Life on the road with Snarky Puppy

Snarky Puppy
(Image credit: Snarky Puppy)

We spoke to Rosanna Freedman, Snarky Puppy’s production manager and tour manager, about the band's recent Royal Albert Hall show, the challenges involved with working with such an eclectic band and what goes on behind the scenes. Rosanna has been working with Snarky Puppy for 6 years, and has watched them grow from shows where they’ve played to a couple of hundred people and she was trying to cram them all into a van, to an unbelievably fantastic production at the Royal Albert Hall with two tour buses and trailers and a truck – quite the difference!

Tour manager and production manager aren’t necessarily terms that everybody would understand – how would you best explain your job?

I go between these roles based on where we are in the world. As the TM you're dealing with a multitude of logistics, particularly with so many rotating musicians in the band. Getting us from A to B, arranging details with promoters and making things as comfortable as you can for everyone is the focus.

When I’m PMing it's more about stuff and less about people, but it's equally as challenging. My role is to bring together all the elements of our production and ensure we make the show look and sound the best it can. You have to adjust to each country and make the same thing happen under conditions that are constantly changing.

RAH - this was an unbelievable show - what were the main challenges you faced with this show?

The RAH show really was an incredible experience as a PM. I had an amazing team putting everything together on the day so really logistically it was kind of a dream! I think the biggest challenge was having such an impressive space and wanting to ensure we kept the vibe of the show in there while still doing the space justice.

Everybody assumes touring is glamorous - how much truth is there in that?

I think all you would need to do is look at me rolling off the tour bus every morning to dispel that myth.

What’s your favourite ‘behind the scenes’ moment?

Probably the time I had a genuine Spinal Tap moment with Harry Shearer. I did the walk a hundred times from his room to the stage to make sure that I didn't get him lost on the way, as it was a maze of corridors through a kitchen. We got to the stage no problem – only to find somebody had moved the bass amp behind a curtain so the band start playing and I'm scrambling on the floor helping him look for his cable. The band are turning and looking at him as they can't hear the bass and he's got the same face he has when he's trapped in the pod in the film. Everyone thought my cameo performance in the show was incredible, but now you know the truth. 

What’s your most ridiculous rider item?

Thanks to a tour manager colleague, Felicity, we have a dog on our rider. It's actually great because if you're feeling a little stressed out you just go play with the dog for a bit until you feel better. It only backfired once when two dogs escaped onto stage. Our TM TJ came running after them to coax them back in and it turned into a kind of Benny Hill chase. 

Do you tour all your own equipment or rent it locally?

When we're in the bus we can bring it all with us but when we fly we rely on finding it locally. The challenge for us is finding a lot of vintage keys in full working order. They use Minimoogs, Fender Rhodes, Hammond organ and a Clavinet so sometimes places struggle to find them from a rental company. Then you’ll get a random guy turn up with the old keyboard from his basement and he'll hang out to make sure it still turns on. I mean, to get the sound of a vintage instrument you have to be prepared to deal with the fact that it's a vintage instrument!

Do you just work with SP?

I’m usually working on our annual GroundUp Music Festival in Miami. I go out there for a month working on the site (sounds terrible right?) heading up the production of the event. I work together with Michael on the scheduling and I plan the site and stages to keep the vibe of the festival atmosphere. 

What’s the one thing you don’t tour without?

Marmite. For some reason no one ever wants to try it.

Rosanna Freedman

(Image credit: Rosanna Freedman)