One of the first things people say when I tell them I’m a freelance musician is ‘that sounds so glamorous!’; and in many ways it is. Watching the sun rise over Cape Horn, sailing through the Panama Canal, sunbathing on Caribbean beaches and staying in beautiful hotels in Asia – these are definite perks of the job!
But there are many more very unglamorous aspects of the job that people don’t even think about. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to get changed into concert outfits cramped in a tiny public toilet, trying not to drop anything on the floor because you don’t know the last time it was cleaned. Or the endless hours of driving from one gig to another, arriving late and leaving early, surviving on takeaway tea and sandwiches full of mayonnaise (I hate mayo!!). For every good hotel there’s a couple of questionable B&Bs – memories of driving to Asda on a cold, dark, wet December evening in Ireland to buy antibacterial wipes to clean the bathroom because I don’t want to spend a week surrounded by other people’s hair and dirt. Whilst working on cruise ships is often exciting, 8am rehearsals because that’s the only time the piano is available, are not…
And it can get lonely. Being a pianist, most of the time it’s just me and my piano, and the occasional conversation with my satnav. Staying at hotels by myself and eating alone in restaurants is now the norm, and whilst most of the time this is fine (I now quite enjoy saying ‘table for one’ to see what reaction I get – it varies) there are times when I would really like company and conversation that isn’t work related.
BUT, and it’s a big but, nothing is more satisfying than earning a living from doing what I love most and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Just remember, for every glittering performance onstage, there is a backstage full of hard work, dodgy tea and half eaten sandwiches.