Since Penn has been keeping everyone up to date on the tour I figured I should probably weigh in a little bit. And rather than retelling all the information you’ve already read, I figured I’d talk in more broad strokes about touring and traveling and why it is I choose to do what I do.
I titled this little post after a quote from William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, it’s the scene where Miranda, a character whose world view had previously been limited to an island where only her and her father, Prospero, were the only humans, sees other humans for the first time and realizes just how little she knows about the world. I think, in many ways, this sense of the naivety is why I enjoy traveling.
Nothing really makes you understand how little you actually know like traveling. Whether it’s to another country, another state, or even just another city, it’s amazing and humbling to see the differences between people all over. And traveling enough begins to make you understand just how similar these differences are, it allows you the opportunity to find a common thread between people of all places. You can read all the books you want, become as learned in other customs or cultures as you’d like, but without actually going out and experiencing them, I don’t believe you can ever fully understand.
I feel most comfortable with myself when I’m traveling. I like the adventure of it, going to places I know nothing about, and that know nothing about me, and having to figure it all out. It means you have to learn on your feet and honestly, I think that’s the only way I learn. Staying in any one place too long begins to get under my skin. There’s something that I find inexplicably irritating about people knowing what I do or where I go. That’s not to say that I don’t like people or friends or having company in general, what I mean perhaps, is that I think the greatest freedom we have is the freedom of mobility. Once people know what you’re up to, you lose your autonomy. Your sense of self. In a time of social media, everyone isn’t so much interested in what you’re doing or what you’ve done, but rather, doing it with you. People now want to be there with you while you’re doing something through tweets, photos, blogs, etc. Obviously, as a touring performer, all of these are important,(hence this blog) and in many ways necessary to succeed in the modern art scene, but I also believe it’s important to maintain that privacy, that freedom. Staying on the move is one way I’ve found to do that. And this isn’t some indicment against social media, I think social media has done marvelous things and has advanced the connectivity of people ten fold. I’ve been able to stay in touch with people thousands of miles away with just a few clicks and an little more than an alphabet’s worth of buttons. Rather, human curiosity lends itself to a desire to know what other people are doing, and social media has given curiosity the means to become intrusive, especially if you remain stationary.
I don’t like the idea of people things about me and I like the idea of being stranger. Maybe it’s just the escapist in me, but I find it refreshing going places where no one knows who I am. I like being able to walk into a place where there are no stories, reputations or preconceived notions, all I have is my first impression. I feel as though that’s how you learn the most, not only about other people, but also about yourself because in moments like that, you have nothing to fall back on, no credentials or contacts, just yourself and your intuition. And that’s what makes touring so alluring it’s one of the few times where my poetry can be my first impression. Anonymity as an artist is something so few people seem to want anymore, the infatuation with fame and notoriety has replaced it. And reasonably so, because without any type of a ‘following’ it’s difficult to be booked to perform anywhere, but personally I think it’s one of the catch-22’s of being involved in any performance art. I enjoy being able to reamin below the radar and surprise people whenever and where ever I perform, and the more notoriety you gain, the more pressure there is to cater your art to fit people’s expectations. But in order to get booked and make a living out of this, you need to be able to show that people will come out to the venues. It’s a difficult balance to strike. In order to be conventionally sucessful in a career like this there’s a necessity, in many ways, to make a routine. This might be surprising to hear, but just like any career, performance art has a monotony to it and demands that you do certain things repeatedly. Show up to the same open mic X number of times until they decide to give you a feature, or do so many opening slots until you prove you can headline. And I hate routine. I find that routine stifles creativity. So when on tour, even if the crowd sizes are small, it’s always refreshing, because it’s a break in that routine. It’s like a business trip for artists. It allows you to think about your art and yourself in new ways because of the new influences, techniques and inspirations you’ve found in these new places. Like any travel experience, touring is a way to open your perspective.
Now, that’s obviously not to say that this is how everyone acts. Some people can be perfectly happy in one place, or stay in one place and discover something new to do every day. But if I perform for the same people, in the same place, for any extended period of time, I just get frustrated. And maybe it’s a shortcoming of mine that I sink into routine whenever I’m in one place too long, or maybe I just don’t try hard enough to change or adapt. Regardless, traveling is how I decide to cope with the repetitive moments of my career. And despite the difficulties of it, I believe touring, or at least traveling, is important to both the longevity and accessibility of any performer, and artist in general, because without it, you might find yourself limited by the scope of your horizon only constantly revisiting the same themes everyday rather than seeing just what a “brave new world” there is outside your current view, waiting to be experienced.