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How To Survive Playing To An Empty Room And Other Advice For A Band's First Tour

Kam Franklin (left) is lead singer of The Suffers, a band from Houston that started touring three years ago. Amber Daniel is lead singer and bassist of Blame the Youth from North Carolina. They're preparing for their first tour.
Courtesy of Jay Bee Zay and Allison Slade
Kam Franklin (left) is lead singer of The Suffers, a band from Houston that started touring three years ago. Amber Daniel is lead singer and bassist of Blame the Youth from North Carolina. They're preparing for their first tour.

When you're facing a major life change, it helps to talk to someone who has already been through it.All Things Considered is connecting people on either side of a shared experience, and they're letting us eavesdrop on their conversations in our seriesBeen There.

North Carolina band Blame the Youth has been playing together in and around Charlotte for three years.

Now, they're at a point where they're trying to decide just how serious they are.

Amber Daniel and her bandmates still have their day jobs. Amber is an elementary school music teacher who teaches private lessons on the side, and being on tour full-time would be a big change.

"We're getting to the point where it's like, so you gonna do it? You ready, you ready?" she says. "Speaking for myself, yeah."

But Amber still has some concerns about hitting the road.

Three years ago, the Houston band The Suffers were in the same place — wondering if they should go on the road, and how to do it.

Kam Franklin, the band's lead singer, says The Suffers' decision started with a big discussion among the bandmates about quitting their jobs and taking a chance, which everyone decided to follow through on.

"There will always be something to come back to," says Kam. "But you can't go back to these opportunities when they're right in front of you. "

This interview has been edited lightly for clarity

Advicefrom Kam Franklin

On deciding to tour full-time

We had a conversation and we were like, alright, we know we're doing this, but we don't know what's gonna happen after. And like where was gonna be the stopping point for us to know that, OK, this is when we need to go back to our old lives. And you know, is everybody down to quit their jobs.

On dealing with your bandmates on the road

Over-communicate your needs and your frustrations to your band and to your team early on. Passive aggression will ruin your band. It will ruin your business. And I know it seems really silly but saying things like, you know, I need to stop for tampons, or I need to go to a bra store because my back is hurting because this bra is old and I've played too many shows in it. At a certain point you guys are gonna be it to each other. It'll be beyond family, beyond a romantic relationship and you have to learn how to not only respect one another's space but how to respect yourself by over-communicating when it's necessary.

On playing to an empty room

We have never, thankfully, played to zero people. But we have definitely played to a room that probably had a dozen people in it, including the people who were working there. But at the end of the day you have to take on this mentality of, "Who cares?" Because at the end of the day, is this what you want to do with your life? So look at that show as a practice for the major stage.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Christina Cala is a producer for Code Switch. Before that, she was at the TED Radio Hour where she piloted two new episode formats — the curator chat and the long interview. She's also reported on a movement to preserve African American cultural sites in Birmingham and followed youth climate activists in New York City.
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