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.’
For more than 15 years, guitarist Rayfield “RayRay” Holloman has made songs from Eminem, Diddy, N.E.R.D. and more larger than life on stage. Being that close to an artist has afforded the musician a view of their impact seldom seen by fans.
“I’ve seen a few girls in the crowd topless at Eminem shows. I’m not going to hold you, I love shit like that,” he jocularly told REVOLT. “I love when you give it your all and be free. I think it was in Australia when we toured a few years ago. I’ve seen people bare it all out there.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” the long-time guitarist speaks on Diddy’s dance instructions on tour, adding guitar flips to hip hop classics, and why touring will never be the same. Read below.
What was your first major tour?
My first actual tour was with Robbie Pardlo from City High in 2004. After they broke up, they did their own separate thing and Robby did a two-week tour in Germany. That was the first time I had been on tour, been overseas, and even got on a plane. It was like a different life because I was so shocked about how they roll out the red carpet for performers. You’re not treated like a regular citizen or tourist. There were drinks everywhere. We had as much food as we wanted. Adam Blackstone was the [musical director] for that tour. Darrell Robinson was also drumming on that tour. Aaron Draper was also on that tour. The squad I’m super tight and close with was on that tour and started out together.
Who is the most meticulous artist with their live show?
The one that sticks out in my memory is working with P. Diddy and the Bad Boy Family on the reunion tour, which is one of the greatest tours I’ve participated in. I can recall we were rehearsing and it was probably early. Our call time for rehearsal might have been 11 o’clock that morning. We were rehearsing and trying to learn all of the parts. Puff showed up around 11:45 and I wasn’t dancing or being lively. I was literally just learning parts and going over the music. Once Puff saw me not dancing enough or being lively enough for him, that’s the first thing he said when he addressed us on the mic. He said, “Guitar player, I’m going to need you to dance. I can show you a two-step. Whatever you need, I got you. But, I’m going to need you to dance, playboy.” That spoke to me because, first of all, he’s someone I admire and respect. We weren’t at the final stages of rehearsals, but he still required certain attention to detail and that stuck with me. That showed me I have to be on point at all times. It also showed me how serious he is. There are no days off with Puff, you have to be 100 at all times.
As a guitarist, what Bad Boy classics did you add your own spin to on that tour?
On “Victory,” I remember Diddy telling us to leave it all there. There were some distorted guitar parts on that song, and that’s definitely something you wouldn’t hear on the actual record version of the song. But, when we played it live, that rock guitar distortion element was present in the live version of things. The song I loved playing because of nostalgia was “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” because of the sample from Niles Rogers, one of my favorite producers of all time. Also, that was one of the first hip hop songs I heard and identified with when I was younger in the 8th grade. I grew up in church, so I wasn’t allowed to listen to any secular music at all. The only time I was able to hear music that wasn’t gospel was on the school bus going to school and I remember being introduced to hip hop through that song.
That “Bad Boy Reunion Tour” had special guests from Kanye West to Mary J. Blige. How was it adjusting to playing with those guests?
They gave us a little warning beforehand, maybe at soundcheck that same day, saying, “‘Ye is coming out.” We were in Cali at The Forum and Dr. Dre came out with Snoop Dogg. One that sticks out was when Mary J. Blige came out. It was such a pleasure. I also remember Jodeci came out when were in Atlanta. It basically felt like Summer Jam every night. It was a three-hour show.
So, you had to learn how to play their music the day of the show after rehearsing an entire other show?
Yeah, we had to sort all of that out at soundcheck. Adam [Blackstone] made sure they sent us the sketches of the songs they were going to do, so we can listen to them and tighten them up at soundcheck. I think that speaks to the versatility of the band to switch it up and deliver it that night of the show.
From there, how did you connect with Eminem?
Adam Blackstone. He’s the chief dot connector. My introduction to Em was me filling in for Adam playing bass. Adam asked me and it felt like a daunting task because the guitar is my main instrument. To fill in for someone as skilled as Adam on a show with Eminem felt a little daunting at first. I definitely got through it. Once I met Eminem, I saw how cool and down to earth he was. In rehearsals, he’d be cracking jokes. It made me feel comfortable in that space. It was a relaxed atmosphere. He doesn’t make you feel you have to meet a certain standard. As long as you’re doing your job, you’re good. It was awesome to see how someone who is such a legend could be humble and super chill. I’ve seen large crowds at 50,000 seat stadiums and festivals. But, I had never played crowds larger than Eminem crowds. When Eminem does a show, especially overseas, it’s no less than 60,000 in the audience. To be in Milan, look out in the crowd, and there are 98,000 people there, I’m like, “Oh my! He’s a god.” They were all there to see him.
What is the wildest fan reaction you’ve seen at an Eminem show?
I’ve seen a few girls in the crowd topless at Eminem shows. I’m not going to hold you, I love shit like that (laughs). I love when you give it your all and be free. I think it was in Australia when we toured a few years ago. I’ve seen people bare it all out there.
What song during his shows do you feel fans can hear your biggest contribution?
I think one song where the guitar is highlighted would be on the song “The Way I Am.” At the end of that song when he performs it, there’s a guitar solo. It’s a highlight of the show. It’s when Em walks off and allows him to go backstage to take a breath. At the same time, it’s a very dynamic moment musically.
You can miss a bunch of life moments on tour. What are some that you have?
I’ve missed weddings for close friends that I’d rather not miss. I was doing a Ne-Yo show overseas and I couldn’t get out of that. I didn’t want to miss my close friend’s wedding but when I give my word, I don’t go back on that, especially when it comes to business. I also missed my little brother’s school concert when I was out on tour with N.E.R.D.
What is it like performing with N.E.R.D. compared to any other artist you’ve performed with?
First of all, Pharrell is R&B, rock, hip hop, and soul wrapped up into one. N.E.R.D. was such an alternative-type of a group with a sound that was very different. Prior to that, I had done hip hop and R&B gigs, but I had never done a rock gig like that. It was a different world and something I was so proud to be part of. They are some of the greatest artists I’ve ever worked with. They love Pharrell in Europe.
What shows did the pandemic cancel for you and what will be its long-lasting effect on touring?
In 2020, I had a whole calendar full of shows with a band called Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Robert is family to me and I’ve been touring on and off with him since 2006. We had a lot of shows lined up for 2020 that got cut short along with other possible opportunities. Even with Eminem, there were some things that were in the works that got shut down.
Moving forward, at least for the foreseeable future, I don’t see touring coming back in the way it was previously. I don’t think the number [of COVID-19 cases] will get down low enough to allow that to happen. With the vaccine and people becoming immune to the virus in the future, I do think it’s possible that we’ll get back to touring in maybe 2022 or 2023. I do think the touring landscape will never be the same in terms of the size of crowds. Mass crowds for touring won’t be a thing in the future. I think it’ll be non-existent. I hope I’m wrong. I do think, at some point, we’ll get back to club venues like House of Blues. I don’t think the big festivals will be happening any longer.