MUSIC ALL OVER ME
Anderson gives a personal account of performing on John Mayer’s North American arena tour, sharing stage with Rock and Roll royalty, and being the only Jamaican in the mix.
Suitcase, costumes, Excelsior Crackers, iPod.
I’ve been really blessed to work with wonderful musicians and to travel the world performing and making many people happy. Every tour marks a milestone in a musician’s career, and this arena tour has definitely been the biggest tour I’ve been on so far.
This has been my longest North American tour to date! Together with Michael Franti & Spearhead, we’ve embarked on John Mayer’ s Battle Tour, which crosses 47 cities in North America. Now let me try to put it all into perspective. Imagine waking up every day to perform to an average of 15,000 people in great venues such as Madison Square Garden and the Staples Centre. Imagine a place five times the size of Jamaica’s National Indoor Sports Centre and recognise that John Mayer has the amazing ability to full such large venues with screaming fans. It’s not like a festival or what we are used to in Jamaica, thousands of fans are there to hear Mayer and I have been blessed to join Michael Franti and Spearhead as the opening act that they discover at each and every show.
The tour started on February 4th in Florida and we’ve been to some of the biggest arenas across the country. We’ve played two sold out nights at Madison Square Garden in New York City as well as home of the Los Angeles Lakers, the famed Staples Centre. If you’re a big NBA fan, you would be in heaven, as we get to use the locker rooms of all the home teams in the arenas we visited. In New Orleans we played at the American Airlines Centre; in Philadelphia, the Wachovia Centre; in Atlanta, the Phillips Centre, and in Houston Texas, the Toyota Centre. We’ve played all the major cities in the US as well as hitting fans in places like Omaha, Oklahoma City, Kentucky, Missouri, Las Vegas, and Ottawa and London on the eastern side of Canada. We have already completed 44 incredible shows and we’re headed to unusual places like Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada as well as a few more US stops in North Dakota, and one of my favourite cities, Chicago.
Many years of an overnight musical success
Many have asked, how are you so lucky? Don’t you feel nervous in front of all these people? The truth is, I’ve been working on my professional music career for about four years, but the journey started well before that. I’ve clocked countless hours serving other musicians coffee and tea, singing background vocals on records for many known and unknown artists, writing with and for other artist, performing on many stages all over the world (big and small), working a lot for free, and building solid relationships with musicians from all different genres and truly learning the ropes of the industry. After touring as an opening act for Michael Franti and Spearhead for the last fourteen months, as well as being featured on our Billboard charting hit Say Hey (I Love You) , Michael asked me to a part of their presentation as the official opening act for John Mayer’s North American Arena Tour. This decision was easy, and I was very grateful for the opportunity because I had never done a full arena tour and this was going to be new and exciting.
As opening act for the tour we’ve been so blessed to play to arenas that have been 90 per cent full when we get on the stage, and by the time we sing our hit Say Hey, everyone is on their feet dancing, kids are on the stage singing and the whole arena feels like a big session in Jamaica (only with the size of a Reggae Sumfest dancehall-night crowd, every night). Many people have no clue who we are when we get on stage, but by the end of the show the feedback is so overwhelmingly positive. I am really happy to be able to share dancehall-soul and Jamaica with this new audience. And though I don’t think they understand every word, they feel the energy and I do meet and greet with fans after every show and many subscribe to my social networking pages like Facebook, Twitter, actively watch Cherine TV on Youtube and have even purchased my EP The Introduction-Dubstyle online.
One of the most touching things that happened to me on this tour was meeting a lady by the name of Charla. It was my first time meeting her and she had the warmest smile. I have a routine where I go out to meet with the fans every night and she came by to take a picture. It seemed as though she had really enjoyed the show and was smiling and dancing. A few days later her husband informed me through my Facebook page that she had passed away and that the last picture she had taken was the one with me. He said she was so happy and had so much fun at the concert. In the words of her husband, Jeremy, “Cherine, I lost my beautiful wife today and the last date we had together was your show in Dallas. We had a chance to meet you after the show, and she was so excited and also please thank John (Mayer) for my family for helping her. Words can’t express how much that night meant to her, and I thank you for making her feel so special”.
Among musical greatness
I’ve had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of the seeing the famous Aurora Borealis in rare form actively changing colour and dancing across the Canadian sky for more than an hour as we drove from Alberta to Saskatoon. Every day is like musical college as I’m learning from the experience and stories of not only musicians but also the crew, many of who have been doing this for the last 40 years. It is awe-inspiring to be walking the halls, have lunch and share jokes with legendary musicians such as Steve Jordan, Robbie Mackintosh among others. Some have worked for years with bands including legends like U2, Pink Floyd, Stevey Ray Vaughn, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder. As one of the youngest artists and only Jamaican on the tour, I feel like a sponge just taking in everything and staying healthy and happy. It has also been inspiring to see more women on the road this time around.
The tour does not come without its challenges. I’ve missed the comfort of a stable bed, totally exhausted my supply of Excelsior Water Crackers and plantain porridge from the sachets. But I’ve had friends and family come out to a few shows and that’s always fun. When you are on tour for a long time you sometimes get to a point where you miss the small things about Jamaica, the accent, being able to hang out and talk to your friends and family when you feel like, but that’s when you realise this is also a job and you have to be professional.
The whole experience has only confirmed for me that entertainment is what I’m made to do. It has made me more hungry and more committed to being not just a better singer but a better musician, writer and performer. This has been an amazing experience and I’ll be taking an exciting next step as I’ll be heading out to work on my debut album. Through the direction of my manager Patrick Lindsay and the support of Michael Franti this tour have really given me another level of exposure and understanding of performing live and touring. I have truly enjoyed meeting many, many great fans and have performed with truly great musicians.