sort of success in the music world. Success is relative, of course, but I was making a living, which I figure is at least the ground floor. What I didn’t understand at the time was that my identity had become lost in my art. When I got sober and was finally healthy enough to commit to being a working artist, my sense of self got all wrapped up in my songs. I stopped being able to separate who I was from what I could create. I assumed every interaction involved the singer-songwriter Johnny of Communist Daughter. My neighbors didn’t see John Solomon; they saw the guy who wrote songs, and they liked me, or didn’t, based on what they thought of my latest record. I took commentaries on my music as commentaries on my very existence. The only time I talked to the outside world was before and after my shows, and that skewed my perception of daily life. I didn’t know where John Solomon ended and Johnny Solomon began.  

But that day in November, I took a step down a path I didn’t even realize I was on. What started as me counting minutes on the mat, became me counting breaths. And then simply turning off my mind and counting on that one-hour break from whatever else was outside. I showed up to lose weight, but then I stopped caring about that (#dadbodforlife). I went because it felt good. If I was anxious, I knew things would be better afterward. If I had a decision to make, I knew I would have some sort of clarity after class. And two years into practicing yoga, I realized I had friends that didn’t even know I was a musician. They liked me without any prior knowledge of Communist Daughter. I felt like I had my own identity again.

In the recovery world, many of us like to get together in groups to talk and listen to each other. One of the ways we share is by recounting “what it was like, what changed, and how it is now.” But life doesn’t stop changing when you get sober; that’s one of the first things I learned in recovery, so every time I go back to my story, it’s a little bit different. And three years ago, my life and story shifted without me even noticing. Three years ago, I walked into a room to lose a couple of pounds, but I learned patience and gratitude, and recaptured an idea of who I was. I found a community that didn’t know I was a musician. Even three years later, I suspect most of them have never heard a single one of my songs. I found a group of friends that are as likely to be sober as they are to be anything else. I’ve also listened to more Drake than I ever thought I would. Apparently yoga isn't just for sitar.  

I have a lot of feelings about yoga, and none of them involve an understanding of chakras (yet), a nirvana, or an ability to say Namaste without smirking. But they do involve getting anxiety under control, finding patience with myself and appreciating a whole new world of Drake-loving, earnest human beings.

Once again, I find myself thinking about life in terms of “what it was like, what changed, and how it is now.” Today, thanks to yoga, I’m a different, more content, and connected person. I love to show up to the studio and talk to the people around me and to listen to what they’re looking for and what they have found.

I’m not trying to sell you a spiritual awakening. But if you get yourself to a yoga mat, you might be able to learn how to say Namaste without smirking, and hopefully you can teach me that.


Want to try it for yourself? Check out our upcoming event called Breathing Through Dissonance on April 23rd.

John Solomon is a Dissonance Board Member.