The perks of being a famous musician are obvious – money, fame and power. But is it all worth it when it takes over your life?
They make the music that motivates us at the gym and our feet sore from dancing all night. They are on the front covers of tabloids and homepages and most of us dream of living the lifestyles of the rich and famous (so says Good Charlotte), like aspiring music artist Bridgette Harman. “The money, the cars, the fan base, the touring…” she said, her eyes wandering off as if she was imagining it. “But it’s not as easy as people think.”
American rock band Fall Out Boy are no strangers to the hectic music lifestyle. The four-piece band hit Australian shores recently to headline the annual Australian music festival Soundwave, plus some other gigs while they were here.
It’s easy to forget these are just regular people, who need as much sleep and social time as us. So when they’re spending so much time working either in studio or travelling on tour, do they really have the idealistic lifestyle?
Band member Patrick Stump told The Newsroom it’s not as easy as it looks. “It’s hard, it’s so early for us to be up right now,” he said yawning. This was 8am and they had arrived in Sydney late the night before from Melbourne, and before that from The States. But it’s not only jet lag they have to deal with, being away from home takes its toll as well. “For some people, home is family and I [agree], but the biggest thing for me is Chicago. I miss it all the time.
“There’s no amount of money that makes you feel better when you’re missing home,” he added.
Californian band Of Mice & Men also know the strain of being far from home, and it hits hardest for frontman, Austin Carlile, who is touring while battling a serious illness.
The lead vocalist was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome (a disorder of the connective tissue that can affect the body in various ways) at just 18 years old, and was forced to stand down from his lead vocalist position in 2010 mid tour due to his health. The disease that killed his mother years before, was wearing down his heart valves and cardiovascular system and open heart surgery was needed to save his life. These days the singer has to be in top shape in order to not contribute to his already bad health.
Yet still, he goes on. And shows no sign of slowing down as much as it affects his health. “It’s so good to be back here again,” Carlile told The Newsroom before a fan signing and ahead of their show at The Factory Theatre. “The fans singing our lyrics back at us makes it all worthwhile. I have to show how thankful I am for their support,” he admitted, cracking a huge smile. “The fans were what got me through a lot of my rough times. I would wake up in a lot of pain. I couldn’t even get up to watch TV. [The fans] really helped with my recovery process and I couldn’t be any more grateful.”
It’s not only physical health issues that affect musicians on tour – relationships can be difficult to maintain, as Katy Perry showed us in her hit movie Part Of Me. We see her backstage, moments before she is due on stage for a show, crying over the breakdown of her marriage to Russell Brand. Her 66 million Twitter followers sent numerous tweets showing their support, though Katy admitted in her documentary, “I will do everything it takes to not fail, and I did everything it took but it still failed.” She continued her world tour with a broken heart and tears in her eyes.
But how does this pressure affect an artist? Psychologist Kane Milbourn said mental and physical illness can stem from constant touring. “Loneliness can lead to all sorts of problems both in your mind and to do with your physical wellbeing. Being put under pressure can do that to anyone unless they have a great support network.”
Willing to take that risk, drummer Lachlan McDonald from Sydney pop punk band Undercast, said that although he knew it wouldn’t be easy, a musical career was something he always wanted to pursue. “Being away from home twenty-four seven practicing, writing, recording and then working to fund being in a band is hard.”
“It’s also hard to afford a lot of other things unless you work full time, and that’s difficult as being in a band quickly becomes a full time commitment,” chimed in guitarist Josh Gonzalez. “That then leaves you less time to keep up with your mates.”
It seems time off and sleep are luxuries successful music artists do not have a lot of. Beneath a snapback and dark sunglasses from inside a record store, Alan Ashby, rhythm guitarist of the band Of Mice & Men, said that he’s learnt to sleep wherever he can. “I’m asleep right now, you just don’t know it,” he quipped.
Despite the struggles, these artists continue to work hard to constantly produce new music for their fans.
“They are the best part,” said clean vocalist and bassist Aaron Pauley. “Meeting all our fans from around the world and hearing their stories – that and playing on stage are tied. Oh, and sleeping.”
“I love being part of a band who can give kids hope, to get them through their parents’ divorce, to get them through bullying at school or whatever it may be,” added Carlile. “And I absolutely get no greater joy than talking to them or meeting them, reading their letters and being able to help them with difficult things in their life,” he said, before leaving to greet the thousand-strong crowd awaiting his next performance. – Brooke McNeil
Top photo by Brooke McNeil.