Tour Tales | Adrian Miller helped turn Anderson .Paak from an unknown to in demand
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Anderson .Paak’s former manager and business partner discusses the star’s pre-fame rise, performances and more.
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.’
Adrian Miller was looking for the next D’Angelo when he came across pre-fame Anderson .Paak in 2011. Almost a decade since he’s helped manage the recording artist’s career and grow his live show from a good time to a sustainable business.
“If you tell A.P. he’s going to be make $2 on a show, he’s going to spend $3 to make the show,” Miller told REVOLT with a laugh. “As a manager, I’m like, ‘Bro, I want this to grow, but we also have to make a living. This isn’t just for everybody’s enjoyment. This is also a business.’”
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” .Paak’s former manager and business partner discusses the star’s pre-fame rise, performances and more. Read below!
You wanted to work with Anderson .Paak before you ever saw him perform live, right?
That’s correct. I partnered with Dominique [Trenier], who was D’Angelo’s manager. I need you to understand this was 100% divine intervention. There was a real play in me trying to find the next wave of what we’re looking for. I actually met Anderson by way of a rap group TiRon & Ayomari. Dominique and I were managing them together. They had a record on their demos, which eventually landed on the album, that essentially featured him [“My Supernova”]. It felt very much like Native Tongues. This was around 2011, maybe 2012.
What was the thought process behind building his live show early on?
Our goal was to do as many shows as possible. What I brought was the opportunity. They had been doing shows, but I said we needed to create our own reason for a show. That involved creating a body of work that stood for something that we could put a regular show together with, which became his first residency at The Lyric Theater on La Brea [in July 2014]. Everything was plotted out for that between he and I — from the flyers to how we were going to do it to us having our private stash of alcohol in the back because they didn’t serve alcohol (laughs).
We were fucking people’s heads up with that residency every week. That’s how he got signed to CAA… When you came to that residency we did, it was a church. It was a service and a ceremony. That boy ruled that stage like nobody’s business.
What were those early Anderson .Paak shows like?
It was very well thought out. He thought out what he would do from start to finish. Then, he would go on stage and do whatever else he wanted to do because he was just catching the holy ghost up there. You were getting the opportunity of seeing someone in their own realm. He would get off stage and be like, “What did you think? How was it?” He was very conscious of how to get better. He wanted excellence. He demanded excellence. I once put him on stage with Stevie Wonder. Stevie left him on stage to go pee like, “You got it, kid?” (laughs).
What was the first tour you were on with him?
The first tour wasn’t with his band The Free Nationals. He was part of a band for a guy named Watsky. He produced Watsky’s entire album and Watsky allowed him to open up for him on the “All You Can Do Tour” in 2014. Anderson was in his own lane. We would look at each other from across the room in the middle of a soundcheck and say, “Yeah, we got them.” I was just fanboying him. Watsky allowed him to open up and play for him. He came home and was ready to go right back out. That’s when I figured out he just loved being on stage. Some people like notoriety and fame. He loves the stage.
How did the overseas crowd affect his live show early in his career?
Us going to Australia was a big deal. Australia’s version of KCRW is called ABC. This was us going into Venice. Us being in Australia was supposed to be a one-off show, but our agent was able to line up a bunch of shows. That’s where I wanted to tie in with radio and we did. He got on the radio, did a few drops, and the radio people came out and recorded one of the shows. From there, he blew up. We went to Paris and did a show. Chris Brown came and was like “What the fuck is going on?” because he didn’t get it at first. It started to really ignite because it was Fashion Week in Paris.
What was Anderson’s touring experience with Bruno Mars on that “24k Magic World Tour” in 2017?
Bruno Mars was top of the food chain. I don’t want to say Anderson had just got his show together, I think he could finally afford [what he wanted to do]. If you tell A.P. he’s going to be make $2 on a show, he’s going to spend $3 to make the show (laughs). As a manager, I’m like, “Bro, I want this to grow, but we also have to make a living. This isn’t just for everybody’s enjoyment. This is also a business. I know you want to give them everything. But, you did all these shows with Watsky without all of this and it was the same thing. Why not go back to that?” I think artists tend to want to do things at a certain tier. Of course, if you’re going up against Bruno Mars, you don’t want to feel like you’re not the shit.
What’s on Anderson’s rider?
He’s not really too particular. At first he was like, “I only want fish.” He was pretty healthy. Then, he realized, “Wait, I can have anything (laughs)?” Before a show, he’ll eat a whole half of a meal right in front of you and you know he needs that because he’s jumping up and down on stage, on the mic, bouncing in the audience, on the drums, and stage diving. If you don’t keep up with him on stage, you won’t know where he is five minutes into the show.
What went into putting together his first Afropunk set?
It was never dull with Anderson. Going from one stage to the other was pretty much his M.O. He loves bouncing around. That’s why we didn’t do a bunch of afterparties because he’d do the whole damn show he just did again because he doesn’t have a cutoff switch.
What are his “Tour Hits”?
“Drugs” was a big record that eventually became a huge song. “Come Down” is a no-brainer. Another sleeper was “GLOWED UP.” When that came on, he had a dance routine around that. A lot of people didn’t know it was him on that song.
Before Mac Miller passed, he and .Paak’s “DANG” record was beginning to heat up. Do you have any performance memories from that?
When we did “DANG” at Camp Flog Gnaw Festival in 2016, that was special. That felt really dope. People were really receptive.
Another defining performance of Anderson’s was performing during Dave Chapelle’s 2017 residency at Radio City Music Hall.
Dave is always a huge fan. Anderson’s music and live show was always put in front of our friends behind the scenes who would leak it to their friends. I don’t know if they discovered it on their own, but a lot of times they didn’t have a choice but to hear it. If Corey [Smyth], Dave’s manager, is running around fucking with Anderson [it is] because I sent it to him. There is a layer of delivering the records around to tastemakers that never gets spoken about.
As someone who was there from the start, what is the most memorable Anderson performances you were a part of?
The Brixton Academy performance we did [in March 2018] where we brought out Dr. Dre was one. Just getting Dre out to perform is a production in itself. Another one is the Coachella performance [in April 2016] where we brought out Gary Clark Jr. in the first weekend, and Dr. Dre and Kendrick in the second weekend. Those were the most phenomenal times because you don’t know you have that capacity until you actually do it. The most memorable show was us doing The Palladium [on December 10, 2016]. People didn’t know we were ready for it. Live Nation [was] believing in us. I was like, “Oh shit, we’re spending almost $100,000 for a show (laughs).” We ended up doing the show and it was dope. I helped bring out Busta [Rhymes], T.I., Stevie, and all the friends and celebrities out. We had a full-blown orchestration. The room was super packed. I’m the ultimate manager when it comes to being in a position to make it work.
By that time, we had given you Malibu. We built the Malibu Beach Inn on stage with an upstairs and downstairs. It was so dope.
How did you connect with Mereba?
I have been blessed to be mentored by very bright individuals from Benny Medina to my brother David Ellington, king of the bitcoin business world (laughs). Also, Channing Johnson is my attorney. At the time, Channing had some people he wanted me to meet up and connect with. He connected me to Stevie’s camp. Mereba was working with Stevie and I met her through Stevie’s ex-wife/business partner. This was around 2016/2017.
How have you developed her show over the years?
Her show is way more quieter than Anderson’s. Her detail isn’t any different. She has her own way of being so on top of what makes her show work. Her show evolved from being more acoustic guitar driven to having a full-blown band with the symmetry of an album to work from. You can go out there and do shows all you want, but if you don’t have a performance piece and an album that people have had an opportunity to check out knowing that you’re coming, then you’re kinda swinging in the dark.
What were some notable fan reactions she’s received?
I don’t have one instance. It’s always special moments. She has people giving her gifts all of the time. People are giving her opportunities right on the side stage. She’s very warm and welcomes the opportunity to perform.
What was your first touring experience with her?
I did a big performance at the SoHo house with Mereba and Stevie. That was a coming out of sorts. Stevie did his introduction of her and she’s been flying on her own since then. Her and Stevie were performing Bob Dylan records together. It was a very private, but packed show in Malibu on the beach. It was one of the most memorable shows I was part of with her. There were so many people there. I would look up and Pierce Brosnan is there. Leonardo DiCaprio is there. They wanted to talk to Stevie and take pictures with him, but then they became fans of her…
How do you feel 2020’s lack of shows will affect the touring industry moving forward?
It was a hard reset. Before, we have had zero opportunities to really look at things from other perspectives. Are the promoters gouging? Are festivals unsafe environments for women? These hard questions are starting to get asked. I ask that we put it all in perspective where every show is not Woodstock. Every show can’t be Woodstock or we don’t grow the art enough to have a balance. There has to be Apollos and the opportunity for artists to be seen on a regular basis at colleges. There has to be an opportunity to see things at a smaller scale before it gets to a bigger scale.
I think the hard reset for shows in 2020 has given us the capacity to go direct. I had been telling people to use YouTube. I was there when D-Nice had a group of us listen to him. It was maybe 1,000 people, if that. When he got on Instagram he was like, “Should I start deejaying?” I was like, “Nigga, why are you asking? Do it! Why are you on here talking and you’re a DJ.” He was cracking up and next thing you know…boom!
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