Chris Kiely has tour managed countless artists including Jungle, Savages and Tricky and now spends a majority of time in artist management where he manages Amy Macdonald amongst others.
We catch up with him to chat about tour memories and lessons to live by….
You have worked with some big names in your Tour Manager career from the Magic Numbers to the Sugababes and now work in artist management. How did you get from your first job in the industry to where you are now?
I’ve always lived by the three Ds: Don’t be late. Don’t be sh*t. Don’t be a w*nker.
It’s important to never think you’re bigger than the gig – no matter who the act is, you’re just there to be a butler, and even as the manager now, I’m just the chief butler.
You’ve also worked as a backline tech covering everything from guitar to orchestral and percussion. Do you have a favourite instrument to work with or play one of your own?
I got into all of this by playing drums in a band – we finally got to a point where we could afford to pay a couple of guys (wassup Bobby Digital and Dan Halen) to set our gear up and drive us around, and come the end of the tour they both got paid and we ended up with, as my dad would say, three fifths of fuck all. It was at that point me and the bass player (wassup Hot Jon) made the decision on what side of the stage side curtain we wanted to be on.
I rarely play drums these days other than filling in for TV mimes a couple of times (there was literally no better option on wither occasion). My favourite guitar to work with would be a Gibson Les Paul custom, a very satisfying beast to handle, a proper geezer’s guitar.
Tour life is super busy – how do you manage your wellbeing when out on the road?
I probably don’t do that as much as I should to be honest. Running is a great way to check out new places and to reset the mind, otherwise I try to drink loads of water, eat well, try not to drink too much, definitely don’t do drugs, and try and send loved ones postcards cos it’s good for the soul.
You must have worked at countless venues and spaces – what’s been your favourite and why?
Amsterdam Paradiso is still my favourite. It’s a beautiful building with a great vibe – an old church that actually sounds good!! But more than that they’ve done that thing that never happens in the UK – they actually thought about it when turning it into a venue. Parking, load in, storage, backstage, catering – it just works. The Dutch are great to work with too: great attitude, hard working and proud to be good at what they do.
You must also have many stories! What’s your favourite tour memory?
Hahahaha mannnnn I can’t tell you my favourite tour memory! Or the second, third, fourth or fifth favourite!!
But my sixth favourite story would be the last show of the Night Of The Proms Tour 2013. This was a two month arena tour throughout Europe in which Amy Macdonald was performing; her commitments involved performing three songs (her with her guitar backed by the NOTP orchestra) every evening about 8.45pm, and then staying sober enough to come back on and perform Hey Jude with the rest of the acts for the finale – and I had to make sure her guitars were in tune for three songs, get her on stage twice, and that was pretty much the size of it.
Myself, Amy and her make up artist Ainslie had such a laugh for two months, was basically a lads holiday where you got fed three times a day, and we made some amazing friends in the other artists and crew. That’s not to say I didn’t take my 15 minutes of responsibility very seriously, and during the last show the NOTP crew stitched me up good and proper.
Amy walked out to perform her first track and as I ever I watched her walk out into the arena like a hawk, listened intently to my in-ear monitors to make sure her guitar was in tune and vocal mic working, but instead of everything being ok, as soon she strummed her first chord and sang her first note it sounded like absolute crap. The guitar was completely out of tune and she was singing awfully. I panicked, thought about running out on stage in front of tens of thousands of people to give her an in-tune guitar, but soon clocked that no one else in the orchestra or the audience seemed to have noticed. I looked over to the monitor engineer to see if he could hear it, and he was pissing himself. As was everyone else backstage. And Amy looked over with a smile on her face. They’d routed the stage manager and one of the backline guys performing Amy’s bits backstage into my in-ears, and the c*nts filmed the whole thing.
To be fair the footage was hilarious, I still haven’t had my revenge though…
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