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.’
The night before Jessie Reyez’s first Grammy Awards as a nominee, the 28-year-old singer-songwriter had her eyes closed and her heart opened. At Island Records and Primary Wave’s celebration of Bob Marley’s 75th birthday in Los Angeles, Jessie honored one of her biggest musical inspirations. Besides the late reggae legend, you can thank part of Jessie’s stage prowess to her studying other greats.
“Anytime I catch Beyonce doing runs on the ‘gram, I’ll watch it 100 times to try to mimic. I still can’t, but I try to emulate to try to get better,” Reyez told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Jessie explains why she doesn’t like performing at industry events, her touring diet, and if her upcoming debut album will translate well onstage. Read below.
You’ve mentioned how much you love Bob Marley’s music. What was it like celebrating him on his 75th birthday?
It was so nerve-wracking, especially since it was an industry party. We’re in the middle of L.A. during Grammys week, so there’s a lot of people in the room that are drunk and doing business. I get it. You have to get your hustle on. But, it’s hard for a performer. In order to take command of a room like that is very difficult. So, I always get nervous before I start. But, once I’m in a groove, and everyone’s at the moment with me, it’s nice.
How do you prepare for your performances?
I don’t know if y’all noticed, but I keep my eyes shut for the first song, sometimes two songs. I need to do that to connect and make sure I’m not in my head as much. Usually, at my shows, there are bright lights, smoke, and a bunch of people. So, you can’t really see anything. It’’s just a blur and it’s lit. But, ones like this where you can see everyone eye-to-eye and you see some people are here to do business, so they don’t really care. I feel if I close my eyes and sing from the depths of my soul, it’s easier to connect with people. Then, when I open my eyes, we’re all in the same moment.
What does it mean to perform during Grammy weekend as a Grammy-nominated artist?
It means a lot. I’m happy as hell. I’m happy about [being nominated]. I’m not happy about performing. I always get nervous at events like this. But, I’m really happy to be here during Grammys week. I’m really honored to be included. I’m honored to be brown-skinned and included. I’m honored to be in the category with multiple women. It’s beautiful.
What song of yours force you to tap into a deep emotional zone?
There’s a song I have called ‘Apple Juice’ that hurts still. Sometimes, I’ll cry. I’ve tried to work on self-love and growth, so I’ve almost changed the perspective on how I look at the song. The song is a love song to somebody who I had a lot of hope for, but I ended up viewing the song as a late love letter to myself. That makes me feel better when I’m singing. It helps me not cry when I’m singing it.
How have you improved as a performer over the years?
I used to be trash. What?! I used to be bad. It took a lot. It took practicing in the middle of Toronto at 2 a.m. under a street light because we didn’t have enough money to afford a rehearsal space and my manager bumping music out of his car and me using a water bottle as a mic. It went from that to concert rehearsals to singing lessons with multiple people like Robert Stevenson. Also, anytime I catch Beyonce doing runs on the ‘gram, I’ll watch it 100 times to try to mimic. I still can’t, but I try to emulate to try to get better.
Also, listening to the greats like Bob Marley. I listen to the soul in the songs, his riffs, and all of that — even his interviews. In his interviews, you could tell how present he is. I feel that translates when you go onstage and you’re like, ‘I’m not going to be in my head about this.’ Bob did that so well. Beyonce does so well. Amy [Winehouse] did that so well. I’ve studied them a lot. So, I feel like I’ve grown, but I still have a lot to go. I still have problems with pitch sometimes. I still have problems with breathing sometimes. I still can’t fucking play certain songs on the guitar for nothing. I still have a lot of room to go, but I feel like I’ve come a long way.
Your last tour was the ‘Being Human On Tour’ in late 2018. What did you learn on it?
I learned that health is everything because I used to lose my voice all of the time. It wasn’t until I started realizing that my body is like a machine. How the fuck am I going to eat a burger and expect my voice to sound perfect and last for all these shows? So, I took that information and started drinking a plethora of water every day. I wouldn’t eat dairy on show days. I wouldn’t eat anything fried on show days. I started doing those things and was able to expand my threshold because I was only able to do two shows back-to-back without losing my voice.
What is the most memorable fan reaction you’ve seen at a show?
The most memorable would have to be when this poor girl passed out during one of the meet-and-greets. They get to watch the soundcheck first and then we have a Q+A, we talk, and then we do the pictures. This is the beginning, they were all watching the soundcheck, and all I heard was (thud sound). I look over and everyone is rushing over there. For a big stage, there’s the stage and then there’s a barrier. She’s on the other side of the barrier and I’m like, ‘Fuck!’ I walk down there and she’s on the floor trying to come to. I’m like, ‘Oh my god. Are you OK?’ My manager is like, ‘Jessie, go away! You’re going to make it worse!’ (Laughs). She was a little frazzled but she was good.
You recently announced your debut album, Before Love Came To Kill Us, is coming in March. Do you have songs on it that you made thinking of how they’ll translate at live shows?
Not really. I know some people who do that, but I don’t like to aim when I’m creating. I know some people who do that and it’s no knock to them. Some people like to walk in the room and go, ‘OK, today we’re going to make a song to send to this person, talking about this, with this sound because this is what the album is missing.’ But, I don’t like to do that because I feel like anytime I try to do that, it feels oppressive. It’s always been to create and once it’s done, it’ll tell me what it is.
Do you listen back to your upcoming album and know if songs are going to hit live?
(Sly grin) Yeah. Yeah, there [are].