Headliner catches up with Suzi Green, tour manager for the likes of PJ Harvey, Placebo and Katie Melua, who discusses the challenges of life on the road, and her new workshop series looking at mental health, diversity and sustainability in the live music industry.
Green, who has long been an advocate for personal and wider industry wellbeing, founded mental welfare digital support group The Back Lounge during the pandemic, while also taking on a facilitator role with the TPG, a UK-based and internationally attended association of live music touring professionals.
“The pandemic hit hard. It really did. And what happened was, I have a bit of a depressive nature anyway, and I had Covid really early on in March. When I got over that I was left high and dry and didn't really know where I was at,” she tells Headliner.
After searching online for support groups for those working within the music and touring industries, Green came across a group run by US charity, Backline Care, which held support group sessions twice a week.
“I stayed up late – the lone Brit drinking tea to stay awake for midnight calls with them,” she remembers. “It was amazing, and after I'd been attending for a few weeks, I was thinking, ‘Why is there nothing like this in the UK, on this side of the pond, at a bit more of a reasonable time?’
“I put out a post on my prehistoric Facebook asking, ‘Does anyone else feel like this? I'm thinking of setting up a group that will meet and talk about it. Is anyone interested?’ And 50 people responded in 24 hours. So I was like, ‘Okay, this isn't just me,’ so we started meeting a week later. That was June 2020, and we've been going a while now.
“It's very led by the mood of the group and the group is ever changing because it's called the Back Lounge, because the back lounge of the tour bus is quite often where the late night interesting and divulging conversations happen. There's no membership, there's no requirement to show up. There's not even a requirement to show up on time. People come and go, cameras on or off, contribute if they want to, or just listen. It's all welcome,” she explains.
“I don't think I've ever felt so validated for anything I've ever done,” she shares. “It's been incredible, because the way I promote it is I normally use comedy memes, and a lot of that is about the kind of people I'm trying to attract – the sort of people that don't normally reach out. We have a lot of touring crew, performers as well, and other people in the industry in all sorts of different roles.
"But the bulk of it is touring crew. If you've chosen to take on a role like that, quite often you're a bit of a loner and you definitely have to be very self supporting and very resilient. It's a really hard lifestyle. It's a dog eat dog world. We've had so many discussions, and everyone that has been on a tour at some point has felt lonely or isolated, or like they haven't fit in for whatever reason.
“What's become really apparent is – this is a lifestyle, and when that stopped overnight, people suddenly realised how incredibly important this role was to them. There are so many inherent issues with our industry and we've never had this opportunity before to stop and take a breath and think, ‘How can we do this better? How is the industry going to look as we go back?’”
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