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Sparks: Mental Wellbeing & Recovery on The Road with ASIWYFA’s Chris Wee

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And So I Watch You From Afar drummer Chris Wee reflects on perspective, mental wellbeing and recovery on the open road.

October 2nd 2015 : Santa Fe – Denver

It is sometimes at our lowest points that we are the most open to experiencing something truly special and fulfilling.

9 shows left out of 31, feeling a little raggedy. We pulled away from last night’s accommodation, a truly soul destroying casino hotel, planted on the dusty nothingness somewhere outside of Santa Fe. Nowhere makes you more homesick than places like this. It was my turn to drive, and despite my best efforts, within the first hour i’d taken a couple of wrong turns through the dust and added another hour on top of our already arduous drive.

Mental wellbeing on tour is the single greatest goal for any touring musician. Decent food, ample sleep and sufficient communication with loved ones at home are key elements of keeping yourself on the straight and narrow. You’re battling your day to day existence to achieve it along with contending with the necessity to be a bright eye’d and consummate performer.

I’m keeping us late because of these wrong turns so we’re making less stops in order to make the time up. Decent service stops are essential in breaking the monotony, today we have no such luxury and the morale in the van reflects it. I burn an entire tank of fuel and push us through New Mexico, weaving up through the national parks to the state border into Colorado. Dust turns to trees and back to dust.

We pass countless miles of drab highways on this 340 mile journey. Out of the monotony, right around lunchtime we happen upon a Chipotle, nestled amongst the usual sprawl of conveniences. Semi healthy burritos at this point offer some light in this dreary day, although we can’t eat in because of the time, it’s another van lap-lunch. I get mine first and race back out to the van in order to eat as much as I can before everyone’s back so I’m not contending with too much food falling round me once I’ve set off driving again. I turn down the offer to switch drivers. Somedays if you’ve messed up for whatever reason on tour, and especially if you’ve taken wrong turns and delayed the whole day, doing the whole drive is a sort of self imposed penance to show the rest of the guys you’re sorry.

Messing up on tour always carry greater weight, contributing to the erosion of morale which is such a crucial status quo to maintain. Everyone misses home or is dealing with their own shit so you never want to be adding to that strain. Feeling particularly detached from the guys, I put my headphones in for the final couple of hours drive from here to the venue. As I pull back out onto the I-25 North towards Denver and press play on an unknown preloaded playlist a song comes on that absolutely crushes me. When I say crush, I don’t really know how to articulate it further than that. Almost a month into tour, tired, despondent, and gripped with the sense that I’d let the guys down, the song washed all over and through me, gripping every strand of anxiety and frayed emotion within me.

You lose perspective on tour when various negativity begins leaking into your day. You forget about the guy two nights ago that showed you the tattoo he got of your band on him. Or the couple who both fought through depression by being brought together by your music.  You lose the ability to be circumspect when you begin struggling with keeping it all together.

Then sometimes a song comes along that you’ve never heard before comes on and grabs you by the neck and shakes you. It awakens all corners of your deadened emotions. It reminds you of how much you love all the guys sitting next to you and the band you’ve built together. How appreciative you are of the people that come to watch you play every night. You’re reminded of how special your loved ones are, who are always there for you no matter what the distance is. Their warm embrace almost wrapping round my body through the sounds of this song that will forever change me.

‘And then it comes again/just like a spark.’ Chris Wee

Photo by Joe Laverty

is also drummer in And So I Watch You From Afar.