REVIEW: Book: “Your Van Is On Fire” Seth Walker is Page Turner


I’ve read accountings of life on the road by musicians but never came across one as well-written & comprehensive with generous touches of humor, poetry & art. This is an eye-opener for aspiring musicians who always boast about touring, going on the road, or playing in a band that was not a headliner. The fun quotient can deteriorate.

Your Van Is On Fire (The Miscellaneous Meanderings of a Musician) was written & experienced by North Carolina musician Seth Walker (Ostinato Muse Press-Released Jan. 22). Part memoir, journal, diary. The book is an easy read. Most importantly you don’t have to be a musician to appreciate the adventures/misadventures.

With a 2-decade career, Seth writes from experience. He expresses with clarity the dark humor in some exploits & it’s well-researched. The near 100-page book doesn’t waste time getting out of the gate.

Musicians know how to write songs (some) & play their instruments. But…many don’t have a prepared show or viable performance. They know little about marketing & promotion. They forget that playing music is a job. You need to be well-rehearsed, have an organized paced performance, have interesting stage banter to keep an audience engaged. Especially during a slack time in a program. Like radio, you don’t want dead air. If the electricity goes out, do you have an acoustic set? Strategy with hecklers?

The chapter “All by Feel” is educational. It exemplifies how some artists become originals by effecting a transition between what came before them. Each short chapter holds an interesting tale. To review a book like this is to have sympathy with the writer & all the episodes provided. Some of us can relate because we’ve been there & understood the scenario. The text momentum is good – it’s a page-turner.

Chapters deal with the dread of some live shows, horror stories. There’s a chapter about playing the blues with no drums. But legendary bluesman John Mayall absconded with drums on several albums & live shows. But then, he was John Mayall.

The tales are humorous, poignant, with colorful characters, & the glitz that isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. However, the chapter “Scribble,” is quite an essay. For the musically inclined student, a rigid reason is necessary for discipline & expertise. For the student of creativity, they should be left to their own devices to explore. It’s from there that rules are broken & originality perseveres. A great musician is not always a great composer. A fair musician can be awe-inspiring as a songwriter.

This book is mandatory to understand the miles under a musician’s wheels. What needs to be tolerated, what to expect. It’s a decisive book about paying dues. Like all businesses, there are sharks in the water. The adventures of hitting the road & not knowing exactly where you’re going, who you’ll meet – is for the thick-skinned. This book is not a deterrent. It’s a reinforcement.

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