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Cameron Crowe Talks Showtime’s 'Roadies' and Future Musical Cameos

Roadies Carla Gugino Cameron Crowe

Cameron Crowe is back doing what Cameron Crowe does best: talking about music. The lifelong music journalist and filmmaker has created Showtime’s new series "Roadies," about the behind the scenes crew who handle the technical aspects of a band’s show every night.

Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino and Imogen Poots star in “Roadies,” from producer J.J. Abrams. Crowe spoke with the Television Critics Association earlier in the year and we were there to ask about his experiences on tour and working closely with famous musicians. “Roadie” premieres Sunday, June 26 at 10PM on Showtime.


Q: What gives roadies a unique perspective on music?


CC: You’ll hear them talk about music and an hour and a half will go by. There’s just a certain language and a certain look in their eyes when they’re talking about someone that’s fun and they’re passionate about. I want the show to be that, the place you can go to have some of these conversations. Nobody’s leaning on me for one thing or the other.

Q: What did you have to get up to speed with regarding the tour business now? What had changed?

CC: It’s a little more mechanized. It’s a little bigger and smaller. The middle has disappeared like in so many other ways. Big Big Big flourishes and Small Small Small flourishes. I love the idea that bands do living room concerts now and they tour living rooms, and guess what? They’re great shows. I like that. I like expressing that in the show. Also, a band that is kind of struggling to find out what the next phase is. So we’ll find out through the show, where do you fit now? You’ve been together for 10+ years. Where are you going to take your audience now to make yourself compelling? That’s a fun issue to get into.

Roadies Luke Wilson Keisha Castle Hughes

Q: Is it challenging to write about people who are fascinated by the creative sphere but don’t have creative ambitions themselves?

CC: No, because the ambition is to make friends and family and celebrate the things that you love. I always felt like the whole sex, drugs and rock n’ roll stereotype of rock stardom was so dishonest in a way. Nobody ever picked up a guitar to get drugs. And they couldn’t play very long because that’s not going to help them write a song. That stuff can happen later but what happens first is somebody falls in love with a song or a piece of music and it changes your life. That’s what this whole crew has in common with the people they work for, and the actors have in common too. I like writing about that.

Q: If television had been different back then, would you have considered doing ALMOST FAMOUS as a series?

CC: No. It’s a good question. Almost Famous really kind of needed to be that one story, which is getting that one interview that was so hard to get. That was the thing that was defining about that time for me. Some of the bands took me in and some of them didn’t. The ones that took me in created an adventure that lives and lives and lives. So I though let’s tell one story and that’s the story of 1973.

Q: As you get further away from those experiences, what do those memories mean to you?

CC: I kept notes on everything. I’m actually doing a collection book now and it’s so bizarre how present the memories are. Not a lot changes. I see a lot of people in the notes from the interviews that we’ve done struggling to find a way to success with integrity, dealing with failure, turning failure into a lesson. It’s all stories that I’ve kept writing about. I still have friends that are in bands. I go out and do shows and check out stuff, so I’ve stayed researching pretty consistently. It’s present to me.

roadies premiere date showtime

Q: There are myths of the tours, like Van Halen asking all brown M&Ms be removed, and then it comes out they had a really good reason for that clause, to check they were following safety protocols. Are there other stories like that you can explore on Roadies?

CC: Yes, definitely. There’s all kinds of stories and real specific ones too about things that happen with crews. One member deviates from the personality traits he’s had up until now. It’s a never ending fresh source to just go to real life, because when you make it up it’s never as good.

Q: Any specific ones like those safety riders?

CC: Definitely. It’s very much parsed legally in so many ways. You get things like if a person dies in the arena, that’s a different lawsuit than if they die outside the arena. So you have somebody who’s job it is to figure out if someone’s dying, where should they die and how can I help them without hurting the organization? You have real definitive battles of humanity along with how can we get the perfect French cheesecake? This is an American cheesecake and they want a French cheesecake. What is a French cheesecake? We also have Colson Baker (Machine Gun Kelly) from the very vivid world of hip-hop touring which he’s still doing constantly, and that’s its own thing. I just like that the show gets to be kind of a radio station where we play a lot of music and show people being affected by it. Not just using music to make a scene be sadder or happier, but how it’s going to change their lives.

Q: Did you have any conversations about maybe removing the scene where Phil (Ron White) pulls a gun, since it’s probably scarier now than it would’ve been years ago?

CC: No, we didn’t but it was based on a guy who carried heat. Everybody would say, “You know, he’s packing.” That would be his personality and you’d always hear about it. He would never use it but you knew that that was part of his lore. What I thought was Phil was one of those guys where Reg gets told everybody knows the guy’s got heat on him. But the one thing that will cause Phil to pull it is to mess with the crew so I thought it was okay to go there.


Q: Any other guest stars you can tell us and you’re hoping for?

CC: Yeah, I’ve been seeking out people slowly but surely and talking to them recently. Halsey is going to be on the show. I love her. She’s a great new artist. I really want Alt-J to be on the show so I’m pitching them right now. Jim James from My Morning Jacket is going to come on the show which is awesome because I’m such a big fan. I think that’s cool for now. There’s a couple other names that if I mentioned they’d probably pull out. I hope to surprise you.


Q: What did J.J. Abrams bring to this process?

CC: A lot. He also wrote some music that’s in the show somewhere, a little Easter Egg. What he brought is entree. He was able to set up the original meetings and say, “Here’s Cameron, my friend for a long time. We’ve been talking about this project for a long time. Here’s a story, here’s a show that I want to do as part of Bad Robot.” We’ve been pitching with each other for a long time. That makes the meeting go pretty well.

Q: What are your thoughts on Vinyl?

CC: First in line. I’m a big fan of the year 1973. It’s Scorsese and Terrence Winter. It’s going to be nothing like ours but it’s going to be another series about loving music, I’m sure of it, which is good in my eyes.

Q: Where did you get the balls at 16 to contact David Bowie and hang out with him for six months?

CC: Nobody told me that it couldn’t be done. It was only later when people would say, “Are you kidding me? You did blah blah blah blah blah.” Like, yeah? Is that wrong? “Yes, it’s wrong. You can’t ask Led Zeppelin to just take you on the road.” But I did. Part of it I think was being that age and another part of it was a lot of the journalists of that era were guys that were from the previous era of loving a different kind of music. If you’re Jethro Tull and they send some guy that could really give a sh*t about Jethro Tull’s music, you’re going to be a little pissed about it. Like, this is our shot at Rolling Stone and he’s this guy that really is like holding it against me that I’m not Miles Davis? Wait, here’s a 16-year-old kid that knows every chord that I played and he’s writing for Rolling Stone. I wanna talk to him. That happened a lot. They would say, “You’re really the guy and they print your stories?” I was like, “Yeah, but I do have tough questions.” “It’s okay, you know the songs, come with us.” That happened again and again and again.

Q: What was your last memory of David Bowie?

CC: My last memory of David was doing liner notes for Station to Station, the expanded release that they did. He wanted me to do liner notes and I had kept really good records of that session. So I wrote a very detailed set of liner notes about the session and how he created these songs, like TVC 15 and stuff like that. I asked to talk to David and his guy said, “He’s not doing interviews but he really wants you to write about the session.” So I thought it was really good but the note I got back was, “He’s a little disappointed. He wanted you to write more about the music and what you thought of the music.” It was like damn, cool. So I went and did another pass where I talked about how the music felt and what it meant to me, and left everything else that was already there in. It was better. So it was like damn, he just did a good edit on me, and that was my last experience with David. I was writing something this weekend I wanted him to act in. I loved him as an actor.


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