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Performing Songwriter Cover

Spousal Support

Originally published in Performing Songwriter Magazine
Issue #48, July 2000

What does it take to make a relationship work? And why do so few long-term relationships in our industry succeed?

Let me state up front that I have no idea why some relationships work and others fall by the wayside. Some things become obvious as you age; others become apparent as you move from one failed relationship to another. Sometimes there's no evident reason; just bad luck.

There's no magic map here. That's why this article isn't titled A Musician's Guide to Finding the Perfect Mate, or Building Lasting Relationships On the Road.

My current (and hopefully, last) relationship has prevailed since 1989. To this day, there's no one I'd rather wake up next to than Pat. Life without her is conceivable, but not preferable. Oh, I still look as much as anyone else, but I have no interest in acting on it. Perhaps, after all these years, I've learned a bit. I offer it up here.

This article makes certain assumptions, chief among them that you're already in a relationship, and you would like the relationship to last. It assumes the relationship is monogamous (on both sides). It avoids issues that revolve around children, because that's an article unto itself. It's based on my own personal experience, and that of friends. I am in no wise a therapist (though the thought of starting an "Advice to the Lovelorn" column in this magazine has been discussed....) And I'm going to cheerfully skip the basics you can learn from any decent therapist, any good book on relationships, or simply from life experience. I'm skipping them because this is a magazine for performing songwriters, and our needs are somewhat different.

A few decades ago, it was considered chic for artists to pretend to be like everyone else. It made us look humble, and humility sold. There's truth in the humility, because all relationships are fundamentally the same.

For instance, all relationships are based on some sort of contract, whether stated or not (more often, whether conscious or not). It doesn't matter if you're a ditch digger or the president's wife; there are some things everyone wants out of a relationship. It doesn't matter if you're the most brilliant performer/songwriter in the world; you want the same things as your local day-jobber.

We all want trust - a feeling of safety. The sense that when you face the world, your partner faces it with you. As Jim Ed Norman of Warner Bros. says, "All too often, people are drawn together in the entertainment arena because of the intensity and action. After the lights go down, your partner and you have to deal with the same things that do all couples."

However, the very nature of our jobs makes relationships, and sustaining them, quite different from those of day-jobbers. The life of a touring artist is very unlike the life of a civilian. In many ways, the problems our families cope with are more akin to those of career military family than of regular working people. Even a songwriter's life is different from the "normal" world of relationships. It is those differences we need to address, both in our hearts and in our daily lives.

Here are some differences:

Day-jobbers depart at 8 and return home at 5, leaving their jobs behind. They have evenings and weekends to do all the mundane chores, catch up on friendships, and take down time for themselves. They share a common reality of current television shows, movies, concepts like "sick leave" and "mental health days". They speak one another's language, even if one is specialized. A computer programmer married to a kindergarten teacher will still find great commonality.

Artists have nothing of the sort. When other people are spending their weekends enjoying entertainment, we are the entertainment. We have no sick days. Day-jobbers can't grasp the concept of a job that never ends, but that's what the life of an artist is. You can't leave a song you're working on back at the office; it rides your shoulder, interrupting dinner as you get that glazed look your spouse has come to know so well. You can't say I'll be at the studio from 10 to 5. then home for dinner. Not when the clock's ticking and there are deadlines to be met. My partner learned early on to take the time I'd allotted in the studio, double it, and then add some. She doesn't even try to hold dinner any more.

Add to that the tiny, insular world most of us inhabit. On the road, the only familiar faces are those we travel with constantly. Multiply that by 8 weeks, and you're an easy victim of "road fever". That's when the girl you thought was a real dog six weeks ago now looks like the most attractive woman in the world - because you actually know her. Players tend to hang with players, performers with performers, writers with writers. We share a common goal, common language. It can all become terribly incestuous after a while.

Mix in our egos, which have to be enormously solid for us to get up on stage in the first place. It's hard for that ego to finish a two-week run of encores and autographs, then walk through the door to "Hi, glad you're home, take out the garbage, the plumber'll be here at four, what are you picking up for dinner?"

Add to that the fears civilians rarely face, fears that are with us constantly - I'm not good enough for this gig/duet/co-writer.... Someone's going to find out that I just lucked into that hit, I can't follow it up.... My manger/agent/record company doesn't believe in me any more, they're paying more attention to that other act.... I'll never write another song as good as X....

Sure, people with regular jobs worry about being fired or losing favor, but usually their entire career doesn't depend on it. They can get another job. This is the only one we have.

Couple it with the fear that our talent will desert us, then add our tendency (and the world's) to define ourselves by that talent. The paranoia of the artist is legendary, and with good cause.

Insert a dollop of our incredible concentration. It takes enormous reserves of energy and focus to be an artist. When we're writing, the world could crumble in a heap around us; so long as we've found that missing chorus, we're fine. Try making someone understand, viscerally, that there are no coffee breaks on stage. Being on stage for two hours at a time requires attention of a sort most people only know when giving birth.

Then throw in our work vocabulary. The words Spinal Tap, real-time, backstage, laminates mean something to us, and nothing to the world at large. And we're not even talking about words like 24-track, condenser, PRS, foreign rights.

Put our support systems into the picture. We live surrounded by managers, lawyers, publicists, record companies, publishers, promoters... the world we inhabit is supported by our talent, and treats us accordingly. We may often be spoiled, but the responsibility (both financial and emotional) of maintaining that sort of infrastructure falls squarely on our shoulders. That burden is inconceivable to any but a top-level day-jobber, or a completely self-employed person. We are, in effect, the CEO's of our own corporations, and our only asset is ourselves.

Finish off with "control issues" (a phrase every artist who goes into therapy hears a great deal). We spend a large portion of our time learning control - control of our instruments, our voices, and our bodies on stage, and our personalities in public.

We learn to control the physical aspects of our work - put the microphone here. Set the lights here. Put the merchandise here.

We control our employees - run the offers past me before you accept anything. You can't take a vacation then, I'm booked.

Even our co-workers are to an extent controlled by our needs and desires; the publisher who isn't allowed to pitch X song because you're holding it for yourself, the record company who can't put out a CD until you've approved the artwork.

We learn to control our environment as much as possible, to make it conducive to our work - the vehicle temperature, the hotel room humidity, when and what we eat (am I getting enough protein before the show? am I eating too soon/too late for the show?), how we travel, what time of day we travel.... It's never-ending, because if we can't go on, everything grinds to a screeching halt.

If you look at your life as an artist, you'll find that you control - or would like to control - every single aspect of it. After all, you're the only one who knows what's best for you and your career, right?

Then you come home after a 6 week tour, used to casually controlling everything and everyone, only to be faced with a partner who expects an equal say in everything. The re-entry problems on both sides are enormous. Your partner knows the you that shares a life with them, the operative word here being "shares". If you're the primary artist, there is no such concept on the road - everyone is dispensable except you. Home is quite a different story, and sometimes it hurts!

And then there's the other side.

Now try explaining all of this to the person you're dating. As far as they're concerned, you've got it easy. You're out there leading the high life - staying in hotels, eating out all the time, surrounded by people who cater to your every need. You don't change sheets, launder towels, or go food shopping. In fact, you probably spend your days lounging around like a snail until you walk onstage at 8 pm. You only work a couple of hours a day, after all.

And for the person you actually live with, it's worse. If you're a writer, you spend the day sitting around telling stories, don't you? Playing guitar is hardly work! How come you can't be the one to deal with the cable guy? To our spouses, we're always out of town when the shit flies. Somehow, the water heater never breaks when we're home. The electrical system doesn't go down unless we're away.

The first time I went on a long tour after we began living together, Pat called me in Amsterdam and said with lethal intensity "I know why you left town... you just wanted me to deal with your mom while you're out there leading the glamour life! Call her, right now!!" Of course, we all know this isn't true. We know an artist's life is far from glamorous; when it is glamorous, we're usually too busy to notice. But to anyone outside our business, that's how it looks.

And how weird are day-jobbers?!

Their lives are just as mysterious to us as ours are to them. The concept of a weekly paycheck that's always the same is as alien to us as the idea of getting paid when you're too sick to go to work. When I started seeing Pat, she wanted to go to the movies on Friday nights. "Why go on Friday when it's so crowded? Let's go on Tuesday, when there are no lines" I said logically. It took a full year for me to understand the concept of "weekends". In my mind, Friday night is the beginning of the work week. In Pat's mind, Friday night is the End of the Week. It signals freedom from work, from having to get up early, from having to grind through a routine she doesn't like a whole lot. Eating out, then going to a movie, lets her feel like the weekend's started.

So is it impossible to have a long-term relationship with a day-jobber?

What can we, and they, do to surmount these difficulties? Let's assume the basics of a decent relationship are already in place: you love each other, you talk to each other, and you respect one another. You plan to make a life together. Here's my little list:

  1. Communication. No, I'm not talking about Therapy 101 here; I'm talking about vocabulary. Unless you decide to keep your relationship totally separate from your business, you'll need to find a way to bring the other person up to speed. Otherwise, you'll be rampaging around the house saying "That damned ASCAP statement didn't even pick up my foreign sync rights!" while your partner ducks for cover. In this digital age, where civilians easily throw around words like download, it's easy to forget that our lives have a vocabulary of words and assumptions they just don't know. You and your partner will need to speak a common language if you want to talk about your work, your business, your life. It's up to both of you to make sure they become educated.

  2. Education. In addition to teaching them the terminology of your work, you have to teach them about the work process - at least, enough so they understand when you're three hours late for dinner. You'll have to help them comprehend life on the road, in the theatre, in the studio. You need to make it clear to them that the chance of having a hit record is less than getting struck by lightning; that no matter how it looks, you often have no control over circumstances; that your financial life is up and down in a way they can't comprehend. Help them to understand that your schedule is often set months, if not years, in advance, and you can't just switch a date. Otherwise you're both begging trouble.

    In the same manner, they have to teach you things that everyone in their world takes for granted. The fear of being unjustly fired. Concepts like bonus, sick day, and performance evaluation that don't exist for us.

    If you don't educate one another, you both lose the best sounding board you could have - your partner, who loves you, and wants the best for you. Talk about it, take them to see Spinal Tap (and do that yearly until they actually get most of the jokes), and show them your world. While you're at it, investigate theirs. It never killed a performer to go into an office for a day and watch.

  3. Safety. Safety from your need to control, from your assumption that because it's best for you, it's best for everyone. Safety from your ego, that thing you cart around because it's so helpful on stage. Judge Judy tells a great story about her husband (a federal court judge at the time) coming home from a long day on the bench, completely full of himself. She met him at the door with the garbage. He drew himself up in astonishment and said something like "All day long I've been making federal law! I'm a judge!" She replied "Then take the garbage out in your court robes." In our business we're all judges; don't be one at home.

    In the same manner, you should also demand safety. Safety from someone who insists you go to dinner with friends when you've just arrived from Europe and are falling off your feet with jetlag. Safety from someone jealous of your position, and the attention you receive. Safety from non-emergency phone calls at 3 am when you're on the road and have finally fallen asleep. Which brings us to...

  4. Independence. The most important prerequisite for the spouse of a performer is that they have a life of their own. It's all very well during the first few months, when you spend every moment of every day in each others' pockets. If your spouse can take off from work that long, good for them! But unless you're willing to have them on the road and support them indefinitely (more on that later), they must have a life of their own. Whether you're in town or not, they need their own interests, their own friends, their own work. And you need to avoid sabotaging that!

    When I get home from the road, the first thing I want is Pat's time. Time to look at her, time to talk with her, time to be with her. She has a day job. She can't just take off three days because The Great Janis has finally returned. Half of the fun in any beginning relationship is the entertainment value; a new life to discover, new stories to hear, the opportunity to tell your story to a willing ear.

    But I had a road manager once who spent two to three hours every night on the phone with his wife. She screamed, she cried, she accused him of being unfaithful, she developed millions of problems only he could solve. He screamed. He cried. No one wanted the room next to his. I don't know if she was testing to see whether he'd throw over the tour and return early for her sake, or if that's the way their relationship usually went. I do know that he was miserably tired for the entire tour, and it certainly affected his work. Make sure your partner isn't the type to be bored just because you're not around to entertain them.

  5. A workable contract. That's the last thing you think about when you're starry-eyed and in heat, but you need to make sure some things are understood up front. Outside of the "normal" contract when people move in together (who pays for what? where do we live? how much room do you need?), think about your special set of circumstances.

    Are you going to remain monogamous on the road? This is a huge issue for most spouses, not helped by so many of us having one-night stands. Will your spouse remain faithful, even when you're gone for three months? When is it all right to call you during work hours, and when is it not? For instance, you can't be called while you're on stage - is it okay to call backstage before a show? Get clear on what defines an emergency - it won't be perfect, but try to get close. With the advent of mobile phones, life is a lot easier, but when is it okay to interrupt you in the studio? during a writing session?

    I worked with a writer whose wife called during a co-writing date because she couldn't remember his shirt size, and wanted to buy him a gift. The publisher had been told it was "urgent" enough to interrupt us. That's just unfair.

    You might also think about what both of you will not tolerate. Do you drink a lot on the road? Do drugs? Is that acceptable at home? Are you welcome to bring band members back to crash at your home? Are your partners' friends welcome in the house while you're writing? Try to refine it, try to keep it uncomplicated. Remember, you're not writing all of this in stone, but at least you'll have a starting point.

  6. Trust. Performers have a bad rap; it's assumed that we're licentious. Everyone knows musicians sleep around. When I met Pat, she thought all performers catted around. I did the smart thing and took her on the road for a week. At the end of it she said "If you ever have an affair on the road, more power to you - I can't see where you'd get the energy!"

    I also told her she was welcome to show up any time, anywhere - that even if it was 3 in the morning on the 14th week of a tour, she'd never find someone else in my bed.

    Being on the road is no excuse. Be wary of putting yourself in situations where you get more support from an available sex object than you do from your spouse; either talk to your mate, or avoid the situation. And don't get drunk or high with someone you know you want to bed! Don't decide not to have the affair after you've taken your clothes off - it doesn't work. Remember that there will be paranoia from your spouse, and cope with it frontally.

    The same goes for your spouse - you have to be able to trust them at home. Fair is fair, and staying faithful is no easier for the one who stays behind than for the one who leaves.

    However, if your partner has strong jealousy issues - whether about your work or your fidelity - the relationship is not going to work. Ever. This is not a life for the faint of heart. With some people, you can be faithful for a decade, and they're still convinced you're cheating. Who wants to come home to that?

  7. Time. Even if it's just an entire day spent in the same house, with you readily available to talk or just sit in silence with your beloved. As a friend of mine said about his children, "Quality time was invented by yuppies who wanted an excuse to spend more time at work. Children want quantity." Spouses, too.

    One of the problems with our line of work is that it's never-ending. Learn to stop. Learn to turn off the phone for a day. Learn to take down-time the way civilians do. Make agreements about it. Pat used to live in terror of our one yearly vacation being cancelled because of an important interview/TV show/gig etc., so we made an agreement. Unless it's Oprah, or the show pays such a ludicrous amount that we can come close to paying off the mortgage, nothing violates that vacation. I don't mean I spend the entire two weeks unaware of my business, but my business associates know not to call unless it really is urgent, and no one else has the number. I usually work seven days a week, month in and month out. That yearly two weeks gives us something to look forward to, and the chance to be ourselves in a way that can't happen when the phone, e-mail, and fax are on.

  8. Information. I live by my Outlook calendar. My partner is clear that she doesn't need my schedule from 9-5, but every time there's a new gig, or something that's going to keep me away past when she gets home, I give her an updated schedule. Otherwise it's too easy for things to fall through the cracks. And it helps me to remember things like Send Pat a card today! or Pat's birthday - don't blow it!

  9. Consistency. If there's one thing the road is not, it's consistent. You must bear in mind that most people go to the same place, at the same time, seeing the same people, and doing the same work, every single day of the week. It's very unnerving for someone with a day-job to suddenly be dealing with I won't be home for another week, the tour's extended, or I know I left you that number but the hotel changed and I forgot to call. Many of the inconsistencies in our daily lives are unavoidable, so maintain constancy where you can. A lot of us get hooked on drama; it's not great for a relationship.

  10. Clarity about your work commitments. This should probably come under the heading of Education, but you can educate without having thought things out in detail for yourself. Can you say your spouse is more important than your work commitments? Are you willing to forego "The show must go on"? Would you cancel a tour to be by his side if he were really ill? If her father dies, will you cancel a show to attend the funeral? On a smaller scale, how important are birthdays and anniversaries to you both? Day-jobbers never have this problem; they know they'll both be home. For us, it's good to work things out in advance when we can.

    I had a friend who was married to a successful performer who loved his work. They hit a hard spot in the road and she went into therapy, with a therapist who had never worked with a performer or performer's spouse. After my friend's diatribe about how her husband wouldn't be home for her birthday yet again, the therapist said "Can't he just take the day off and fly home?" No, my friend answered, he's playing New York that night. "Well, why can't he just change the date? After all, this is important to you!" My friend laughed as she explained that the date had been booked a year before, the concert was sold out, and no matter how important her birthday was, there would be other birthdays. There might not be another opportunity in New York.

    Pat and I compromise. I do my damnedest to be home for our anniversary, ever since she explained that for her, our anniversary is the most important date of the year, superseding birthdays and Christmas. I try to avoid taking gigs the day before or after, so I can fly home if necessary. And if it's on a weekend, she has the option of flying in. We're both clear that if I get a monumental break like The Tonight Show, it will pre-empt our festivities, but I try very hard to keep that day empty for her.

  11. Clarity about your partner's physical place in your work. In other words, do you want your spouse on the road with you? As Peter Schindler says, "It's called being on location, not being on vacation." Yet it's difficult for non-performers to accept that what you need or want at home just doesn't apply on the road. They don't comprehend your requiring an hour alone in the dressing room before a show. They don't enjoy living in a world that revolves around you and your needs, while they get to play the satellite orbiting around you. When you're out there working, it's all about you and only you, and that's hard for both sides. My ex-husband used to come on the road and insist that I treat him as I did at home - only I couldn't possibly! I had too many other commitments on the road.

    It takes a very strong ego on your spouse's part to withstand the amount of ridiculous attention being paid to you. When Pat comes on the road, she accepts that fans will literally shove her out of the way to get at me. She treats it as a challenge, a course in body-blocking. And she makes it interesting for herself - she's the one who can go out at intermission and hear what the audience really thinks.

    Partners on the road are hard on everyone. Against heroic efforts, they can't be anything more than a fifth wheel. No matter how much everyone likes them, it makes the tight knit group you've been building begin to unravel, and that's true even when your spouse is educated in your profession. Besides, what kind of lunatic would want to spend weeks tagging along with a bunch of musicians, when there's nothing for them to do except gaze adoringly at you during the show?

    When your partner isn't "road-worthy", you have Spinal Tap at its worst. I've sat in on band rehearsals where occasionally one girlfriend would sing out "Honeeeey, I need a huuug!" All activity ceased while the guitarist leaped off-stage to neck with his girlfriend. That's irritating. People who don't know the rules of the road tend to wander; they go shopping before sound-check and get locked out of the theatre. They get off the bus to have coffee without telling the driver, and are left behind. They keep their mobile phone turned off just when you need to speak with them about a schedule change. If your partner's going on the road with you, educate them about those things, and keep an eye on them!

  12. Courtesy. Of course you're going to observe common courtesy with one another, but keep an eye on your artist self as well. Most of your life is spent with other artists; when non-artist spouses are involved, try to talk about something other than yourself and your work once in a while! After her umpteenth "band dinner", Pat turned to me and sunnily announced "I can now teach anyone to sit down with a bunch of musicians and shine." Curious, we asked her how?

    A few simple phrases would do it, she replied. "All you have to do is occasionally say 'The '57 models were better', or 'It was better before CBS bought them', or just 'No shit!' That covers pretty much every situation, doesn't it?"

    Frighteningly enough, it does. Part of being courteous is letting everyone feel included - or allowing them the choice of not being included. I don't understand why Pat never wants to go to the NAMM show with me, but I respect her desire to stay home.

    And there are times when you just can't be as courteous as you'd like. Something weird happens when a fan spots an artist they admire - everyone else ceases to exist. At first this is fun for your spouse; they really enjoy it when people come up for autographs in the parking lot. But if our spouses don't have a good sense of humor, strong egos of their own, and a definite sense of what's downright silly in our business, it can cause dissension.

    When we go to dinner and the waiter addresses only "Ms. Ian", his eyes shining with the light of a truly fanatical fan, there's very little I can do about it. Sometimes if I don't order Pat's meal for her, the waiter will take my order and walk away, blissfully unconscious of the insult to my partner. Once someone nabbed me at lunch and spent ten minutes pitching a proposal to me, while completely ignoring Pat's presence. I mean, he even sat down next to her in the booth, with never an "Excuse me" or "How do you do?"! I was at a loss, but Pat finally took the situation in hand. When he drew a long breath, she leaned in and said "Hey idiot... I'm the last voice she hears at night. Don't you think you ought to be pitching me as well?" At least he had the grace to be embarrassed. Warn your partner that this sort of thing happens in your profession; ask them to be tolerant. And when someone is downright rude, remind them that you're not the only one in the room.

    Be courteous about your partner's fears as well. You may know it isn't all sex, drugs, and rock & roll, but your partner will take a while to get over the media's brainwashing.

    While we're on the subject, I find that pitching in with chores when I'm home makes an enormous difference. That sounds pretty stupid, but there it is. When I'm gone for 8 weeks, Pat feeds the dogs, waters the plants, re-sets the clocks, does all the things a house and home need. When I get home, the first thing I try to do is let her sleep past the dogs' 6 am bark. I struggle out of bed when I hear it, let them out, feed them, and have coffee ready when she comes downstairs. It's a nice gesture for her, and pretty easy for me.

  13. Compromise. To quote publicist Ginger Warder, "When an artist is touring, they're the big cheese... when they get home they have to become 'normal' again. Instead of being in charge, they have to compromise, to discuss things with their partner. Conversely, the partner who's been running the domestic business and/or raising the family alone for some time has to adjust to having another person enter into the decision making. I would think this kind of shifting of control or power in the relationship would be difficult for any couple."

    Difficult is an understatement! We've spent most of our adult lives as artists learning to be in charge, to get things our way, but all successful relationships specialize in the Art of Compromise. Learn to compromise gracefully - home is not the road. And make sure when you say Let's find a compromise, you're not really saying Give me some time to talk you into this. Writers talk beautifully; it's part of our job. Don't mistake your ability to convince an audience for convincing your partner to go against their grain. Audiences pay us to do that to them; partners just resent it.

    Make sure your partner understands what can't be compromised in your work and career. Remember that understanding something doesn't mean you, or they, will like it. And try to give in graciously. I never wanted three dogs; I would have been happier with a garter snake. At least they forage for their own food... but having three dogs makes Pat happy, so we have three dogs. And I'm away so much right now that the onus falls completely on her, so it's not a huge sacrifice for me.

  14. Reality. In an ideal world, the spouse of an artist provides a reality check - Yes I know you got three encores, but Jean's baby's in the hospital, you really should call her. It's all too easy for those of us on the road to live as though we are the only thing in life that matters. People and events conspire toward this; we're coddled when we're sick, indulged when we're bratty, rarely brought to heel for behaving like children. Reality checks remind us that what we do isn't brain surgery; people are living and dying out there, and our stage stature means nothing.

    Try to understand the reality of your spouse's daily world. Even if you've had day jobs, even if you have one now, somewhere in the back of your mind you're always thinking I'm going to get out. Someday I'm going to do my "real work" full time. Day-jobbers don't think like that. They don't look forward to the day when they can spend 24 hours in the office at a clip.

    Force yourself, and your loved one, to deal with the harsh realities of your business. Don't let your ego get in the way of confessing that you really wanted to talk with manager X, but he wouldn't see you. Don't let your ego insist you do everything, even when your spouse is better at it! I have a songwriter friend whose wife is a much better business person than he is, but he refuses to take advantage of her talent. He accuses her of "trying to horn in" instead. That's just a waste. Why should he be signing bad contracts and making bad deals when just discussing it with her, and setting his ego aside long enough to follow her advice, might turn everything around?

    Don't avoid real life by retreating into your instrument, your song, your record. I'm not saying you shouldn't put a moratorium on a lot of things when you're recording or touring, but try to be a part of the universe at large, not just your little universe of stardom.

  15. Humor! A sense of humor is absolutely essential, on both sides. When I asked Pat to describe the qualities necessary for a performer's spouse, she said "You have to be able to enjoy wallowing in a group of mono-syllabic drummers." Humor can tide you through the bad parts, and add relish to the good.

  16. Learn some simple tricks. There are things you can both do to make the other feel valued and loved, whether on or off the road. Here's a short list of suggestions:

    1. Communicate daily. This will keep you both from falling too far behind each others' lives. If you do a lot of overseas touring, invest in e-mail accounts - it's cheap, it's easy, and you can "talk" in real time. Ditto phone cards. A five minute call every day makes a huge difference when you're overseas.

    2. Leave notes for one another when you go - in the refrigerator, in the luggage, in a book.

    3. Send postcards or letters. When I leave for more than two weeks, I carry pre-stamped, pre-addressed cards with me. It just takes a minute to scribble something backstage; any motel will mail them for you. No matter how often you speak on the telephone, a card is tangible evidence that you care.

    4. Get a mobile phone. It's a real pain for your friends and family to constantly have to hunt you down by searching through out-of-date or changed itineraries. The mobile means they can reach you by remembering one phone number.

    5. Send occasional treats. Christine Lavin has a boyfriend who sends her fruit and cheese baskets when she's away for a while; flowers or candy really liven up the day. If your partner works in an office, send the gift there - it's nice to impress their co-workers with what a swell person you are.

    6. Take each other to lunch when you're in town. If you live with a day-jobber, picking them up at work, going anywhere at all for an hour together in the middle of the day, then delivering them back is a real perk. And particularly if you have children, lunch dates can provide time for talk that wouldn't be available otherwise.

    7. Bring road presents. Even if it's just a goofy key-chain from the Providence airport, bring something back with you. That makes everyone feel good.

In closing, I'd like to quote Fred Koller. When I began this article I sent out an email requesting tips and thoughts from many of my friends. In response to the question "What do you do about sex on the road?", Fred replied: "I prefer sex on the bed, but if one has only the road available I would suggest using a padded guitar case to keep the gravel off your knees and elbows. Tip! - remove your guitar first."

Special thanks to Pierre Bensusan, Chuck Cannon, Richard Davis, Marti Jones, Fred Koller, Christine Lavin, John McCutcheon, Joe Mennonna, Jim Ed Norman,Peter Schindler, Patricia Snyder, Ginger Warder, and Dar Williams.

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