How I Got the Gig is our new series in which we break down exactly what it takes to get a wellness dream job—and, because life is not always what it seems on Instagram, the highs and lows of actually doing the job day-to-day. We’ll be talking to cookbook authors, mega-famous food bloggers, traveling yogis, nontoxic makeup artists to the stars, doctors who’ve become brands, and many more. First up: Courtney Swan, the woman behind @realfoodology, who spends her time touring the world with a rock star. Here’s how Courtney got the gig.
Name: Courtney Swan
Gig: Nutritionist and personal assistant for Tove Lo, a touring musician
What does your job consist of?
I act as Tove’s third hand (I’m not sure if I’m another left or right hand) helping her with anything she needs. In addition, I take care of all-things-food when we are on the road trying to keep our band and crew healthy while enduring a busy travel schedule! I travel with a "health kit" stocked full of immune-supporting vitamins and everything I need to keep us all happy and healthy.
What did you go to school for?
I have a bachelor's degree in communication and am finishing up my last semester of a master of science in nutrition and integrative health.
Did you do any jobs before your current dream job? If so, which ones?
I worked on the road as a band tour manager for eight years before this. Among the bands I worked for were 3OH!3 and Third Eye Blind, where I also lent my nutritionist skills.
How did you land your dream job? Can you take us through the timeline and various steps it took to get you where you are today?
When I was in college, I really wanted to work in music and got an unpaid internship at one of my favorite record labels at the time, Epitaph Records. During my short time there, I met a lot of people working in music and bands who were touring at the time. Many of my friends and connections I made back then are still close friends, and most of them still work in music! In fact, this is when I met the very person who is responsible for my current job with Tove. During college some good friends of mine started a band, and they were beginning to gain a lot of national popularity as we graduated college. After we graduated, knowing that I wanted to work on the road, they asked me to go out with them, and that is really when my career in music took off. Fast-forward to about six years ago when my focus shifted to health and nutrition. I took two years off from life on the road to complete all my science prerequisites so that I could apply for a master's program in nutrition. In 2011, during my time off the road is when I started my blog Realfoodology. Two years ago, the aforementioned college friend of mine started working with Tove and sent me an email asking me if I would be interested in coming on the road with them. They wanted someone with touring experience who could help keep everyone healthy! With all the traveling that we do, it can be really hard to eat well and stay healthy; you have to work harder at it; my job is to make that easier on everyone in our crew.
What does your job consist of on a daily basis?
I make sure the bus and dressing room are stocked with healthy foods and drinks; I find us healthy food spots to eat near the venues we play and hotels where we stay; I arrange advance catering for our shows and make sure to always grab us healthy breakfast in the morning (usually smoothies or chia pudding and green juices). My days are never the same; it changes from day to day because it depends on the schedule and whether we have a day off, a show, or a flight out. Show days are usually pretty consistent once we are on-site at the venue. If we don’t have catering, I get menus from a healthy (preferably organic) spot I find nearby and get lunch for our whole crew. Then I’ll help Tove with things she needs for the show, and then it's usually dinnertime and I’ll do what I did for lunch but from another healthy spot I found.
What are some amazing perks of your job?
I once heard that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life, so, I must not have a job! What could be better than traveling the world with my best friends? Our crew is tight, and I love them like family; we get along really well and have so much fun together! I have been to places and done things I never dreamed I would do! This year alone we have already been to South America, Europe, and Australia! As I write this, I am sitting backstage at a music festival in Denmark; it’s really not a bad place to do work. And we’ve been able to catch some pretty amazing music acts along the way: Some of my favorites we’ve played with are Coldplay, Lorde, The 1975, Muna, The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, Glass Animals, and Broods. I am so grateful for this experience.
What are some surprising drawbacks of your job?
In can be very lonely and isolating at times, despite the fact that you are constantly surrounded by people. You spend a lot of time in hotel rooms by yourself; it’s much like the movie Up in the Air (with George Clooney). You miss out on everything at home and people have a hard time understanding your lifestyle if they don’t also travel for a living. You miss your friends at home, and sometimes we are gone for months at a time, so it’s hard to integrate back into life at home when you get back. It also makes having any sort of relationship very hard. You miss birthdays, weddings, and other important events. You have to work hard to keep in touch with the ones you love, which can be hard, but the ones who are worth it stick with you.
It’s also very hard to have a routine because no day is ever the same. In a way I also love this about the job; it certainly never gets boring. You have to get used to living out of a suitcase; try leaving your home for three months with only three pairs of shoes 'cause that’s all you can fit in your one allotted suitcase!
Do you see yourself doing this long-term?
I’m not sure yet. Eventually I would like to work a job that keeps me at home more. I imagine I will have nutrition clients when that time comes. But for now, I can’t imagine doing anything else; I really love my job!
What advice would you have for someone who wants to get a job like yours?
That’s simple: Immerse yourself in the social network of the industry in which you wish to work; this is good advice for any job you want, not just my job. When I decided to switch career paths and move into the wellness world, I started seeking out people who shared similar nutritional beliefs. Within that group, I was further fascinated with those people who had carved out really interesting niches in the wellness world, and I slowly began to seek out relationships with those people. Because we shared similar interests, it was natural that some genuine friendships developed, and I actively sought to make a mentor of any of these new friends who were willing to teach me. But, a cautionary word: Be thoughtful about such efforts, and never sacrifice a friendship for selfish, personal gain.
Many people in our generation long for rapid success, but that is the rare accident, not the rule; in general, expect that anything worth having takes time and effort. I would not be here, working this job, had I not invested in the relationships and friendship in the music industry 10-plus years ago. No matter what the outcome of your work, these connections will only improve the quality of your life; it’s an amazing thing to have friendships built on similar interests.
What's a fun story from a day on the job?
We had a day off in Mexico City and our tour manager had a friend there who took us on quite the adventure! It was one of those experiences where you kept thinking this couldn’t get any better and it just kept getting better as the day went on. We started out on a tour of the Teotihuacan Pyramids while he explained the history of his ancestors who built them and then he drove us to these caves and took us on a little walk through them. We finally stopped in a spot where the sun was shining down from a hole in the ceiling, and he led us through a traditional spirit-cleansing ritual, and we all stood in a circle telling the group what we wished for the most. It sounds so woo-woo as I type it out, but it was such an amazing thing to experience with some of your best friends! We ended the day with a tequila tasting (and too many shots; let's be honest) and a homemade Mexican meal cooked by his family! That day goes down as one of my favorite days on earth. It was such a cool experience!
If you could tell people who admired your life one thing, what would it be?
I wasn’t always working a job that I loved. I want you to know it’s possible for you to love your job too. I know what it’s like to wake up dreading going to work and wishing every morning for some supernatural disaster (that wouldn’t hurt anyone, of course), something, anything just to keep you from having to go to work that day.
Here's a day in the life of a wellness-loving TV star (from Scandal!). Plus, the founder of Whole30 shares how it always gets worse before it gets better.