Travellin’ Light

Harris Eisenstadt
Answers 20 Questions About Life on the Road

Harris Eisenstadt, Kangaroo Island, Australia
Harris Eisenstadt, Kangaroo Island, Australia                                                              Sara Schoenbeck©2010

Harris Eisenstadt is a drummer and composer based in Brooklyn. Next year his 10th and 11th recordings as a leader will be released on Songlines (Canada Day II with Nate Wooley, Matt Bauder, Chris Dingman, EIvind Opsvik) and Clean Feed (September Trio with Ellery Eskelin and Angelica Sanchez).  Canada Day tours the mid-Atlantic in April and plays throughout the US and Canada in the fall. Convergence Quartet (with Alexander Hawkins, Dominic Lash and Taylor Ho Bynum) tours Europe in November, and a one-man Macbeth featuring actor Stephen Dillane tours Europe spring 2011. Recent sideman credits include work with Wadada Leo Smith, Nate Wooley, Jessica Pavone, Mark Taylor, and Kyoko Kitamura. Eisenstadt’s first piece for orchestra was chosen for American Composers Orchestra readings next summer. For more information, consult:


What is the most difficult airline to deal with in terms of instruments and equipment?

Ryan Air (Easy Jet is a close second).

Which airline has the worst economy seating and food?

LOT is pretty bad, as is Aer Lingus.

Which airport is craziest for making connecting flights?


What is the most important thing you ever forgot to pack?

My stick bag.

What is your worst lost baggage story?

I have never lost a bag. Surely this will change at some point.

What country hassles musicians the most at customs and passport checks?

US or Canada. Toss up, really.

Which city has the worst cab drivers?


What is the best hotel that a presenter has provided for you?

AMR in Geneva put us somewhere really nice a few years back… I forget the name. I played in a small town in Portugal recently – I think it was Valado dos Frades - and we stayed at this killer Shining-esque (i.e. empty) 5-star in the woods spot. When I’m on the road with this one-man Macbeth theater production, they always put us in sweet spots. Those runs are nice because we’re actually in one city for weeks at a time. With music tours, of course, you barely check into the hotel before you have to go to the sound check and gig and leave early the next morning, so you rarely get to enjoy the nice ones.

Do you travel with a laptop or a PDA? If so, how many times a day do you check your e-mail?

I’ve traveled with a laptop for years, and recently got an Ipod touch. For some reason I can only get it to receive mail and not send. Once I get that figured out, I’d love to take the Ipod only. I’m kind of an incessant email checker.

Do you listen to music on the road? If so, what device do you use?

Absolutely, and news podcasts too, with the aforementioned Ipod touch now. Had a 30G Ipod for years that recently died.

Do you do your own laundry on the road?

Boxers, socks, t-shirts once in a while.

What is your most nightmarish sound check to date?

Any sound check where you land in Europe that morning and have to play that night. It’s always so much easier if sound check and the gig are the next day.

What is the scariest food that has been laid out for you backstage?

Seem to have erased the specifics from my memory but probably happened in the UK or Germany.

What are your three favorite venues?

This is a tough one, because it’s all about the vibe that night. I’ve played in some fantastic venues that were half-empty and therefore a drag, and some pretty crappy places that were packed and the audience was hanging on every note and therefore incredible.

Which cities have the best restaurants for late after-gig meals?

New York and Tokyo.

Which cities have the best after-hours sessions?

Don’t know. I usually prefer to hang with my band mates and/or folks who were at the show. A nice meal or drink and conversation and then sleep...

What is the best city that closes down too early?

Not sure really, because as with the above, post-gig hang often happens at the venue or the presenter take us somewhere. Never really been the kind of person who drops the instrument off at the hotel and goes out clubbing...

What is the best locale to have a day off?

Depends on if the options are nature or culture. I love taking in the architecture wandering around the canals in Amsterdam or the neighborhoods in Lisbon. There was a magical afternoon in Bern, Switzerland when I hopped in the Aare River (as all the locals were doing) and let the current float me through town for a couple miles, got out, walked back and did it again and again. One time in Vancouver one of the drivers took us up to Grouse Mountain to go snowboarding. The woods in Sweden are pretty great. Kangaroo Island in Australia is another favorite – was there between runs Sydney and Adelaide once.

What is your cure for jet lag?

When you get to Europe in the morning try to stay up as late as possible. When you come back try not to have to work that day.

What is your best tip for the novice?

Especially early on in your career (or as long as you’re comfortable doing it, I guess), get out there and tour as much as possible. Bootstrap it if you have to. Hook up gigs with local musicians and find simpatico people to work with. Do van tours in the US. Get yourself to Europe. Find grants to pay your way before venues start guaranteeing fees. Sublet your room to make it work. Also (and I guess this is off the strictly-touring angle of travel), check out other cultures that particularly interest you, hook up a way to get there and a cool host situation, and go study some vastly foreign music cultures that will impact your own life and work in meaningful ways.

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