"WE'RE MAKING IT RIGHT NOW!" A Conversation with Thanya Iyer
What are the things you do to maintain your mental and physical well being while on the road?
Touring is Olympics. I had my first big tour since 2020 this past string. After a big three year pause, I’m currently still figuring out how to survive it and find equilibrium again on the road and off the road. This past tour in the spring was really long and hard and I came back in a pretty rough state. Ive had chronic pain that impacts my mobility for many years now so sitting in cars for long periods of time isn’t the best vibe for me.
Something that was really nourishing was finding a local yoga class in the different cities we were in if there was time (and trying to make time for it). It was a really fun way to explore the city we were in and get a snapshot of a community. Pools and different bodies of water also work wonders.
Reflecting on how hard this tour was, it really made me think about the how “normal” some of the challenges that we put our bodies through to make touring work (and sometimes life work!). I’ve realized the importance of creating space and planning slow so we can make systemic changes to make touring a more sustainable practice. Food and sleep/how we can adjust the schedule/driving times/etc. to care for people’s bodies and basic needs; days off where people’s spirits can be protected and rejuvenated; trying our best to create situations/accept opportunities where compensation is fair because touring is financially stressful and expensive. Less is more energy!? At the end of the day, I think surrounding yourself with good people and community everywhere you go is at the heart of our well-being and some of the best care I could ask for!!
What does daily life look like for you currently? Do you have a day job - or some sort of side hustle to supplement money for being a musician? What do you do for work?
Every day is kind of different. I’ve been a freelance creative for over 10 years now and get to do many different things and I really love it that way. I’m in a sort of a transition phase where I’m realizing that if I want to be touring, it makes consistent work really challenging so I’m making an effort to take on more project-based work. Alongside performance, recording, playing in other bands, facilitating workshops and all things music, I’m also a new music therapist and educator. I work on songwriting and production with youth in many contexts and with many different communities and I love it so much. I was feeling this craving just before the pandemic to connect with and share my artistic practice with community.
Music therapy was always something I thought I would do eventually but a window came where I could make time to go back to school and it’s really made me feel whole. The biggest thing I’ve learned in the most recent years and am still learning about it is how you can really take on so much freelance work until the point that you are burnt out and exhausted to the point of depleeeetionnnn. You can also take on so little and there are moments where it’s really not in our control. So I’m learning how to create time for myself to avoid burnout. Being a freelance person also requires so much energy and motivation especially when we are leading our own projects. So I think my journey is always going to be centered around going back to my body and checking in so I can keep doing this work.
How can we as a society make the music industry better?
Ayyy. The music industry is pretty rough. But I really believe that we actually have a lot of power and we can slowly undo the house brick by brick with every small step. I’m constantly exploring how I can commit to my own philosophy everyday and leverage privilege and power in creating positive, magical, nurturing/nourishing eco-systems. Thinking in small steps is really the only thing that gives me hope and recognizing the places where we can enact change is actually exciting. Starting in our own communities and finding the little ways in which we can create accessible spaces that encompass physical, emotional, sensory and financial wellbeing, looking at the language we use, the schedules we make that embody slowness and intention and move away from urgency, looking into ourselves, learning about ourselves, learning about other people, questioning inequities, sitting with discomfort, making things uncomfortable, asking for what we need and supporting our friends through reciprocal spaces and building community. It’s an ongoing journey! There is so much and I think together is the way that we can do it.
Describe a moment when you felt like you “made it” - whatever that means!
When the band got through the border for the first time in 2017 for our first US tour, I started saying “we made it!” And never stopped! I've been realizing that it’s important to acknowledge the small wins because its very easy to live in a state of always wanting more/never feeling like or being enough in this wild industry at any level that you’re at - big or small. I’ve gone through those phases as well. So remembering how we made it! And we’re making it right now! and I’m just trying to live in and soak up that gratitude. Asking myself what is going well and what is working well is at the heart of it all.
How do you deal with writer's block or creative slumps?
I used to have “writers block” for years and years and then one day I saw this clip of Erykah Badu speaking about phases and how sometimes we are in a listening phase, or a writing and creating phase or a pause phase and its all good. And I’ve really grown to embrace all of the different phases that come online in our process and how it’s all part of the song. Accepting it it a beautiful thing. My bandmate and partner, Pompey also once said how it’s important to practice calling on creativity and inspiration just like you practice scales on an instrument, consistently. And when I get into routines where I can write a small idea everyday, that’s when I can really feel like I’m in some sort of creative flow. In the first two months of the pandemic I wrote a “song” (lyric/idea/melody no matter how big or small) everyday and it was such a grounding process. Sometimes garbage would come out and that’s cool too because letting go of perfectionism and urgency in this process is also so important. Those two months where I wrote everyday is where I finished writing my third album. Little ideas over three days would turn into one whole song or sometimes a whole song would come out in a couple minutes. Finding space for commitment to practice is what helps me get through it and in busier times, just embracing what I can give to it is enough. It’s all part of the journey :)