Lyal Strickland on Eating Healthy on the Road and Why You Can’t Ride on Talent Alone

April 21, 2015

Tell us about your tour vehicle.

I now drive a Dodge Caravan, which I’ve racked up to around 100,000 miles. It’s been good for the equipment, and humbling for my ego (single dude driving a minivan). Previously I drove a Pontiac Aztek (Walter White style) before it was stolen with all of my equipment and a couple of very special guitars.

How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?

I always pack a food box before I go out. It’s stocked with soups, chicken breast (in those nifty tuna-type bags), tea, and chia seeds among other things. I try to grab a piece of fruit from the hotel every morning and only eat salads/veggies if I eat out. About once every tour I binge on fast food. It’s never a good decision.

How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?

I replace my strings before every show. For the most part, I’m solo on the road and I can’t afford to break the momentum of a show to replace a string (not to mention the nightmare of one breaking during an in-studio radio visit). I buy my strings in bulk which saves a good bit and cuts down on packaging.

Where do you rehearse?

I practice in a spare room in my house on the farm. The neighbors aren’t too close, so no one seems to mind the noise. A few times I’ve been playing, had friends drive by, and have had it turn into a mini-show with friends of friends showing up on the porch.

What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?

It was a song called ‘Every where I look around’. It. Was. Awful. But, you have to start somewhere. I have all the lyric sheets to the first 20 or so songs I wrote, but I never let anyone read them.

Describe your first gig.

I got my first ‘gig’ when I was 15. My Mom drove me 40 miles every Friday night to play for tip and a free buffet at this little cashew chicken joint. I only knew ten songs, so I just repeated them all night. It was invaluable experience.

What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?

Along with the music, I raise grass-fed organic beef on my Great-Grandfather’s farm in the Ozarks. I took it over after college to keep the land together and continue the tradition even though it was the furthest thing from what I thought I’d be doing. These days I don’t know what I’d do without it. I love coming off the road and being able to center out in the woods, or walk among the cows while they graze.

How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?

The money side of my music has increased dramatically. Exponentially, really, if you take into account those first few years. However, expenses have skyrocketed as well. I feel like it’s the same with any business. You have to believe in it and invest in it. In the end you’re just gambling on yourself and your songs. Regardless of how it goes, I’m singing about things that matter to me and collecting memories along the way.

What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?

Having a few good songs isn’t enough. There are so many incredible artists out there. There will always be someone better than you, and you’ll be better than some. You can’t ride on talent alone. There’s too much of it out there. It takes a lot of work and sacrifice to get your message out there, but that makes it worth so much more when you connect with someone beyond being background music.

“My whole fiber is this town,” Ozarks songwriter Lyal Strickland reflects, surveying the landscape from the porch of what once was his great-grandparents’ home. “This land runs through me.”

Strickland’s new album, Balanced on Barbed Wire is a gripping, cinematic dispatch from small-town America – a series of stories in song where desperation is met with relentless determination. Strickland draws ample inspiration from the die-hard mentality embodied in the hard-scrabble, hard-working people eking out a living in his hometown of Buffalo, Missouri (population 3,000 at last count) and his own experience of single-handedly taking over his family’s struggling cattle farm six years ago.

Lyal calls his music “first-person folk.” The Kansas City Star simply called it “astounding…the narrators of his gorgeous folk-rock songs worry about their crops, wonder what passes through the mind of cattle and fret about the impact of encroaching urban sprawl.”

You can find him online and on the road.