Living life on the road isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. There are endless bus rides, sleepless night, and the loneliness of being away from home – now top that off with the physical stress of playing night after night… Its a cocktail for physical and mental exhaustion.
AJ Penta, aka The East Coast Cowboy, is a rising country star who has plenty of experience living the life of a touring musician. He has played guitar for artists like Demi Lovato and Luis Fonsi. So how does this cowboy keep himself at a top notch performance level night after night?
AJ has a lot of experience touring, and he has picked up some tricks along the way. “Attitude is everything!”, Penta professes, “I continuously remind myself how lucky I am to be playing music every day, and able to persue my dreams, and that helps keep me sane. You have to keep yourself in a positive state of mind and don’t let the negatives weigh on you.” Many times he will be traveling for months on end and does his best to keep a positive environment. He continues, “If there is anything stressing you out, you have to deal with it right away. The longer you wait, the worse the situation will get.”
“I’ll be running in the middle of nowhere, and I’ll find an empty road with nothing but farms in both directions. Its almost meditative how peaceful it is.”
He preaches physical fitness. He is a certified personal trainer and was an AAU Junior Olympic Gold Medalist in Karate. He starts every day with some sort of exercise, even if its only for twenty minutes. His workouts range from cardio, body weight exercise like pushups and pull ups, and even using the stage gear as weights. He says, “You need to be creative when touring. You dont always have access to a gym, so I try to use my surroundings as my workout.” He has used everything from drum risers to spare tires as workout equipment. It’s like therapy for him. “I’ll be running in the middle of nowhere, and I’ll find an empty road with nothing but farms in both directions. Its almost meditative how peaceful it is.” He explains how there is an introspective aspect to exercise, how its a marathon, not a sprint, and how pacing yourself is important – how you can learn a lot about yourself by exercising – seeing how far you body is willing to go.
Exercise is only one part of keeping your mind and body healthy while touring. He tries to make good habits of eating healthy. He finds he has much higher energy levels when he eats right. He describes his voice as an instrument, and poor nutrition, or too much caffeine or alcohol, can affect his performance. He admits he has a weakness for fast food, and it can get extremily tempting to indulge during an eighteen hour bus ride. He combats this by allowing himself to cheat from time to time, but doesn’t overdo it. Penta explains, “It’s good to be disciplined, but you need to allow yourself some leeway. It’s all about staying healthy mentally AND physically. It you are eating a perfect diet, but are miserable – then it’s not really worth it.”
“The buses and hotels get old, and it is great to have a real home to stay in for a night, and a genuine home cooked meal. It’s like a home away from home.”
Another aspect of touring that can be extremily draining is the weeks, or even months away from home. AJ explains how touring is what he loves to do, but does get homesick at times. Luckily for him, he has made friends all over the US and South America that take him in every time he is in town. “I am so fortunate to have made so many friends over the years that are now like family. The buses and hotels get old, and it is great to have a real home to stay in for a night, and a genuine home cooked meal. It’s like a home away from home.”