Arrive at JFK fully expecting a thorough, Trump era inspection and interrogation. However, I breeze through immigration and even have a nice conversation with Errol, my inspector. Although his authority muscle was flexed a little when questioned what music I was playing. “I play bass for James Blunt” I reply. “Who?” he says “That’s Showbiz” I quip……..!!!! An icy stare falls onto the once happy face of Errol. “I only like rap” are his final words as he stamps my passport and shouts “Next”
3 hours sleep. 4am lobby call. It’s Good Morning America live performance today of “OK”, Blunt’s new single here in the States. This track is quite personal for me as they are releasing a version of the track that I remixed along with James, as the main version to radio here in the States. You need to have many strings to the bow to make a living in music these days. We’re all in a daze as we check our hire gear. God knows what time our crew arrived but all the gear is set up and ready to go. Writing this a few days later and I can’t remember much about the performance but the label and management all seemed happy. I think. Or maybe I dreamt that…!!!
Jet lag and the general buzz of being in New York means an attempted snooze doesn’t happen. So Pembers (keys), Kristoff (drums) and I go for a power walk around Central Park. Gotta take the opportunities to stay in shape on the road. Something I’ve learned over the years. And failed at mostly..!!! Central Park is such a wonderful place. It never fails to impress. A perfect way to pass a few hours off. Days like this I feel very privileged to be doing what I do.
We then head off to another TV studio to perform on the Seth Myers Show. The studio is bloody freezing. It’s always the way with US TV shows. God knows why. There must be a reason. No idea what that is though. But it’s full jacket wearing performance for this show. Which is odd as it’s 27oC outside. A planned big night out in NYC is thwarted by jetlag that eventually kicks in too hard to ignore. Early night for us boring folk. How very un rock n roll…!!!
5am wake up. Not for any particular reason. Just jetlag. But that’s ok in NYC. I go out and wander the streets for 4 hours interspersed with coffee breaks. I still love this city. I lived here for 2 years back in 2006/7. It still feels like home. There’s an energy that emanates through the floor here. You can feel it coming out the walls of the buildings and skyscrapers. Everyone is here for a reason. There is a focus here that brings out the creative side in everyone who has one. I still love it and today I soak it up.
We are performing on Kelly and Ryan TV show today. Another freezing studio. A trailer filled with farmyard animals is parked right outside our dressing room. The odd ‘Moooo” and Baaahaaaa” interrupting James’ vocal warm up are highly amusing breaks to the tedious boredom of TV world. Still no idea why they were there as they never appeared on the show…!! Slightly gutted that the very cute Kelly is on holiday. It’s always a treat for the eyes playing on her show.
The boredom is abruptly shattered when we are told we have to lose 30 seconds of the track. We have already soundchecked so it’s a strategic edit arranged, board meeting style, around the table with no way of checking. Times like this we are thankful we are a fully live band with no backing track. We visually cue the changes live on air while being broadcast to millions. It’s times like this you know you are alive. It works. No time to stress or panic. We nail it. 3 mins dead. Everyone is happy. And we are done for the day. With nothing but a fight tomorrow, there is a palpable air of excitement amongst the band.
We head downtown to my favourite Italian restaurant in NYC called Emilio’s Ballato. It’s an old school mafia style Italian that I was introduced to when I lived here. Emilio is a terrifying, yet lovable character who sits at the door. Always does. Has done for decades. You only have to imagine a mafia style Italian restaurant owner with a gravelly voice who has to occasionally pop out to “take care of business” to know what he looks like. The mental picture you have now……. That’s Emilio. The first time I came here, Sting was sat at the first table with Jay Z and Rhianna. It’s that kinda place. Emilio Jnr takes us to a table and explains the menu in his “baddabing” way. It’s so cliché one or 2 of our party suspect it’s all a show. But I know for a fact it is not. The family back in Sicily send over the ingredients twice a week. All 3 of Emilio’s sons work at the place. It’s the real deal. And it’s awesome.
Tonight we are all on the guest list of the Imelda May gig at Webster Hall. Pembers, our keyboard player, is Imelda’s player too. He depped out the last 2 Imelda gigs as they clashed with the Blunt tour. But coincidence means we are all here in NYC. The band are amazing and Imelda’s voice soars in this place. A great old school sweaty gig. We hang out with the band at an Irish bar around the corner after the show. God knows what time we finished but it was a long hazy walk back to the hotel.
Flight to Kansas today. We arrive to find they have not sent the mini bus that we asked for, but a car….!!! For 12 of us. So we squeeze in 3 cars with gear and bags on our laps. It’s not all glamour…!!
June 29 It’s the first day of our Ed Sheeran support today. Kansas City the first show. Still jetlagged. I’m up and wide awake at 5am. I decide to check out Kansas. I set off on a head clearing 90 minute walk. In the space of a few minutes, the sky turns apocalyptic black and I’m suddenly in the middle of an almighty downpour and a violent thunder storm. Flash floods come hurtling down the street. It’s actually pretty scary. But awesome too. Mother nature flexing her muscle and reminding us how insignificant we all are. Trash cans hurtling down the street. I run back to the hotel and watch the storm from the safety of my hotel window.
The tour bus pulls up outside our hotel. Always a hugely
exciting moment. There’s something about American tour buses. It’s probably
subconsciously linked to the childhood dream of touring the States that most
musicians had at some point. But also just how cool the busses look. This is
home for the next 2 months.
We get to the venue.
The Sprint Arena. Sold Out 16,000. We meet Ed and all the crew. They are
all super nice and friendly which is a welcome relief. It’s not always the
case. The support act can occasionally be treated as a lesser entity. But not
here. I think the fact James is such a big name in his own right helps. And the
fact James and Ed are friends. Ed co-wrote some of the tracks on James’ new
album and we even recorded one of them at Ed’s house earlier in the year.
We soundcheck the whole set. It feels a bit weird. Ed does
his thing with just an acoustic guitar and a loop pedal. And rarely sound
checks. So seeing all our full band gear on his stage feels a little intrusive
on his minimal set. But again, Ed’s crew are all super helpful and asking if we
need anything. We iron out a few
issues from the rehearsals and drop a song as we creep over our allocated 40
My Bass Set up.
James and I then play a quick 3 song set unamplified on
acoustic guitars for 25 competition winners. We haven’t worked out the songs
before on acoustics so it’s very much on the fly. But they all seem thrilled.
Ed pops in to wish us luck as we all do our vocal warm ups.
We go on.
It’s a younger crowd than we are used to. It’s quite clear
pretty early on that a few of them have no idea who James is. I guess it is 12
years since his debut album was no.1 here in the States. But rather sweetly,
you can see a lot of the crowd are holding their phones with the lyrics on and
are attempting to sing along. So cute.
James announces “most of you were probably conceived to this
song” as he strikes up the opening chords to the world wide smash that is “You’re
Beautiful”. You can see the penny drop in the audience. And in a scene
reminiscent of an 80’s style cheesy high school movie, the crowd slowly all get
to their feet and whoop, with fists in the air as they all realise ‘it’s that
guy’. It’s an amazing moment. And from that point on it’s an amazing show.
James gets all the 16,000 to their feet as he piano surfs during the outro of
We all come off and have a post gig huddle. It’s a success.
There’s always a slight element of doubt before a support gig. But those doubts
are put to bed tonight. Ed pops in before his set and pours us all a mandatory Tequila.
Ed hits the stage to an ear splitting shrill of 16,000 very excited people. It’s an amazing spectacle. Just a man and a guitar
with a loop pedal. He is a master of his craft. Everyone is on their feet. From
the hardcore fans at the front to the reluctant parents on the very back row,
Ed has them all in the palm of his hand. With just the occasional look down at
his loop pedal multi track set up, the accompaniments he makes on the fly with
his voice and beating the guitar body for percussion, it’s seamless. And mighty
So i got put in floral today instead of my normal cashiering. I was already looking forward to this change. Ed Sheeran in town right now, doing shows yesterday and today.
Like half an hour into my shift, the girl who was giving me a crash course in the department answered a call. I waited, watching as her face went from neutral, to alarmed, to calculating, to excited. I raised an eyebrow as she was saying “Yes, yes, I can put that together in 5-7 minutes.” and then hung up. I was like “what was that??” and she said with both excitement and stress “We have five to seven minutes to make a floral arrangement for Ed Sheeran’s manager!!”
So we raced around and were just putting the finishing touches on it when the person buying it arrived, paid for it and left in a hurry.
Omg! Ed Sheeran’s manager!!! We were half hoping Ed would be with the person picking it up but of course he wasn’t, haha. Still!! He might SEE those flowers!! Maybe he’ll think they’re pretty! Hehe.
One week ago today, Ed Sheeran played his first NFL stadium show right here at Gillette Stadium (with @kassieepstein - Gillette Stadium & Louis Messina/Messina Touring Group).
Were you here for the epic show?!