No matter your age, we’ve all been blown away by an epic concert—whether you saw Janis writhe and hoot with the Big Brother Holding Company in 1967, Kurt smash his guitar in 1991, or Method Man spit the illest rhyme with the Wu Tang Clan in 1998—if you were lucky enough to experience it, you’ve cherished that magic. But for many music fans, the blood, sweat and tears that are spilled in order to make those music memories happen, remain a mystery. Cameron Crowe’s latest project, Roadies, delves into the behind-the-scenes world of producers, managers, techs, and all the other hard-working folks that make your concert experiences so darn memorable. We chatted with one of the show’s stars, Luke Wilson, about his fascination with this rarely seen world, his love of music, and what viewers can expect this season. Catch up on episode one of Roadies, and make sure to watch episode two this Sunday, July 3rd at 10/9c on SHOWTIME.
So tell us a little about the show and what drew you to the project?
The story of Roadies really revolves around the behind the scenes world of a band. One of the interesting things is you don’t even really see the band, you just see the people who make a concert happen. Like, you know, if you were to go see, the Kings of Leon, Pearl Jam, or U2, somebody puts it all together, somebody puts all the amps out there, the guitars, the seats, gets all the merchandise ready. Our writer and director (Cameron Crowe), has been around the music business his whole life—he started writing for Rolling Stone and Cream magazine when he was fourteen or fifteen. It’s behind the scenes, about the roadies, the truck drivers, the tour managers, the production managers, the guitar techs, all the caterers. For me it’s really similar to a film crew, which is always interesting and fun to be around.
I can remember the first time I was aware of what a production designer was, the person who designs the room that a character is in. Working with the cinematographer, the guy behind the camera, the focus puller, the person that sits there and keeps somebody in focus. There’s so much going on that you don’t know about, and it’s the same with a concert. So much goes into a show. People go to a show, have a few beers, listen to music and forget their troubles or have a great time—it’s a celebration. But somebody’s gotta make it happen, so it’s pretty cool to find out about those people. I’ve always really enjoyed reading about bands and musicians. So, I feel like it’s something I’ve done research on before I even got started on the show. So that’s been really fun.
How has music influenced your life?
Music’s influenced my life in a big way. I mean, I was always really into it as a kid and went to a lot of concerts. Growing up in Dallas it was always a big deal to get organized and try to figure out how to buy a ticket—I saw some great shows over the years at classic venues. And music, well it’s a cliché, but it is the soundtrack of your life. Songs really do have the power to bring you back to specific times in your life.
What was your first concert?
I really can’t remember what my first show was. Could have been Willie Nelson, or something like that. I can remember going to see Huey Lewis in the sixth grade. I was a big Huey Lewis fan. Still am. As a kid, you had to do that thing, getting dropped off, and then getting picked up, and yeah, it really was like Almost Famous where you kind of get laughed at by older teenagers, as you were getting followed by one of your friend’s moms or something.
What does Roadies say about the world of music today?
I think that Roadies’ take on the world of music today, shows how it’s changed with digital downloads and things like that. I’ve heard people like Tom Petty say, “Gosh I wouldn’t want to be starting a band today, you can’t sell albums.” You know, people won’t buy a whole album anymore, or it’s very rare. And I think it’s kind of become like a lot of other things, just more corporate, and a lot more like a business. You know even if it was a band as big as the Rolling Stones, tours back in the mid-seventies, were known for being these rolling parties.
Today it seems like for these big tours, the bottom line is all about going out and making money, because that’s really where bands make their money today is when they’re on tour. So that’s become really interesting. And, I’ll check Rolling Stone, they’ll show the top ten touring acts and it’s always interesting who in it. It’s like Jimmy Buffet and these bands you wouldn’t expect, like Phish. It’s all because of touring and it’s all because of having really loyal fans who will go out and see you play. It’s not about buying albums anymore. So, I think Roadies, in a really interesting way, kind of gets into some of those areas.
How has the transition from movies to television been for you?
Going from movies to television has been interesting, but for me they don’t feel any different when I’m doing them. But I think more people will see a television show, which is great. You know, in the old days there was a bit of stigma around television—like you wanted to do movies but you didn’t want to do TV. And now people are saying that this is the golden age of television, and I think with shows like The Sopranos, the business was revolutionized.
I grew up a huge fan of Miami Vice, where each episode was like a movie. My friend Joey Neuhoff would be right there, Friday nights at nine, just ready to go. So, I’ve really liked doing TV. I’ve done a few episodes of That 70s Show, and that was really fun. And then I was on this show Enlightened for HBO, and that was a great experience. It’s nice to play a character, finish a season, and then you’re thinking about ideas all the time—because sometimes you finish a movie and think, gosh, I wish I’d tried that, or I wish I’d had more time to think about that. So with TV you really do have time to put more thought into a character, which is cool.
What do you hope that people take away from watching Roadies?
I hope that when people watch Roadies they get a sense of the music business that maybe they didn’t have before. Like I mentioned, it’s been an industry, along with movie making that I’ve always read about—I’ve always wanted to know more about musicians and bands, so it’s been really fun to get behind the scenes. Everybody loves music, and no matter what genre you love—maybe it’s rap, or heavy metal, I like classic rock—everyone would love to know what goes on behind the scenes. Who manages the band, who gets them from town to town, what about their boyfriends or girlfriends and all that stuff? How do they get around when they’re on tour? Just like the way Entourage was fun for people to watch, just to get a sense of Hollywood and things like that. Roadies is just a different take. I mean, it’s not at all like Entourage, but I just think it’s another opportunity for viewers to get an interesting look behind the scenes, this time into the world of rock ‘n roll!