Tourist is the electronic musician from east London who won a Grammy last year for co-writing Sam Smith’s huge global hit Stay with Me. After collaborating with Years & Years and releasing a trio of EPs, he recently dropped his brilliant debut album U, which movingly follows a romantic relationship from its first bloom to its eventual dissolution. He’s now supporting the album with an extensive tour of Europe, Australia and North America, including a set at next month’s Wilderness Festival. He’ll be living out of a suitcase for much of the next five months, so as he prepares to hit the road, Tourist tells us how he maintains his wellbeing while travelling the globe.
When you’re touring for months at a time, do you struggle to build any kind of routine?
It is hard, definitely, but I try to go running to give myself that routine. Actually, I’ve realised that quite a nice way to see a city is to run around it. If you use the Nike+ Running App, it shows you routes that people who live in that city actually use. And I find it makes you feel more alive doing some running when you’re jet-lagged.
Do you try to stay healthy on the road?
This sounds a bit new-worldly and naff, but if you just drink loads of booze and smoke loads of cigarettes, you won’t last very long. It gets very, very boring getting drunk all the time on tour and it takes its toll physically and mentally. You do have to try to be good to yourself. That’s why making running part of my routine is so important.
Can being on tour feel isolating? Is it hard to stay in touch with friends and family?
Yeah, I think distance does a lot to relationships – it can strengthen them, but it can also weaken them. When you’re on tour, you get a lot of time to reflect on your relationships and on your life in general. And sometimes when you’re reflecting, it can make you feel quite down and you find yourself missing people. But I think the onus is always on me to make that effort to keep in touch with people; if I need to see a familiar face, I’ll FaceTime my mum and dad, or my girlfriend, or my two sisters.
Do they ever join you on tour?
Occasionally, but I feel like a lot of touring isn’t very exciting for people who aren’t in it. I don’t really go to work with my girlfriend, so she doesn’t really go to work with me. I know people who have their girlfriends or boyfriends perpetually on tour with them, but I find that a bit strange. I want whoever I’m with to have their own life, and be into their own things.
Is is strange when you come off a long tour? Can you feel a bit lost?
It is strange, but it’s also a lovely feeling. I actually really like the feeling you get when you’re travelling home from your last show, because you feel like you’ve done your job, you’ve seen so many different people and things over the past few months, but now you’re coming back to normality.
As a solo artist who makes most of his music alone, is it difficult going from recording mode, when you’re presumably being pretty insular, to touring mode, when you’re obviously more extrovert?
Yeah, I mean they’re polar opposites. You sit by yourself and write songs for months, then you take yourself out there and play them to people. It’s very hard at first, knowing how to behave on stage and how to relax, but then you kind of acclimatise and get more comfortable. There’s a strange duality to it, in a way, but doing both is the job of a musician. I’m still trying to nail both things but I’ll get there one day.
What’s the hardest part of being a musician in 2016?
Drowning out the noise of what others expect you to do, so you can do what you want. It’s important to remember that’s why you’re doing it – to try and elicit some kind of feeling in yourself, and then hope that feeling gets amplified ten-fold when you give the music to people. It’s easy to get caught up in being fashionable and being of the moment when actually, it’s more important to be timeless. That’s my view on art, anyway.
When you’re playing at a festival, do you get much time to watch the other acts?
Not usually. Because you might have to leave the site straight after your set to go and play somewhere else. That’s kind of the blessing and the curse of touring: I’ve been to a lot of cities, but I don’t feel like I’ve visited a lot of cities because touring tends to come with quite a busy schedule.
What made you want to play Wilderness Festival this year?
I like the lineup, it’s very eclectic and obviously cool people like Shura, who I’ve just done a remix for, are on the bill. Musically, I kind of sit on the more electronic side of things, so I feel like I make a good addition.
Wilderness Festival is on 4th – 7th August wildernessfestival.com