Being a roadie can be a fulfilling career, but it can also be demanding and isolating. That’s why Paul and Courtney Klimson founded The Roadie Clinic.
The truth is, while working on a tour can be a wonderful, fulfilling career, it can also be a grueling, demanding and isolating experience. And no one knows that better than Courtney and Paul Klimson, CEO and COO and founders of The Roadie Clinic.
“Life is Going to Be Good”
Courtney and Paul Klimson met in their junior year of high school and have been married for 18 years. Paul is the official roadie of the family—he’s currently an in-demand live sound engineer for some of the world’s top performers—and the idea for The Roadie Clinic came from his experience.
“I watched his career when he was doing van and trailer tours,” Courtney Klimson tells us. “He was doing it because he loved it, and he wasn’t really getting paid. I remember when he got his first bus tour and we thought, ‘Oh, this is incredible.’ We felt like we made it, like life is going to be good.”
But it wasn’t. As many young couples learn, it’s hard to foster a new marriage when one spouse is constantly on the road. So Paul bounced between studio jobs and tours before landing a job at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
For years, Paul enjoyed a regular job with SNL and then Jimmy Fallon. But when he had a job offer to join a major stadium tour crew, he took it. And he stayed with it for five years. After so much time off the road, Paul had a stark reminder of how physically and mentally taxing it is being a roadie.
Paul’s final stadium tour was a brutal experience. Exacerbated by the loss of his father and weighed down by feelings of isolation, Courtney joined him on tour. While supporting Paul, Courtney ended up becoming a support person for other crew members as well. “I became almost like the tour mom,” she tells us. “People would come to me when they needed to just talk about something and I helped facilitate meetups with family members and loved ones in Europe; that kind of stuff.”
The two began to imagine: what if there was actually a support system for the crew on these tours?
The Birth of The Roadie Clinic
Following that final, hectic tour, Courtney and Paul took a family trip to Niles, Michigan. “We would always come out to Niles after a tour,” Courtney tells us. “This was our happy place, our safe place.”
That’s when they first noticed the lofts—an old brick building. “It was just one of those things where you walk in the door and you know ‘this is for us, and not just for us, it’s for our people, it’s for The Roadie Clinic.’” And just like that, The Roadie Clinic had a home. They bought the building in October of 2019 with plans to have it funded through an upcoming tour.
“We came out here the first week of march 2020 to do our first demolition,” says Courtney. Then COVID hit. “We were still living in New York City, and within two weeks, all of those shows that were supposed to fund The Roadie Clinic disappeared and our housing flipped upside down.”
So Courtney and Paul decided to move to Niles full-time to invest in the Roadie Clinic. “A couple of my team members called me and said, ‘It’s time to get to work, we’re all not working, so let’s build this thing.’”
Paul and Courtney Klimson saw first-hand the struggles many roadies have in their careers. Just a few that Courtney mentioned to us include:
Paranoia: For example, roadies may worry that they’ll be replaced at a moment’s notice if they ever push back against a demand, no matter how out-of-line it is.
Mental health issues: There aren’t many support systems for those on the road, and getting regular therapy or access to medication is difficult. This is often exacerbated by frequent isolation on the road, as well as a lack of regular sleeping schedules.
Relationship issues: Finding time to nurture your relationship or be there for your partner when you’re constantly working odd hours can take a toll on even the strongest relationships.
Family issues: From missing a child’s soccer games to not knowing what to do if your spouse breaks their leg while you’re away on tour, it’s hard on the person on tour and their entire family to have them away for extended periods.
Physical health: Being a roadie is often physically demanding work in and of itself, and is made worse with poor sleeping conditions, diets and a culture of drug and alcohol misuse.
Financial issues: Many roadies don’t have a great sense of financial planning, including saving for retirement.
While there are different organizations that exist to help roadies with many of those issues—MusiCares, for example, offers health and recovery services—there isn’t a singular resource that roadies can call for whatever they need. And that’s one way The Roadie Clinic bridges a gap.
“We want to create a safe space where people are heard, understood and safe—their reputations aren’t in jeopardy.” Courtney tells us. “Nobody has to know what they call and talk to us about. We always try to say, ‘What’s your problem? How can we help?’ And if there’s an organization or a resource that exists, we’ll point them in that direction. And if it doesn’t exist, we’ll work on finding or creating one.”
From medical to therapeutic to legal, Courtney and Paul have been building professional relationships with organizations that can offer resources to roadies who reach out to them.
The Roadie Clinic isn’t limited to call-in services. The old brick building discovered by Paul that we mentioned before? It’s a three-story commercial building in a historical district of Niles, Michigan. “One thing I love about it is that it was the former Telegraph building, and without the telegraph, we wouldn’t have technology for audio,” says Courtney. “We still use the patchbays the telegraph invented. It’s like we were meant to find this building.”
The building, known as The Lofts, will serve a few different purposes. The first will be giving back to the community via a retail store that sells products from local artisan vendors. “I don’t want the community to feel like we’re taking away one of their buildings and not allowing them inside of it,” Courtney tells us.
The rest, which will be accessible via a separate entrance, will be tour-related facilities. An elevator will lead up to a commercial kitchen and an area called Table 13, named for the number of people who can fit on a tour bus, including the driver. There will also be four individual loft bedrooms with private bathrooms—each large enough to accommodate a family. There will also be a penthouse for longer stays, a professional mixing studio with lighting capabilities, on-site therapy suites and more.
Essentially, The Loft will be a safe place for roadies and their families to get the care they need when they’re in a transitional period. It’s the physical, in-person element of the community that Courtney and Paul are building for The Roadie Clinic where people can come together, discuss their struggles and heal.
UE CARES & The Roadie Clinic
As a life-long in-ear monitor mixer, Paul Klimson knows IEMs. And UE is excited to support Paul, Courtney and The Roadie Clinic by donating a portion of the proceeds of each pair of our flagship UE LIVE sold in the month of October to The Roadie Clinic to support the construction of the Lofts.
We’re also proud to be donating in-ear monitors each quarter to roadies at The Roadie Clinic who need them so they can protect their hearing and continue to enjoy long and healthy careers.