You’ve heard drummer CJ Thompson’s impact on your favorite live shows from Cardi B, Chris Brown, and Roddy Ricch even if you haven’t seen him. While the 10-year-plus touring veteran has journeyed around the world with singers like Tamia, he’s recently been recording live drums for artists to take on tour as a result of a pandemic-influenced shift in the music industry.

Since COVID happened, that’s when it started going crazy. When the virus hit, everybody had to do livestreams at that point. So, between 2020 and now, that’s when recorded live tracks had a really, really big boost,” Thompson told REVOLT.

In this installment of “Tour Tales,” the acclaimed touring drummer talks performing in South Africa with Tamia, issues with Migos’ 2018 Coachella set, and how he recorded live tracks for your favorite artists.

One of your first gigs was with Tamia back in 2012. How did you get used to touring with her?

I first started playing with her when her Beautiful Surprise album came out. We did like a two-week promo tour. She was super cool, laid back, easy to work with, and had no drama on the road. So it’s really cool working with her. It’s still cool working with her.

How involved is she in what you do for her live show?

She’s pretty straightforward. She likes it how the record is unless there’s something that may be added. I think most artists these days kind of want it like that. There are very few that’ll let the band [go wild].

You also performed in South Africa with Tamia. How did that experience work out? What songs were the audience gravitating toward?

They loved all of her hit songs. They loved “So Into You,” “Can’t Get Enough,” and “Still.” The way the set was, they hit you back to back to back to back. It was beautiful. The [music director] sped up “So Into You” and added a couple of hits to bring some life to it and make it a little more live for the live performance’s sake. But, we still wanted to keep it as the record so that the fans could identify with it. You don’t want to touch hit records too much.

You recorded for Roddy Ricch’s current tour. What does it mean to record for a tour?

He didn’t take a live band out, so we pretty much recorded the live show tracks for him. So, it sounds live, but we’re not there (laughs). That process is quite tricky because you’re playing in the studio, but you have to play as if you are in front of 10,000 people. Sometimes you may not feel the energy because it’s just you in a room by yourself. So, you have to create that energy. I also recorded for Chris Brown and sometimes with Chris, certain dance moves or certain hits may change for a song I’ve already recorded. So, I may need to go and record again because some choreography has changed or specific arrangements changed.

In the hip hop and R&B space, what was your favorite tour to drum?

K. Michelle was pretty fun. When you’re touring, you live on a bus with 12 to 15 people. I know situations can happen when you get on the bus with these people, and y’all don’t even like each other. You playing on stage is 20 percent of it. The additional 80 percent is off the stage and all of that. K. Michelle’s tour was probably one of my favorites because we had so much fun offstage. Once we went to a stage to play, there wasn’t any pressure. That was in 2018.

Same question as before with Tamia: How involved is K. Michelle in her live show?

She was super involved. She knows what she wants. She knows what she doesn’t like. She will let you know what she doesn’t like. A song like “Rich” is one where she wanted a little more live drumrolls and stuff like that. I’m the type to go on 100 unless you tell me not to. I’m going to play the track.

How do you stay sharp on the road?

I try to drink as much water as possible because I cramp up a lot between my hands and feet. Regarding preparation for the music, I’m usually already locked in, so it’s just muscle memory for me at that point as far as knowing where all the triggers are.

You also performed with Migos for 2018 Coachella. What was that experience like?

I remember something happened with the playback (laughs). I want to say it was either playback or front of house where basically all the patching was wrong. I remember we were sitting on stage for about 30 minutes. We were supposed to start our performance about 30-45 minutes prior, but they were trying to get all the patching together. Everybody was mad. Artists were getting mad backstage because they didn’t know what was happening. But, all in all, it worked out.

You have also done spot dates for Migos. What sticks out to you about their dynamic on stage?

Quavo is the most hands-on. Quavo knows what he wants and what he likes to hear. When we were in rehearsal with him, I almost thought he was a musician. He knew what he was talking about. You work with somebody so much that the vibe is just there. I can tell that with those guys. Once they came together, it wasn’t really a lot of talking. They just did what they do.

Have you missed any personal life moments because of a live show?

My daughter’s birthday was Sept. 23, and I had to play Global Citizens Festival with Charlie Puth on Sept. 24. So, I missed that week. But that’s the price of having to provide for your family.

Speaking of recording live music for big performances, didn’t you also record for Cardi B’s Wireless Festival performance this year?

Yeah. That was for Mitch “Catalyst” Cohn, the same music director for Chris and Roddy. He hit me up for Cardi. He’s a genius, bro. Also, Adrian Porter did the Cardi B show.

Have you noticed an increase in artists wanting live instrumentation recorded for their tours versus bringing the band on the road?

Yeah. Since COVID happened, that’s when it started going crazy. When the virus hit, everybody had to do livestreams at that point. So, between 2020 and now, that’s when recorded live tracks had a really, really big boost.

Of all the artists you’ve toured with, which one has the best vocals live?

Either Charlie Puth or Tamia. With Tamia, she literally sounds just like her records. She sounds flawless. Charlie is on point as well.

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

Charlie’s album is about to drop, so we’re doing a lot of promo for that. He’s about to do a two-week run, and then we’re going overseas late November into December. Then, we got some other stuff coming up next year.