Thanks to friends, relatives, and complete strangers who weighed in - I’m certainly not going to air out anyone’s dirty laundry, but it was helpful to hear the good and the bad of ‘love in the music world’ from a range of thinkers. I will say, I only heard from one female musician- and of course myself- and I’d be very interested in hear more of that side of the experience. Alas, as the godfather of soul claimed- ‘this is a man’s world.” It totally is! As part of my research, I heard from some wives of musicians who said that they had an agreement that the guy’s band wouldn’t have any females join. Ladies, cut. That. Out. As a female musician, let me tell you- we have just as much skill, talent, and drive, as the dudes do, and we are likely the last girl in the venue that’s going to try to hook up with your husband. Ugh. It’s 2016. Let’s get past gender and talk music. And love…
Without further ado, here are some thoughts about dating musicians and musicians dating. I hope this is helpful if you’re finding yourself at home alone for 3 month stretches, or if you find yourself on the road for 3 month stretches and wonder how to find a love to come home to. Note: This is geared toward people striving for healthy, committed relationships. If you’re enjoying partying with people you met on Tinder, have at it! But you may not agree with all of this advice.
1. First of all, congratulations!!
Your life is awesome, whether you’re the musician or a nonmusician partnered with a musician. You get to enjoy good (hopefully) music, meet interesting people, and share new experiences. You also have time and space to be yourself, have fun hobbies, and accomplish a lot in this life.
2. Be willing to compromise.
This means meeting in the middle, for both parties. Musicians have different lives than people on a weeklong business trip, and so you’ll have to adjust your expectations and be somewhat flexible. Try to stay out of weird situations while also being okay with weird situations. Get used to open, clear dialogue about what life is like and what you’d want it to be like. Almost everyone interviewed said that clear communication and advocating for your needs are necessary.
3. It’s OK to set limits.
Learning to leave a situation and go to bed at an appropriate time is a good skill to have so that you can wake up and be present- for your day job, for your family, for a phone call. The gig is fun in itself, do you really need that extra 2am drink? Music life can be fairly unstable and unpredictable, but it’s possible to balance that with steadiness and health.
4. Transparency helps.
It’s okay to inquire about the lifestyle of your life partner. If you work in an office 9-5 and go to dinner after, your partner will likely ask where you went, what you ate, and whom you were with. Musicians may not feel it’s worth sharing every detail when they’re gone for a week, but they should be comfortable checking in to say hello and sharing good and bad news. If you feel the need lie or shift the truth around in order to make your partner more comfortable, one of you is doing something wrong.
5. Take care of yourself.
If you want a healthy relationship, you have to be healthy yourself. Get some sleep. Drink water. Exercise. Have hobbies and friends. Call your mom! Also, be true to yourself. Being a musician is not an excuse to behave poorly. There’s no such thing as the ‘music persona’ or ‘stage persona’ that doesn’t come from some part of you. At the same time, know that musicians have the chance to express all the human sides of themselves - most people don’t have that opportunity frequently. It’s kind of great to let your frea- human- flag fly!
6. See musical relationships for what they are.
Making good music with another human being definitely requires a certain amount of chemistry. It also creates connections with people we would never otherwise interact with. Music makes us all more open-minded and able to see people outside of boxes. Insecurities can be triggered when watching your partner sing into the eyes of another singer, but again focusing on reality helps. Many people put musicians on a pedestal, when we’re all just people being people. Don’t enable the pedestal, it’s unhealthy to not be able to enjoy normal life- the high of being on stage can be incredible, but when it’s time to put the feet back on earth, it’s time.
7. Stay out of virtual reality. It’s not reality.
It’s very easy to dig into social media and misinterpret what you see there. Bands, especially while touring, have to promote themselves and make connections from the road. There are some music fans who will post tributes, photos, and inside jokes about and to band members- these are generally not true connections or real friends. Try to ignore whatever you see online, or just ask about it. This is true of live shows, too- you won’t ever know who everybody is, and most of them don’t matter. Just mingle, laugh, and then go home with your partner. Maintain your earth-feet even in today’s world of Instagram filters.
8. Want to make a musician laugh? Make some plans!
Be prepared for the fact that gigs and opportunities will come up, often at the last minute, and your Friday ‘date night’ will often lose it’s place. Think about your priorities, and try to base decisions off of those. The best advice I’ve ever heard was to choose gigs based on three things: the money, the music, and the people. If at least two of them aren’t great, don’t take it. Especially if it means skipping your kid’s third birthday party.
9. Lifestyle choices
If you love partying (or just drinking in clubs), and meet a partner through that lifestyle, be sure to consider whether you will still enjoy partying in a few years. Also consider what type of music you’re listening to, and if you’re happy to listen to it three times a week, or happy to stay home alone on the nights when you’re sick of that genre. If this might add to schedule-resentment, find something fun that you like to do.
10. Make some time for music-less-ness.
This is easier said than done. If we’re not at a rehearsal, a show, or learning music, we’re often listening to music or singing it over in our heads to learn or be inspired. This can be incredibly annoying to someone who expects to have a conversation at home or during a long car ride and isn’t sure when they’re ‘allowed’ to talk. Make some time to turn the music off and be present.
Do NOT date someone with a substance abuse issue. Know what this looks like, and avoid it. Circumstances of musician life often (not always) mean that drugs and alcohol are flowly freely, and it takes some individual conviction to choose wisely. This may look differently for different people, but it’s easier to avoid entering a relationship with drugs than to get out of it. If you have friends who are abusing drugs, don’t laugh it off- find some help.
12. Music-to-music can be the best-case scenario.
Many of the musicians interviewed said that the life they hope for, and the best relationships they’ve had, were with other musicians. The guilt of being busy all the time, and the stress of trying to explain life choices to someone with a very different lifestyle, was gone. For people who are very independent, finding someone else with that trait is helpful. On the flip side, two musicians from the same genre can make for a less diverse or less balanced lifestyle- some musicians said dating someone with a very different lifestyle made them feel more connected to the outside world (and their partner was always bringing friends to shows, which is a plus). Many non-musical partners of musicians also said that they loved getting to hear great music and be supportive of someone else’s talent!
It is absolutely possible to be in a committed relationship and still have a career in music. Travel seems to be the most difficult part. As one person said, “One person has a bunch of excitement and distraction, the other person is at home just… doing stuff. The longer it goes, the more challenging it gets.” This is something that has to be navigated, but it’s not unique to artists. If you love someone, you figure it out.