In this job, I haven’t earned the right to complain yet. Many of the people I work with have done this job a lot longer than I have, and many of them have kids who grew up on the tour schedule, missing out on one parent for a third of every year. I don’t know what that’s like, yet. This is only Anders’ first birthday. But it falls right in the sweet spot of our annual spring tour, a date when we will almost certainly be gone every year.
Still, wi-fi and smartphones and Skype make tour way, WAY easier than it’s ever been. Even when I started doing this eleven years ago, cell coverage wasn’t anywhere near as widespread as it is now, and dial-up internet was the best you could expect in most hotels, making even email unreliable. And some of the lifers I worked with then were touring before cell phones and laptops were a thing, when the band would line up at payphones and post offices, desperately trying to stay in touch with their families, pockets full of quarters and stamped envelopes.
I never experienced that. Tour in 2015 is a charmed life compared to those days. Even when we’re in the tallest sticks, with no internet and spotty cell coverage, it’s a rare day when I don’t get a few minutes of face time with my family, or at least some photos and a video taken that same day. Still, I hate missing a birthday, especially this one.
We had a little “Tour Birthday” for Anders before I left; I bought him some toys and books, wrapped them up, helped him tear them open and generally made a fuss over him before he went to bed. I played “Little Wren” for him, a song I wrote for him before he was born, one he’s heard hundreds of times. We’ll make Tour Birthday a tradition so he doesn’t grow up feeling neglected… hopefully, the only one who gets mopey about it will be me.
Tonight, the band plays the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. It’s a beautiful venue, and we should get a good recording of the concert. I’m playing a feature with vocalist Heidi Ackerman, two pieces by Antonio Carlos Jobim. The second piece, “Chega De Saudade” (“No More Blues”), starts with an improvised cadenza. I thought it would be cool to work “Little Wren” into the cadenza, but it’s so clearly Irish, it doesn’t fit with Jobim’s music at all… Instead, I’ve decided that whatever melody I improvise tonight, I’ll write it down later, polish it up and make it into a new song for him.
Happy Birthday, Anders. I know your mom’s taking great care of you. When I see you next month, I’ll play your new song for you, and save you tonight’s recording. I hope that years from now, when you’re pissed at your dad for being away so much, you’ll listen back and remember how much he loves you.