Gartlandia – 5 Things I Learned on Tour


Having wrapped up her first UK and Irish tour, Orla Gartland brings you five things that touring taught her

Last month I was lucky enough to head out and tour the UK & Ireland. With some band rehearsals tagged on the beginning, the end result was an ever-changing group of seven (some of us starting out to one another as complete strangers) traveling about the place playing shows for two weeks.

I’ve been gigging for years, but a tour like this was shiny and new to me. Like all pensive, misunderstood songwriters, I get a real kick out of drawing conclusions from experiences like this and hence I present to you 5 things touring taught me that I think are pretty applicable to life in general. Hey, ho, let’s go.

1) Food is amazing

This truth isn’t earth-shattering, I know. But something about sitting in cars for hours on end and enduring stale pre-packed Tesco meal deal sambos really made me appreciate good, hearty food like never before.

One morning we flew from Birmingham to Belfast and, upon reaching the city, headed straight to a pub called Kelly’s Cellars. It was a postcard dream: a huge open fire, seanfhocail scribbled on the walls, old men in Aran jumpers and paddy caps that looked as if they’d been placed there just to complete the scene. We wolfed down huge bowls of hot stew and I’ve never felt happier.


2) Being open makes for the best conversations

Small talk numbs the brain. When you’re given the chance in any scenario to spend hours in the company of a small group; people of different ages, from different places and various walks of life, it’d be an absolute crime not to make things interesting.

Dive straight in and pick their brains about everything and anything in life. For me the tour definitely hammered home the value in being a little vulnerable and opening up for the sake of honest discussion. Boom.


3) Alone time is underrated

I’m a social being I guess, but at the same time I enjoy my own company. The friends I was lucky enough to bring on tour are the biggest legends I know. We crammed into jammed-packed cars and family-sized hotel rooms, and as we traveled from England to Scotland to Ireland, we were around one another pretty much 24/7.

As you can imagine the craic was mighty and spirits were high, but after a few days of constant company, I think everyone cries out a little for a few minutes of silence; some time to clear your headspace. That said, once the tour ended and we all parted ways, I was hit with a horrid wave of loneliness and immediately wanted everyone to come back. THE MIND IS A FUNNY THING.


4) Positivity is infectious

Freelance or creative disciplines like music and art often seem to have so little structure, but touring feels like an exception. Like so many other things in life touring has it’s tedious, unavoidable daily necessities. You make your way to the venue, you load in at your given load-in time, soundcheck at your given soundcheck time etc. After the shows stack up, the days blur together and necessities like this can grind on your gears if you’re not in the best of moods.

Stupid jokes are key; anything to keep the giggles comin’. Some people just seem to just radiate positivity. Surround yourself with more of that kind and bad moods stand no chance.


5) Sanity comes from pausing to appreciate

I’m fully aware of how tragic and cheesy this sounds. The best part of the tour was taking a moment each night to draw back from the mic and look out at the couple of hundred people that actually chose to leave their houses to hear me wail over my guitar.

As it went on, I found myself zoning out at other times to appreciate my saint of a dad driving my guitars up from Dublin to Belfast, to appreciate school friends sacrificing nights out to come watch my set, to appreciate absolutely ace musicians willing to play on songs I wrote, to appreciate anyone at all that would put up with me!

I’m not generally one for the motivational stuff so I’ll keep it snappy; no matter what you do in life I’m pretty convinced that taking moments to appreciate all the little things is what keeps us sane, keeps us focused, keeps us humble. Otherwise you’ll blink and all the good times will have sailed over your head!

Ok, enough mush. Back to cynical Orla.