Andy Inglis’s first taste of life as a Tour Manager came early. It was something of a baptism of fire. “Back in 1991, when I was 18, I was Assistant Tour Manager for Utah Saints. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, broke my ankle on the first day, and was sent home after about ten shows because I couldn’t walk,” he admits.
Tour Managing took a backseat for a while after that, but not his dedication to music and his desire to be part of the industry.
In the next twenty-five years, he helped create and co-owned a music venue, the Luminaire in Kilburn; he worked as promoter, festival organiser, label manager and artist manager (he currently manages Novo Amor, Tom Rogerson, Ed Tullett, John Uren and Hailaker); and given his vast experience, he also began to lecturer on the music industry, providing rookies with invaluable insights into the trade, like not breaking your ankle on the first day.
One of the first myth’s he’s quick to dispel is that being a TM for a successful pop or rock act is glamorous, a chance to bask in some vicarious limelight. Andy’s experiences of life on the road conjure up not glamour, but other words instead; ‘relentless’ for one, ‘gruelling’ for another.
But sure, there is glitter along the way, an intense sense of camaraderie, moments both euphoric and surreal, a rich store of memories to reflect on in your dotage – providing the job doesn’t kill you first.
“Not everyone is built for the road,” he says. “You need patience, diligence, diplomacy, empathy, a head for logistics, the ability to sleep anywhere. I like music, travelling, helping people and customer service. That’s Tour Management.”
A cursory glance at Andy’s daily itinerary makes the average world leader look like a slacker. It’s a wonder he doesn’t have a nervous breakdown within a week.
“It takes about four,” he jokes. “What you have to understand is that as the TM, you’re the go-to man for almost everything on the road, so I am frequently stopped and interrupted. That’s fine, it’s my job to be the guy to answer questions, though it is also my job to be available when I am needed, so regardless of what I am in the middle of, I can be stopped and asked a question of. I draw a line, though, at bedtime, when I put my phone on Airplane mode until I wake.” Even then, he might be lucky to get more than four or five hours sleep.
Depending on the size of the crew on the tour, it’s also Andy’s job to supervise the merchandise stall, help load and unload the equipment, do his share of the driving and make sure the artist or band are properly taken care of and prepared for each gig, whether it’s pasting up set lists or making sure there are towels and water on stage.
And that’s before we even get to the financial aspects of the job. Often he’ll be kept up to the early hours of the morning going through a blizzard of receipts, sorting out booking fees, arranging flights or van rentals, or dealing with any number of other logistical requirements to keep the show on the road.
Modern technology does provide its advantages, though. “These days, wire transfers are pretty fast. I’ve used them to pay band and crew when a tour is over, make transfers to bus companies, or to Rock-It Cargo for sorting freighting, that kind of thing.” And there’s always the worldwide web to be thankful for. “I once planned a US tour in 1991 without the internet. I can’t work out how it was possible, looking back at it.”
None of this changes the fact that when Andy is at work, he’s either in transit, or in environments that could most generously be described as distracting.
“Imagine you’re trying to finish up some emails in your office on a Tuesday afternoon and someone wheels in a nightclub and a bunch of drunk people,” he says. “And my office moves to a different city every day, sometimes a different country. My work colleagues – the venue staff – change every day and I have to find a way to get on with them, win their affection lest I need to ask for their help. In every other job, you have weeks, months, years to work that stuff out. I have eight hours.”
Nevertheless, the priority is, and must remain, looking after the artists themselves. Over the years, Andy has tour managed Savages, SOHN, East India Youth, Jenny Hval, XXYYXX, and now, Novo Amor. While none of them are the type to have cosmically extravagant backstage riders – there are no demands for circus-trained albino crocodiles serving margaritas, or dressing rooms festooned with black orchids – that doesn’t mean they don’t have their needs.
“Keeping artists and crew fed and watered is the number one priority on the road,” says Andy. “What’s more, these people become like family, and you get to know them intimately. There’s no place to hide on tour. You’ll be in close proximity to each other for 16-18 hours a day, every day, for as long as the tour lasts. It’s an intense, visceral existence, and anyone who’s toured will know the restless feeling upon arrival home, and how quickly you romanticise the road.”
Is it the romance of that keeps him coming back, putting himself through it for weeks on end, sometime months?
“It’s an utterly bizarre way to live, and very difficult to articulate to someone who’s never done it,” says Andy. “I get to travel the world and see fascinating places. I get to spend time at airports. I like airports. My bills are paid – no food, accommodation, mobile phone or utilities. The pay can be good, though when you work it out to hours worked it’s not so good. It’s exciting and challenging. I like to juggle logistics and problems. And I like to take care of people. I suppose the last reason is, ultimately, what keeps me coming back.”
**Andy Inglis’s next tour will be with Novo Amor, starting on October 16 2018 and taking in the UK, Europe and North America**