With the tragic passing of the world-renowned producer and DJ, Avicii, last April - the "glitz and glamour" of touring is finally put under a microscope and the stress and damage it can do brought to light. The truth is: it is fun in the beginning, but eventually as demand and popularity increase you find yourself doing multiple shows a weekend in various parts of the world with your time spent mostly in the air flying to and from gigs. Lack of sleep and proper sustenance, combined with partying makes it very hard to then find time to work on your own productions.
Many people at the top of the music industry worry less about your health and more about the income coming in. This will leave the artist on their own to know when to need to take a minute. Many individuals find themselves susceptible to substance abuse and eventually become dependent on various drugs to keep awake and performing. There is a dark side to the life of a touring artist that fan's aren't generally exposed to.
Brooklyn-based and critically acclaimed rising-star producer, Brian Cid, gave us an honest understanding of the mental and emotional challenges that come from being a DJ/producer. Having spent three years on his debut album this past December, Meteorite Man out on Balance Music, he is no stranger to giving 110% to his career and letting his health take a backseat for the ride. Prior to his recent success, he was an audio engineer in a decade long career that involved working with some of hip-hop and pop's biggest stars.
With experiences in different worlds within the music industry, Brian Cid gives us the truth on what challenges you may face as a DJ/Producer and some ways that you can teach yourself to recognize problems and practice self-care in a well-balanced work lifestyle.
What are the biggest challenges DJs face?
Brian Cid: As an artist/DJ I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel the world and enjoy the best experiences of my life. I have learned very deeply about the world, people, history, culture, and politics -- it has humbled me and I have made friends all over. I have seen things impossible to put in words and for this, I am very grateful.
However, everything has a price. Always being on the road can be challenging. The long travel hours, different time zones, drastic changes in weather, food, environment, sleep schedule, lack of rest and being alone away from home can affect us if not managed wisely. With all of this in mind, I have worked hard to find a great balance to be able to enjoy every second of this journey. It hasn’t been easy. A lot of mental and emotional strength is needed to withstand time away from family and friends. On top of it all, we are expected to keep a clear creative state of mind, good mood and the best attitude possible. At the end of the day, our job is to give the best version of ourselves and bring happiness to people.
Have you ever hit rock bottom or what was your lowest point? What triggered it?
BC: Due to the sacrifices that I had to face in the initial stages of my career, I could not keep up with this newfound lifestyle. This, of course, caused problems at home with my partner at the time. Mismanagement of time and lack of attention affected the flow of the relationship. It was difficult for me to juggle both worlds, and this caused frustration for both of us. We ended up deciding to go in different directions. This I’d say was the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with, and it all happened in the midst of a strong career momentum I was enjoying, which made it even tougher.
Did sharing this burden with others help or did you have to deal with it on your own?
BC: Only we can heal ourselves, nobody can do it for us, but it helps to share it because it’s a way of releasing that energy and not letting it build inside us. I would share it with family and friends and for some time I tried to find a solution - but the damage was already done, so I had to just accept it, find power and strength and go on with my journey. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve sacrificed so much for my music, so I could not give up at this point. This is who I am - a reflection of emotions through sounds and melodies.
How did you manage to rise back up?
BC: I took a break from my daily routine and started to focus on myself. For many years I was so dedicated to my art that I neglected my own physical and mental health. I would rarely dedicate time to myself. I needed to change for the best. I took a step back, analyzed my actions and slowly made the changes necessary towards a better version of myself. This gave me great power and brought back the joy I was looking for. I learned to accept, love and have compassion for myself. This helped me rise back up stronger and more powerful than ever.
What was essential to this? Did you come to a realization?
BC: What helped me the most was finding a good balance. I started doing different activities that catered to myself. I used to eat healthily but changed my diet for an even healthier one. I started spending more time in nature looking for a deeper connection. This caused me to have more awareness - a newfound appreciation for life, away from the studio. I also started meditating more than ever, exercising and tackling my frustrations one by one. I forgave myself and made peace with my past turning any disappointments into acceptance, love, patience, understanding, strength, and trust.
This was when I realized how powerful my mind is. With my new healthy diet, I was able to deal with being exposed to different foods and bacteria. I was also able to sleep better. With patience, focus and mental strength I felt OK being alone - far from friends and family. Meditating and exercising helped me keep a good state of mind filled with inspiration and creativity. I started to feel a new level of gratitude, which turns into happiness. Exercising helped deal with long traveling hours, lack of sleep and any other physical challenge.
What would you do differently if it happened again?
BC: I have learned to accept myself and trust the universe. I have surrendered to the waves of life and in it, I have found a strong presence of love. I’ve forgiven myself and let go of my ego or anything that held me from moving forward. I have seen myself in the most beautiful place I could ever imagine while looking at my most powerful self.
What's the best way to heal? Slowing getting back into it, or immediately jumping back in?
BC: There are many ways to heal, but they all lead to simply letting go. We should look back only to learn lessons, not to feel regret. Everything has a purpose that slowly leads us to our manifested reality. Learning that you are given what you need in order to prepare yourself to where you need to be. Feeling unconditional love will be your strongest weapon.
What role do friends and family play?
BC: Friends and family will always be the backbone of your journey. You will see yourself through them. They will provide the support you need even if it’s just listening to your thoughts. If you choose them wisely, they will give you the power you need to keep battling ahead. Through them, you will realize a lot about yourself. They are your safe zone.
What about other DJs?
BC: Other DJs and colleagues provide inspiration. We understand each other as we walk a similar road and face similar challenges. Only we can truly relate to how it really feels.
What role does music help in healing?
BC: Music is the strongest and most healing medicine on Earth. Music reaches places nothing and nobody can. Music is the most powerful tool for the soul.
How do you stay healthy (meals/sleep due to schedule, alcohol)?
BC: For many years I have kept a well-balanced diet that has helped me feel in top shape. I decided to cut fast food 13 years ago. I try not to eat anything fried, greasy or fatty. I don’t eat sugar or anything sweet except fruits. No sodas, very little alcohol, lots of water, teas, natural juices, green juices, seeds, no dairy (milk, cheese), no coffee. Vegetables are a must and very little red meat. I don’t eat until feeling stuffed and I do not eat before going to sleep. I try not to accumulate sleep. This in combination with a relaxed state of mind keeps me in a good mental state at all times.
Do you have any golden rules you follow while on the road?
BC: My main rule is to try to be well rested before dealing with airports. The worst times I’ve experienced has been traveling while tired, so good rest before a flight is essential. I also try my best not to eat plane food. I prefer to buy food before my flight and eat that instead.
What are your top tips for managing touring life?
BC: Use your time wisely. Meditate, go over your thoughts, your plans, your goals. Keep yourself centered and humble. Enjoy every bit of it, learn to be grateful and patient. This will give you peace and happiness. Treat your body as your most precious gift. Love yourself, cater to yourself, spend time with yourself, spoil yourself. Learn from mistakes, observe others, make decisions and stick to them. Our purpose in life is simple: enjoy all the blessing we get.