#TOURLIFE – Spencer Sutherland
It’s not often you get you spend the day with an up-and-coming pop star. Often guarded, surrounded by teams of people – they don’t tend to be the most public bunch. Thankfully, our day with Spencer Sutherland couldn’t have been further from those stereotypes. Sutherland, the Columbus, OH native, and current Los Angeles transplant, was a featured artist on this past summer’s RunAround Tour with Jake Miller and Before You Exit, and we caught up with him at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jefferson, NJ. You might not think of a theme park as natural venue for a show, but the facilities they have set up at Six Flags were more than equipped to handle an event of this size. Keep reading for our full recap of our day with Spencer, some great photos from before, during, and after his set, as well answers to a few burning questions we had for him.
Generally speaking, regular show days for us start out like this: Drive to the venue, check in with the box office about our credentials, and make our way to wherever the artist we were to cover was hanging about – and then, you know, do whatever it was we were doing that day, most of the time doing an interview and then heading back to the main room and taking lots of notes and photos. Except that this day was anything but ordinary. We knew that doing a #TOURLIFE feature meant spending a lot of time behind the scenes but we didn’t expect to be looked at as part of the family. Not only did Sutherland’s team have us set up with entry to the park and the show, but they also set aside VIP bracelets as well as artists passes, just like the ones Sutherland and his bandmates would be carrying. After checking in, we attempted to make our way over to the stage. We say “attempted”, because it took more than a few wrong turns around the maze-like compound that is Six Flags Great Adventure before finding Sutherland and Co.
We met up with Sutherland and his people – those being a photo/videographer and his manager, who greeted us with smiles and hugs – and chatted backstage before his set. Talking about the day’s event, and the previous shows on the tour, it was clear that this had been a great experience for Sutherland up to this point – and a promising step in establishing the Spencer Sutherland brand. One thing that stood out was that Sutherland seemed very focused, like a kid about to take the SATs. At first you might think it was nerves about performing but the more you watch him pacing around behind the curtain, the more you realize that he’s concentrating and making sure that he’s ready to give the crowd their money’s worth and then some with his talents.
How has this tour schedule been, with two days “on” and then five days “off”?
It’s definitely not your regular, month-long tour. It’s way different than anything I’ve ever done. It’s only my second tour – my first one was fifteen days straight, a show every day – and then this one is eight shows with about five days in between. It’s nice because you get to go home. I love to work out, and that’s really hard to do on the road – hotel gyms aren’t the best. But when I get to go home for four or five days I get to work out and then I don’t feel so bad about not working out for a few days.I really love travelling and being out on the road – I would love to have a show every night.
By the time Sutherland and his band took the stage the crowd – mostly young girls – was screaming with excitement. Starting with covers of “Royals”, “Fancy”, and Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”, Sutherland showed off not only the full range of his voice – reaching deeper lows than those on his recorded works, and slipping in sneaky falsettos that seemed to come out of nowhere – as well as displaying his natural charm and charisma in front of a crowd. When it came time for him to perform his own single “Heartstrings”, a majority of the crowd sang along with him, knowing every word. Another pleasant surprise was his dance moves. Although his voice may be the main focus of his career, his dancing skills easily rank him higher on the pop radar. Could there be an actor hidden somewhere in there too? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
You performed a number of covers during your set, was that something special for this kind of crowd?
As a brand new artist you want to win crowds over, and singing songs that they already know will help a lot. But I do enjoy putting my own spin on them, it’s really fun. And the crowds are actually starting to sing back my songs which is… mindblowing, it’s pretty crazy. But it’s really awesome.
Putting their own spin on these popular Top 40 hits without any hesitation, Sutherland and his band clearly have a natural chemistry and cohesiveness – “but the fans know who they are – it’s more than just a backing band”, he would tell us later. Seeing those guys on stage and off, they’re like a group of brothers and best friends. Cracking inside jokes, picking on each other for their television show preferences and general goofing around seems to be the glue that helps keep them together. Let’s face it, when you’re on the road and living in hotels for most of your days, the one thing you miss most is family, but these guys have each other. Who else would you want to tour the world with other than your best friends? Spencer Sutherland may be seen as a solo artist, but if he has his way, his band will be going with him everywhere he goes in the future.
You’re looking to keep your band intact when you get signed. What is the relationship with them like?
With a lot of artists they have back up bands who are hired – if they get along with them, great, if they don’t, they either get dropped or they have to deal with it. But I was lucky enough to basically build my band. Will, my guitarist, I’ve known since the second grade. I’ve actually jammed with other guitarists just for the fun of it, and just no one knows me as well as he does musically. Sean [drummer] was Will’s friends from other bands they played in. He came and played with us one day – about a year ago – and now he’s my other best friend in the world. I don’t think a lot of artists have that kind of bond with their band. This sounds cheesy, but I truly love them. They’re like brothers. When you’re talking to a potential label, are you speaking as a solo artist, or as a band?
I’m presented as a solo artist, but the fans know who they are – it’s more than just a backing band. It’s really hard to explain, but I think everyone [in the band] feels the same way.
After his set Sutherland was back in front of the crowd working his way along the barricade meeting and greeting and hugging every fan along the way; he stopped to take more selfies than we could count – a photo of which you can see below.
Unlike some artists that have a strict “lean in from the front of the table” rule during meet-and-greets, Sutherland is out in the open and ready to give you that hug to make the photo that much more special. We even caught him giving (and receiving) kisses on the cheek as well as doing various poses, such as giving someone a piggyback ride or posing like they’re at prom. Out of respect for the other artists performing, Sutherland was always careful not to take attention away from those on stage, promising anyone he didn’t get to meet between sets that he would be back at his merch table as soon as they were done. Towards the end of the day, we decided it was time for some adventures. Since some of us are not really ride people, we opted to play it safe and head for the tea cups.
— Emo At Heart (@EmoAtHeartSite)
On our way there, we sent out a tweet saying that was where we were going and for fans to meet us there. By the time we got in line and were getting ready to get on the ride, a small group of fans had caught up with us and got an extra special treat of riding with the singer that they adored.
One thing is for sure, Sutherland is not some created entity looking to profit on popularity, he is one of the most genuine, caring, and real people you will ever meet in the pop world. It’s easy to get caught up in the spotlight and have diva-like tendencies, but instead Sutherland is more focused on the needs of his friends and fans. One thing that stands out most regarding the above statement is a moment backstage before one of the other artists were about to perform. There wasn’t much time but he needed to get back out to the merch table to meet more fans. Someone said to him “it’s ok, you don’t have to meet everyone”, and in a semi-bummed and 100% honest voice he replied with “..but I want to”. It was then we knew just how real he was, and we did our best to help get him through the crowd and over to the merch tent so he could get in a few more photos and hugs before the day was done.
Due to the exposure you’ve gotten from this tour you’ve been approached about doing future tours. What is your reaction to that increased awareness about you?
It’s a great feeling. You know that you’re doing something right. All I really want to do is tour – forever. Just tour until I’m tired of it. And to have someone at a show come up and say that is really awesome – it’s the number one thing that I want to do. It’s really exciting.
After a bit more chit-chat with Sutherland and his team (who are some of the best people we’ve ever met) and discussing some fun ideas, as well as our mutual love for the Edison Diner (which was out next stop), we exchanged hugs and got ready to head out. Right before we left, Sutherland thanked us for everything and asked if he would see us again next tour, which we replied with an absolutely. There’s really something special about him and we hope to continue promoting and supporting his career for many years to come.