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.’
In the span of a few years, photographer Duc John went from shooting his first live show for a major artist to living with Omarion and seeing a side of him most people never have.
“He’d rehearse throughout the day and do press, but he’s always on the phone FaceTiming with his kids. He’s always connected to the family. We were in Australia and he would talk to his kids or his family every free moment he had,” Duc John told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Omarion’s photographer explains how living with Omarion helped develop their working bond, how detailed the singer is about his live show and Goldlink’s unpredictability on stage. Peep the chat below!
Who was the first major artist you photographed?
You shot Usher at a show on his “UR Experience Tour” in 2015. How was that?
It was for press, so I could only shoot the first three songs. I couldn’t go backstage or anything. His show was very dynamic. I only had three songs and there were a bunch of other photographers there too. My philosophy is always to try to be a ninja by not bother anybody and seeing where the moments are going. I was going off of my intuition.
What are some shows you had to adjust on the fly in order to get the right shots?
I’ve shot so many shows, especially when I was on the world tour with Omarion. When I was with him, I was on the team, so it was easier for me to walk around and do the things I want to do because I had all the access and the security and management know what I do. But, when I shot for the Vestavia Festival in 2015, the security was really strict, so you couldn’t even move around or arrange things. So, when Chris Brown jumps off the stage and wants to go to the crowd, at that moment, you just have to try and do what you can do.
How’d you connect with Omarion?
He went to Germany first and I got the chance to shoot him. He had a few shows and we talked for a few seconds. We didn’t exchange contacts, but later he told me he remembered me from that moment. One year after we met, it was the Vestavia Festival and I got to shoot him there. I went backstage and got a chance to get to know him a bit. From there on, he and I connected through Instagram. A year later, he came back to Europe to do a show in London. He got in touch with me about shooting a documentary throughout his time here. It was for free. From then on, it’s just been going forward.
What did you have to adjust to?
I didn’t know what to expect because it was the first tour I was on with a major artist. It was different than before because when you’re shooting for an agency, you only have three songs you can shoot. There is no interaction with those artists. Touring with Omarion brought me closer to him and we became really really close from then on.
What were the shows like?
Before the first show, we shot a music video in Tokyo. We got to know each other better where I could understand what his movements were, the way he dances, and who he is as a person. It helped me understand what he likes and doesn’t like as far as angles. We talked a lot before we went on tour. He told me about his past experiences with photographers. From then, we became a team. The first tour started in Australia and the crowd was amazing. It was my first time being in Australia.
What angles did Omarion like for his live shots?
He liked full body. Sometimes he likes detailed shots and portraits. When we were in Cannes, France, he didn’t want to shoot full-body, he wanted to just do portraits. The next show, he didn’t want to shoot photos at all, he just wanted to do full-body movements. So, I just stand in front of him. We decided that was too regular, so next show I went behind him. From venue to venue, show to show, and outfit to outfit, it’s different approaches to those angles and the shots we capture. We always wanted to improve. He is very creative and I appreciate him for all of the things he brings up to me. We were always trying to level up.
Were you around him for his rehearsals?
Yes. Honestly, I lived with him in his house. I was around him 24/7 and it was special. I got to know his entire family.
How do his rehearsals show the dedication he has for his performances?
He is very dedicated. He is a very detailed person who takes care of a lot including the lights and the sound. When we come into the city he’s performing in, it’s always an afternoon and he checks how he can move around on stage, if the stage is clean, how the sound is on different parts of the stage, and how the lights are looking. From the rehearsals, he practices a lot of dancing. He dances 24/7. I don’t know anyone who dances more than Omarion — even at home with his kids at breakfast. He’s always dancing. I don’t even know what’s a rehearsal and what’s not. While he’s rehearsing, I’m doing my rehearsal, as well. We’ll go back to the hotel and I’d be like, “This light right here is no good, let’s change this angle.” It’s always a collaboration.
How did you see him balance fatherhood with touring?
He’s a great father. He has a strong connection to his family. The No. 1 person he talks to is his grandmother. The foundation of the family is very nice. It’s no different than other families. He’d rehearse throughout the day and do press, but he’s always on the phone FaceTiming with his kids. He’s always connected to the family. We were in Australia and he would talk to his kids or his family every free moment he has.
What is on Omarion’s rider?
Back in the day, he was still eating meat, but now he doesn’t eat meat anymore. He’s a vegan. Back in the day, we needed chicken wings backstage. He always needed fruits like bananas, melons, and mangoes. Before every show, he needs a cup of tea.
You also shot Goldlink for the Sonar Festival in 2018. How did you connect with him?
I got to know him through Omarion. I went on the Soulection Europe tour with Joe Kay. When we were at the festival, Goldlink and Joe Kay were friends, so they connected at the show. At the time, Goldlink didn’t have a photographer for the show, so his management just asked me, “Would you like to shoot Goldlink after you shoot Joe Kay?” I did and I appreciated the chance. It was my chance to go on stage and be a ninja to capture every angle I could to have him looking good. Goldlink is crazy, so you never know what’s going to happen. You always have to be focused and running. I always have clothes on that allow me to run fast. I always have two cameras on me, so if he’s running away from me, I have the zoom camera. If he’s running towards me, I have the wide-angle camera.
What do you have coming up for the rest of 2021?
There are a lot of things I’m working on because I took two years off for myself, personally, because I had not only mental issues, but I also redirected my focus. I wanted to see if this was still the future I wanted because after touring with all these artists, there was too much going on and I didn’t know what my heart wanted. I needed to take a step back and see what my heart wanted. I’m now trying to build my story and tell my story. This is the first time for me to give things back. I want to build up my YouTube channel, start working on short movies and music videos. I may go on tour overseas, here and there. Other than that, I have big goals and big dreams.