Bringing an artist from the streams to the stage for their first tour is a delicate process, and tour manager Paul Anthony Ashby has done so for two of the most promising young artists — Capella Grey and India Shawn. With Shawn, he saw the raw emotions she expelled when her famous collaborators showed support by sharing the stage.
“That show brought tears to her eyes because I don’t think she knew [Anderson .Paak and 6LACK] would come. It was an idea. But they’re both big artists, so you never know if they had something scheduled. But I found out probably 20 minutes before her set that they showed up,” Ashby told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” he describes spending Thanksgiving on the road with India Shawn, Joey Bada$$ and Capella Grey’s friendship backstage, and mentally getting back into touring mode after 18 months off.
Check out a first-hand account of Capella Grey and India Shawn’s growth on the stage in our exclusive interview with Paul Anthony Ashby below.
India Shawn opening up for Mayer Hawthorne in late 2021 was your first time tour managing since the pandemic shut down Baby Rose’s “To Myself Tour” in 2020. What did you have to get adjusted to?
Man, I had to remember how to pack, choose between hotels and Airbnb, and figure out the routing. My body had to get acclimated to eating fast food again. Touring is fast-paced — you’re in a city, sleeping, and then getting back out. So, it was more of a mental thing I don’t think you can prepare for at home. In five days, I can be in seven states.
How did you connect with India Shawn?
I have to shout out one of my big homies, my mentor, Chris Patterson. He manages her and told me she was going on tour. That was her first time being on tour as a solo artist. She was in a group with the Free Nationals, so that was her first tour as a solo artist. So, I had to look out.
She once wrote on Instagram: “This is what it feels like to have fans at shows.” So, what was her reaction to the crowds?
I think she was more shocked people were coming to shows to see her. She wasn’t singing with Anderson .Paak or the Free Nationals. She was singing songs she wrote and sang. She was extremely grateful. Especially when we get to those cities in the middle of the United States where you didn’t think nobody would know you. You do a break, thinking you’ll hear silence, and you hear multiple fans singing your ad-libs.
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How critical was she of each show?
India was critical of herself. If the sound wasn’t working, she took the blame. She would say, “I have to do better.” I would tell her, “No, India. You can’t take fault for the speakers.” She would say, “I have to hit a higher range. I have to prepare for that. I have to be more diligent at soundcheck.” India would run through the whole set at soundcheck, and I’d tell her to save her voice. If she notices she spent too much time on the right side of the stage, she’ll look back at it and say, “I have to remember to go to the left side; I have to work the middle.” She always wanted to put on the best show possible.
Since these were all new fans, what songs did they gravitate toward?
As the tour kept going, people started learning more of her songs. Her song “Not Too Deep” featuring 6LACK got huge reactions from the crowd. Also, her song “Moving On” with Anderson .Paak was one of the fan-favorites from the start of the tour until the end.
How did you see her grow?
I would say her stage performance. When you’re a background singer, as she was before the tour, you’re used to not having the spotlight. You’re used to being able to stand at the mic and truly sing. But on this tour, it was just her and one of our good friends, Larry Lambert, who was playing the keys. So, all eyes were on her. It’s an entirely different world from being a background singer. She got comfortable with every show.
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I love that 6LACK and Anderson .Paak came out at her LA concert.
That show brought tears to her eyes because I don’t think she knew they would come. It was an idea. But they’re both big artists, so you never know if they had something scheduled. But I found out probably 20 minutes before her set that they showed up.
How were her interactions with the new fans she gained?
India would’ve stayed in that venue and helped them sweep if she could have talked to every fan. But instead, at every show, she would decompress, talk about the show, and then go back out to take pictures with the fans. She took every photo. She was respectful and didn’t want to be a distraction to the headliner.
Didn’t you all spend Thanksgiving on tour?
Yes, we did. One of my cousins came out with us. We played Uno, got an Airbnb, and had a potluck-style Thanksgiving where everybody cooked. We took a tour of Seattle together, argued over who won in Uno, went out to a couple of bars, and had a good time.
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You tour managed Capella Grey when he was on Joey Bada$$’ “1999-2000 Tour” in July 2022. How’d you connect with Capella?
One of my sisters in this touring game, Kyana [White], hit me and said, “Hey, I’m doing everything behind the scenes, and I’m not going to be able to go on the road. Can you come and be the tour manager for me?” I was up for it, but it was new because I never did a tour where the artist had an entourage involved.
What did you have to adjust to in regard to dealing with an entourage?
Capella’s a personable person. He’s a Leo like myself, so he tries to help. If you are his guy, you’re his guy. That may mean 20-50 people. We often had to get 30-40 people in, especially on the East Coast. I’m usually with singers who may have a family member or a couple of friends. With Capella, we had 30 or 40 people backstage, so I had to make sure [to know] who was with who and that nothing came up missing.
How did you help Capella put on his show?
That was his first tour ever. So, how India would come back, reflect, and want feedback, Capella was the same. He would say, “Paul, you are 14 tours in; this is my first one.” So, I would tell him, “You have to move a little more. You have to work the crowd. Let’s make sure you’re adding a little dance.” I thought sometimes he got a little nervous, but Capella said, “I’m from New York. I’m flashy. I’m fly. Let me get in my bag.” It was great watching his growth on that tour.
Joey and Capella did their song “Welcome Back.” What was their camaraderie like backstage?
That’s one of the things I do like about rappers. I sometimes think with singers, when they are getting ready, they’re drinking their teas and doing vocal warmups, so there is not really much camaraderie because everybody’s kind of getting in that zone. With Capella, we played ping pong and played pool before shows. We were coming to the dressing room, and Joey would be there saying things like, “What took y’all so long?” If we had a small dressing room, Joey would say, “Y’all come in my room; I have three couches.”
How would you describe a Capella Grey show?
It’s a party. His three best friends went on tour with us. One was like his manager, one was his hype man, and the other was ad-libbing and helping him onstage. They had known each other all their lives, so they had the chemistry where they knew when to switch sides on the stage. They knew when to high-five each other. They knew when to dance or whatever. Even with it being his first tour, I could truly tell they were ready for the moment.
What do you have coming up for the rest of the year?
Every artist I work with is getting ready to hit the road again. I know Baby Rose is about to drop a project. She’s about to head off to Europe. Then, we have a show in New York. Deante’ [Hitchcock] is getting ready to do his thing. Hopefully, we can squeeze a tour out of him. I also manage two artists, Neila and Dante Clay, who are both dropping projects. Capella Grey, rocking with me on tour, gave Neila a feature for her project. Between tours and putting on the manager hat, it’s going to be a busy year for me.