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David Ryan Harris on Preserving Mental Health While on Tour

"For me, it's [about] being OK with having mild amounts of FOMO [fear of missing out]," says singer-songwriter
Photo Credit: David Gabriel

Being a touring musician may seem like a fun, no-rules, no-limits lifestyle. In reality, it’s a job — often an exhausting one that leaves you little time for yourself.

Singer-songwriter David Ryan Harris has learned the power of saying “no.” He often finds himself turning down post-show activities and parties in order to prioritize his mental health.

“You don’t get the rest [on tour],” Harris tells SPIN backstage at BeachLife Festival. “You don’t get the time to just sit in your room and find your center. I think it’s relatively difficult to maintain the center when your center is bouncing around the world. For me, it’s [about] being OK with having mild amounts of FOMO [fear of missing out].”

The “Easy on the Eyes” singer likens the experience of longer tours to being on a submarine ride. The tour begins, and you get “accustomed to the amount of time that you see daylight,” and it takes a bit of adjusting until you finally settle into a routine. Towards the end, it’s “itchiness … I’ve been holding my breath for too long, and I’m ready to just go home.”

“It’s sort of a natural progression,” he says. “It’s finding the time to take care of yourself, which a lot of times for me, is just saying, ‘No, I’m gonna watch a stupid movie in my room.'” (He clarifies that especially enjoys the “familiar drone” of ESPN.)

Maintaining your mental health as a musician can also be difficult due to the distractions of social media — from feeling the need to post frequently to getting intimidated by Spotify charts. Harris recommends younger artists keep in mind that social media is not a true reflection of reality.

“It’s [important] to remove yourself from this thing that you actually have to participate in, on some level, to progress in your career,” Harris says. “You can only take so much. … It’s [important] to look at most of it as fiction and not the real world.”

“You just gotta take a breath, take a beat,” he says, offering final words of wisdom. “Know that the guy in the car did not get in his car first thing in the morning and go, like, ‘I cannot wait to cut this guy off.’ Everybody’s going through something.”

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