Natasha Smirnoff

Natasha Smirnoff
Name: Natasha Smirnoff

Bands worked with: Marty O’Reilly & the Old Soul Orchestra

FEMMUSIC:  How did you become a tour manager? 

NS: About 3 summers ago, my former boyfriend and I had very recently gone through a pretty serious loss. We became interested in only the most genuine things in life. In our search, we stumbled upon this band at a small festival and they blew our minds. The way these guys played with all their heart and soul had us following them up and down the west coast. Marty O’Reilly & the Old Soul Orchestra was a household name for us and all our friends were sick of it. (Until one by one they would come to a show and hop on board the crazy train with us.) About a year in, they planned a UK tour and I saw it as an opportunity to adventure in a different country with a purpose. I’m a massage therapist and just really buckled down to afford a flight, my man stayed home at his regular job, and I headed off to the UK. I mainly took busses to each gig (separate from the band), but our lives all began to meld together. I helped out as much as I could in trade for a floor to sleep on most nights. It was 2 months of music and hard travel and by the end of it, we had become a team. It all happened pretty organically. I wasn’t there searching for a job or to even to be included in any way. I was just there because the music is what I love, the travel is what makes me feel alive.

FEMMUSIC:  What are the biggest challenges of being a tour manager?

NS: There is the Job and there is the Road:

I was a new TM working for a new band. The hardest thing was figuring out what my job actually was, funny as that sounds. Then it was knowing how to be prepared. It takes some serious ESP. Now I find that my main concern is staying relaxed. As long as I’m prepared for anything, organized in my knowledge, and relaxed, all will go smoothly. Even when it inevitably won’t. 

Being on the road all the time comes with the sacrifice of ‘Home’. The concept of it becomes this thing you dream of, but seems so foreign when you are finally there to do a few dishes and check your mail. I personally moved into a big blue van (dubbed ‘Babe’ for the blue ox) because it makes absolutely no sense to pay rent for a place you’re never at. There’s a reason most people only fantasize about real travel; it’s not for everyone. It can be lonely in a big, all encompassing way that leaves you with this weird feeling of not belonging anywhere. That being said, there’s something about the feeling of freedom that comes with it. It’s huge. Driving ‘Babe’ down the road… watching the mountains go by… Marty figuring something out on the guitar… the guys in the back giggling about hockey or something… an orange peel flying by my ear cause someone has to pee… there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

FEMMUSIC:  What challenges does being a woman tour manager present?

NS: For me, gender discrimination left the table when I became confident in my job. Starting out, almost everyone asked or assumed that I was romantically involved with one of the band members. I’m not, have not, and will not be. I’m there for the music. But after a while, I stopped having to answer, ‘So which one are you with?’ That assumption just disappeared. Yes, I had to deal with it, but I saw it as a symptom of my confidence. I learned how and who to introduce myself to. I learned what questions to ask and what to be prepared for. People are intuitive. They pick up on things like that. If you have confidence, you have purpose. But you give them a reason to assume and they’ll probably take it. 

FEMMUSIC:  As a woman in the music industry, have you been discriminated against?

NS: I’m sure it happens, but the men I work for have my back. Being a women in a world of men doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Or even a thing at all. The life I live breaks a lot of social norms and I encourage that in all people, especially women. We were raised in in a time that taught us many limiting beliefs about ourselves. It may take some extra effort or risk, but I really feel that you absolutely CAN be great at whatever you want. Don’t do it to prove that you can. Do it because you want to. 

FEMMUSIC:  What one thing would you like to change about the music industry itself?

NS: It’s nearly impossible to make money as a musician without touring anymore. Music streaming companies make a killing off of musicians and pay them almost nothing. I wish all levels of the industry were as full of support and comradery as the one I’m included in. From the very bottom to the top, everyone is seen as kin. There really is no competition, no greed. That’s music.
February 1st, 2016