/  07.12.2022

When it came to bringing new generations of R&B acts such as Lucky Daye, Elle Varner and H.E.R. to the stage, Jason Hobdy did more than a typical tour manager would do.

“Doing a 10-hour drive on a tour bus [with H.E.R.] was a luxury. Let’s go back to Elle Varner, when we had to do the 10-hour drives in the sprinter and I had to be the driver,” Hobdy told REVOLT. 

For this installment of “Tour Tales,” the in-demand tour manager talks Elle Varner’s prodigal prowess on stage, getting Lucky Daye accustomed to touring, and Maeta wowing Jazmine Sullivan fans on the “Heaux Tales Tour.” 

What do you remember about the first Elle Varner show you went to?

I believe it was on the Estelle ‘[All Of Me] Tour’ with Elle, Luke James, and Stacy Barthe. That experience was phenomenal. That was my first real tour. I learned a lot. I learned how anything could go wrong on the road, and it’s all about preparation and being quick with my reactions to get things back in line. Elle was a natural on the stage. One of her superpowers was all she needed was a mic and a stage. Of course, like any artist, she had to learn the nuances of the stage and how to control the audience

You said you have to be prepared for anything on the road. What are some things you had to get better at on that tour?

I’ll give you one thing that went wrong that wasn’t my fault but was my fault. I remember the day we were flying out to start the tour, and somebody at RCA [Records] was working with us to book our flights. Our flights were on the wrong day when we headed to the airport. We almost missed the show. Luckily, that was an off day, so we flew out the day before the show. We had to wait until the day of the show to fly out. Thank God we were able to get a flight that got us in two hours before the show. After that, I made sure that if anyone booked our flights, I had to see and double-check the details personally. 

I remember possibly seeing you at one of Elle Varner’s 2012 SOBs shows.

You did see me because not only was I her tour manager, I was her project manager. That’s the beauty of us over at MBK. We do a lot of our tour management and everything in-house. I started as a project manager, and then had to go on the road to learn the road. I became good at the road to the point where I could start my own business because I was in high demand. That first SOBs show was crazy. It was to the point where we put that show on sale and it sold out, so we had to put another show on sale that same night. So, she did two shows in one night. The line was down the block and around the block for the first show. The energy was high and she killed it.

 

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What was Elle’s show like early on?

From the performance perspective, we were getting back into real R&B. She would give you vocals and live instrumentation. The crowds knew all the words, and she was great to look at on stage.

You then went on the “Chapter V Tour” with Miguel, Elle Varner and Trey Songz. What was the camaraderie like for the relatively new artists at the time?

The camaraderie was great. Shout out to Trey Songz. He was very inviting and made sure she was taken care of. Miguel and Elle were coming up together, so they were friends. From that tour, we built relationships that still exist ‘til this day. It was a great experience. She was the only female on that tour, and it was a great experience. 

 

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What was your day-to-day role?

A lot of it remained the same. We would get to the new city, go out, and do radio and promo. Then, we’d go back and get her ready for sound check. Then, we’d have a meet-and-greet before the show. That was the routine, but there were some days when the routine was all off. I remember one time we had to jump off tour to do another show. We did that show, and our flight got canceled on our way back to the tour. So, we had to spend a night at the airport. The next day, she caught the flight out. We had to brush our teeth and freshen up as soon as we landed. She had to change as well. We experienced things like that for the first time together. I don’t think I want to experience that now (laughs). 

How did touring develop and foster your personal relationship with Elle?

It definitely helped, but she and I already bonded. Before I worked on her project on MBK, I was working on a gospel project on MBK. Then, she and I got cool, and I started helping her with her project. Then it became, ‘Why don’t you help me with this project and be my project manager?’ So, I became her project manager, and we were close throughout the process of recording. We were like sister and brother. We looked out for each other. We got to experience traveling around the world together. The first few times I went to Japan were with Elle. 

 

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You toured with H.E.R. when she was on the “Heartbreak on a Full Moon Tour” with Chris Brown. I saw that you all were doing 10-hour drives on the tour bus. 

We did do 10-hour drives on the tour bus, but let me stop and rewind. Doing a 10-hour drive on a tour bus was a luxury. Let’s go back to Elle Varner, when we had to do the 10-hour drives in the sprinter and I had to be the driver (laughs). That was pretty rough and brutal. The way I see it, I have to do whatever I have to do to get it done. Sometimes that means exceeding our limits. To be honest, in the touring world, the behind-the-scenes people work hard to make that show come to life. Everybody has roles they have to play so the show can come off as it’s supposed to. 

You also went on the road with H.E.R. for her “I Used to Know H.E.R. Tour.” What was it like to put that together?

That was pretty cool because I was able to work with Misha Mayes. She is H.E.R.’s tour manager but she was juggling a few different jobs, so she asked me to help her with the tour. I would go out and be the body on the road. She helped put the show together and organized a lot of that. I ensured everyone was where they needed to be and had what they needed. It was a collaborative effort. 

 

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What was the hardest show you had to put together?

It wouldn’t be one show; it was a combination of shows. I’m proud of the run I did with Lucky Daye. I was just finishing up the ‘I Used to Know H.E.R. Tour ‘with H.E.R. in 2018. It hadn’t been a month since the tour ended and one of my friends managing Lucky Daye asked, ‘My artist is going on the road to open up with Ella Mai. I don’t trust anyone with him but you. Can you do it?’ I told her, ‘Nah, I want to go home. I just finished this tour. We’ve been on the road for the last two to three months. I’m ready to go home and see my family and son.’ She then told me, ‘I need you’ and I said, ‘Fuck it.’ So I actually went out with Lucky on his first tour. I had to reteach him how the road works, from the tour bus to the hotels to the stage and sound check. I broke the process down throughout our entire journey. But that helped him put on a hell of a show. He hasn’t slowed down since. I’m grateful to say I was a part of the start of his journey

What have you seen one hit do for an artist’s live show?

One song can change it all. One song can take an artist from opening the show to closing the show. It’s been surreal to see and witness. It’s like night and day. One minute I close my eyes, and you’re on one level. Then, I open my eyes, and there are now 50,000 people screaming your song word for word. To be part of that is refreshing. When ‘Refill’ hit for Elle, it went top 10, and it was a night-and-day difference. She would walk outside and would get recognized. We couldn’t walk down the street. 

I know you went on Jazmine Sullivan’s “Heaux Tales Tour” with Maeta. What was that like?

She killed that tour. She won over Jazmine’s audience and it was great to see. I watch some of the videos and still get shocked. During her tour show at House of Blues, the crowd lost their minds when she added Aaliyah’s ‘At Your Best’ to her set. They couldn’t stop screaming her name. 

 

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What do you have coming up for the rest of the year?

I have three priorities right now that are dropping projects. Tone Stith and Maeta will be dropping their projects. T.J. Adams will be dropping his third season on the Wu-Tang show on Hulu and a new project. So we have a lot of good stuff in store. 

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