Musicians Eating On Tour #2: A Rundown Of On-The-Road Eating Habits

Musicians spend a hefty portion of their time touring, which precludes the possibility of sticking to a regular routine. This means balancing your diet can be tricky, especially in a line of work that revolves around late nights, partying and travelling. We spoke to a handful of musos to find out how they approach eating on tour.

“One of the best aspects of the touring life is that you get to experience so many different kinds of places, and food definitely helps define where you are,” says Blitzen Trapper guitarist Erik Menteer, who’s spent the better part of a decade touring around the States, as well as visiting Europe and Australia. “From the ubiquitous Waffle Houses and BBQ joints of the American south to the best of everything contained within NYC, each says a little bit about what the people in that area value. Personally though, I'm partial to the food in Europe. It's the only place that's made me freak out about the simplest foodstuffs. Bread! Who knew bread could be that good?”
This affection for European food is shared by Sans Parents frontman/Megan Washington guitarist, Alex Bennison. “When I was in the Netherlands last I had a few things that were cooked in Dutch ovens, and they were incredible. Some of the most delicious food I've ever eaten.”
Dining in new places can be an exhilarating ride. Though, in these situations health isn’t always the first thing on your mind. Immigrant Union bass player Ben Street experienced this during a massive US tour in 2014. “I put on about 10kg after that trip,” he says. “I once tried to be healthy in Nashville and ordered a salad but it was full of fried chicken and bacon.” After abandoning thoughts of good health though, Street happily embraced the splendours of US cuisine. “Lots and lots of burgers and also pizza – iconic New York pizza at 5am.”
It’s not just the USA that makes it difficult to keep up a healthy diet on tour. This is something Andy Bull came to terms with during his major 2015 Australian tour. “We went through a pretty heavy phase of getting drive-through after our shows, like 1am-2am.”
Generally a health-conscious guy, Bull was lured into a whole new world of fast food sin. “When we first started doing it regularly I felt like my band were shepherding me into this dark and clandestine world,” he says. “Like they were experienced drug users or something and I was the curious young guy wanting to know how to ‘party’. We’d hit the glow of the menu board at drive-through, all these offers scrolling by. I was gripping the steering wheel, like ‘What do I get?’ and they would be like, ‘Well, what kind of a buzz do you want? Do you want to go uptown or downtown?’ ”
So the question beckons: is it possible to stay healthy on tour? “It is, but it’s a little bit of a commitment,” says Bull. “You must commit to not doing the usual things, the easy things. Buy fruit, that’s a good tip – it’s instant eating and accessible. And obviously don’t drink if you’re serious about your health.”
“Oliver's, found at many rest stops, is a great way to stay healthy on the road,” Street says. “Instead of fries you get green beans, with a variety of healthy pita wraps. The only problem is I spend about $32 every time I stop there compared to a $6 Big Mac.”
For Bull, there’s just one golden rule: “Don’t go hungry. It’s no good being hungry and bothered on tour.” Menteer concurs: “Hunger is one of your worst enemies on the road. Left unchecked, it can cause complete social breakdown and general unwarranted anger.”
For Bennison, tour life is less a guilty time of bad health than it is a chance to really explore his interests. “I'm generally sitting on my lounge searching Instagram for pictures of delicious food and beers, and am always checking out new places around home,” he says. “It's like my equivalent to Tinder – I'm sussing out what delicious beverages and foods I can hook up with.” 
Craft beers are of particular interest to Bennison, which provides a stimulating on-the-road activity. “It's good to research a few places before you arrive and find who's got the best stuff on tap, and also a chunk of stuff I haven't tried. Good craft beer places usually have rad food menus too, so it can sort the dinner vibe out too a lot of the time.”
For Menteer, coffee is the obsession, for better or worse. “I love me some good coffee, but the good stuff is hard to find when you are somewhere in the middle of Wyoming,” he says. “For a while there I went so far as to bring my whole coffee kit. French press, thermos, cream and sugar packets nabbed from whatever gas station, and a mug. But packing an entire bag and taking the time each morning to brew it up got to be a bit troublesome.”
This predicament is representative of how difficult it is to attain a sense of normality on the road. But sitting down for a nice meal with your band mates is certainly valuable. “Rituals give time specific value, and that makes it all feel worthwhile, makes you feel connected,” says Bull. “I don’t know if normality is necessarily as important as engagement and attention. What I mean is that anything you can do to make the experience feel real, the better.”
By Augustus Welby

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