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Tour Tales | Julius Small on Screamfest ‘07, putting out a literal fire for Maxwell, a JAY-Z surprise and more

In this installment of “Tour Tales,” the music professional discusses the behind-the-scenes work it took to bring Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, JAY-Z, and 50 Cent on the same stage; and much more.

JAY-Z Getty

Musicians are barely getting a slice of music industry revenue, largely eating off of live performances instead. For ‘Tour Tales,’ we dig into the rider requests, delayed shows, diligent preparation, and future of touring by talking with the multitude of people that move behind the scenes. Record executives, photographers, tour managers, artists, and more all break down what goes into touring and why it’s still so vital to the livelihood of your favorite artists. What happens on tour stays on ‘Tour Tales.’

Working alongside Michael Mauldin, Jermaine Dupri’s father, artist relations and touring professional Julius Small of JS Entertainment and Tours has seen the lengths fans have gone to get close to the artists they love.

“The [Screamfest ‘07] tour buses were wrapped with the artists’ faces. So, people knew the hotels we were staying in. Of course, they would block the path of artists trying to get out and meet them at the hotel. We would have fans showing up in artists’ dressing rooms,” Small told REVOLT.

In this installment of “Tour Tales,” the music professional discusses the behind-the-scenes work it took to bring Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, JAY-Z, and 50 Cent on the same stage; one of Kriss Kross’ last shows ever and more. Read below!

You worked artist relations on Screamfest ‘07 with stars like Ciara, T.I., and Lloyd all in their prime. What went into putting together a tour of that magnitude?

That was the first time I was on tour. What powered the Mauldin Brand Agency to get artists like T.I., Lloyd, Ciara, and Yung Joc is the partnership we had with Atlantic Records for Screamfest. T.I. brought out special guests every night. Ciara brought out special guests every night. Every night we were selling out arenas I was more familiar with people playing basketball in. One show that stood out the most to me was Madison Square Garden. T.I. brought out Puff [Daddy], 50 [Cent], Kanye [West], JAY-Z, and Swizz Beatz.

What was the planning behind it?

We had production meetings and knew every night was going to be a special artist. Madison Square Garden, in New York City, you knew what was going to happen. In preparation for JAY and everyone coming in, we really had a serious security meeting. We had to go through the dos and don’ts of areas people should and shouldn’t be in. We had to make sure JAY had his own exclusive area. Of course, Puff wanted to have his own area. You didn’t see them when they came into the building. It was that quiet. Once they came on stage, they performed, came off the stage, and they were gone. It was amazing. There were no rehearsals. It was one take for everybody. They came out, did their songs, and it was amazing.

Was 50 Cent coming out planned or a surprise?

That was a surprise. To be honest, 50 had come out on a couple of shows with us. The surprise portion of it was JAY, Kanye, Puff, and Swizz. We sort of knew 50 was going to come out, he wanted to do something special. The energy when Kanye came out and he was doing his set was crazy. He came in behind the smoke with lights around him, and of course, he had his sunglasses on. Even before he came out with the first note, everyone was singing the songs.

What were the most interesting crowd reactions from that tour?

Moving around on that tour, you really couldn’t hide these tour buses. The tour buses were wrapped with the artists’ faces. So, people knew the hotels we were staying in. Of course, they would block the path of artists trying to get out and meet them at the hotel. We would have fans showing up in artists’ dressing rooms. It was weird (laughs).

Let’s move on to the So So Def 20th Anniversary Concert you worked on, which had another surprise JAY-Z appearance. Was that bigger?

It was. We had it at The Fox Theater here in Atlanta. It was a big preparation because we were celebrating So So Def and the impact they made in Atlanta. We had to reach out to all of the So So Def acts and you can go way, way back on some of them and they may or may not still be around doing music. Overall, when JAY-Z came out and did “Money Ain’t A Thing,” it was special but there was a more intimate feeling. It was about 10,000 people in the building. We were streaming it and because of JAY-Z’s copyright only the people in the building saw him perform. The people who watched the stream couldn’t see that portion. One of the cool things in that show was the fact I was bringing artists on and off of the stage. I was able to bring JAY down. I was pretty much calling the shots on the side of that show.

What does Hov need backstage?

Ace of Spades, of course. He was pushing that brand a lot at that time. We had to work it out that night because he was doing it big. That’s all the request was.

What was JD’s vision for the concert?

He’s always a creative, so he wants to make sure he has an impact on the culture. One of the things we did that was special was we had a private dinner ceremony. He wanted to make sure all of the So So Def artists, present or past, were there. He acknowledged them. He did something special for them that night, and that was private. Not only that, we had a big celebration after the party. One of the big things that happened that JD was able to make happen was bringing Kriss Kross back on stage. That was special. We kicked the show off with them. Soon after, Kriss passed away. That was really impactful.

What was one of your favorite moments of that concert?

When Mariah Carey pushed out Jermaine Dupri's cake to celebrate that night. I had never worked with her directly. That was a special moment because they have their own special relationship.

What do you provide for a tour?

One of the things I take pride in is being able to be a problem solver. The special part of the position I play with promoters and liaison between the artists is being able to foresee when things may come up. Contracts, riders, movement, security, special artist VIP experiences. To be able to have proper planning to handle all of that smoothly without any problem is tough. We see people celebrating the artists on stage, but back of house and those movements getting them there are the key puzzle pieces to making the show happen.

What’s a show you’ve kept running smoothly after putting out some big problems?

I went on the Summer Soulstice Tour with Maxwell in 2014 and I remember we were in Shreveport, Louisiana. We were getting ready for the show. We had a meet-and-greet. He was getting prepped and ready. He went to the tour bus because sometimes the accommodations aren’t to the liking of the artist and they tend to be more comfortable on the tour bus. The refrigerator in his tour bus catches on fire as we’re about to open up the doors for the show. Here we are, backstage, with flames coming out of his tour bus. No one got hurt, but we were bringing fire trucks in. I’m thinking about the show tomorrow and getting him there. That was literally one of the fires I had to put out (laughs).

That tour came in-between his last two albums. What were his rehearsals like?

He’s all about making sure he has his energy right for the show. He likes to be away from any type of distractions. He likes to be around his people. He’s solely about getting his mind right for the show. He’s always concerned about his health. During that time, he was being more health-conscious about what he was putting into his body. That was a big key. When he came out on stage, I remember two-and-a-half hours into the show, he was still there giving it his all. I saw that day in and day out. He was quiet and did what he needed to do. He was never late.

What do you remember from that tour?

I see the flow of the white. “Pretty Wings” was the song. Everybody was singing, dancing and holding hands. It’s a magical moment. Overall, the production of the Maxwell show was awesome. It was more in a theater setting rather than an arena setting.

Festivals are coming back. Are you working any?

I’m hoping we’ll be able to do One Music Fest again. I handle its artist relations with Ms. Cynthia Charles. I also handle the Art of Cool Festival in North Carolina.

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