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Malina Moye: “Your mindset is the most important thing on tour, starting from the plane ride to get to the bus“

Malina Moye
(Image credit: Isaiah Mays)

BACK TO LIVE: The road dog is one of rock and roll’s most hallowed traditions. The lifer, the musician who lives to be away from home, the one who’s more comfortable in a bus bunk than any high-thread count sheets. When you look up that term in the dictionary, there may as well be a picture of Malina Moye. 

Over the past 11 years, Moye has put out three albums filled with soulful, funky, R&B-inflected albums, hallmarked by her powerful voice and even more powerful Hendrix- and Prince-inspired riffing. But her experience on tour predates any promotional jaunts for those albums; she literally grew up touring.

“I grew up in a family band, so my mom, my dad and my brothers, we always toured. It was like if someone was to go to school. You learn how it works and it becomes a natural part of your life,” she says. 

Over that time, she’s picked up a few strategies for survival, from the big picture to the nitpickiest of details. For instance: keep the body healthy and the mind and fingers will follow.

“I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs. I’m a very healthy person,” she says. “No matter what part of the world I’m in, every day I like to be gone for 30 minutes, just exploring whatever country I’m in. Your mindset is the most important thing, starting from the plane ride to get to the bus.”

Speaking of plane rides, you can’t just hop on one and hope for the best – not when there’s thousands of dollars of gear upon which your livelihood rests at stake. As someone who jets around the world, Moye has learned the importance of comfort – dressing comfy while you try to catch some mile-high shut-eye and having the security of mind that your axe will make it in one piece.

“Whoever is booking the travel, the main thing I’d always say is, you want to look at the airline you’re actually on and do research to make sure they’re instrument-friendly. If you need to, get a first-class ticket so you can make sure your guitar or bass [can] be on the actual plane with you – in the cabin.”

As a solo artist, the buck ultimately stops with Moye when it comes to how her shows go. With no bandmates to share responsibility with, she has a certain type of hired gun she’s always on the lookout for. And whether you’re the headliner or a session musician, she’s got some advice on making sure you get the job done. 

“We bring in musicians, and the job we’re asking them to do is just hit the notes, that they’re playing the songs [the way] we actually wrote them and do the job we’re paying them to do. But more importantly I’m looking for the type of players that get along with other people, not difficult, not trying to be the star. Know the material and be easy to get along with.”

Playing shows might be the fun part, but the best damn stage show in the world doesn’t matter a lick if your bottom line is constantly in the red. Eventually, monetary losses will mean no more road for you and your music. As a lifelong industry vet, Moye’s most important words of wisdom are reserved for running your tour like the business it is. Everyone collects their receipts, every dollar is accounted for, everyone knows which meals are comped and which come out of their per diem. 

“If this is your first time going out, I’d say look at yourself as an independent business. It would be nice if you did set yourself up as an LLC, because you will start to see the tax breaks,” she says. “But most important is when you’re hired, you represent the brand. So be prepared to be professional and check your ego at the door.”