Listen to Siedah Garrett’s Reach Up LA – 2015 Special Olympics Theme Song

Sources: Billboard -By Gary Graff | All Things Michael


Siedah Garrett didn’t have to be asked twice to write another them for Special Olympics. But she’s happy she was.

“Reach Up L.A.,” the 2015 Special Olympics theme, is Garrett’s second composition for the organization. She collaborated with Quincy Jones on “I Know I Can” for the 2007 games. She’ll perform “Reach Up” during this year’s Special Olympics opening ceremony on Saturday, July 25 before first lady Michelle Obama and an estimated crowd of 96,000 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (it will also be aired on ESPN).

“I feel like lightning has struck twice in my life with regards to the Special Olympics,” Garrett tells Billboard. “I feel really blessed to be part of something so massive and so important and so encouraging. It makes me feel light and happy inside. When you see these athletes doing what even they never thought they could, you can’t not smile and often cry tears of joy for them. It’s a really awesome experience.”

Watch the video for “Reach Up L.A.,” which Billboard is premiering exclusively below.

In writing this year’s theme, Garrett — who’s best-known for co-writing Michael Jackson‘s 1987 hit “Man in the Mirror” and dueting with him on “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” both from his Bad album — says she tried to incorporate the athletes’ point of view. “You’ve got to think of what it means to the people who are performing their tasks, of being challenged and challenging each other and challenging themselves. It’s about uplifting and supporting these athletes who have not been dealt a full deck of cards with regards to their health and physical and mental and emotional state. The fact that they’re even goal-oriented and intent on not only surviving but thriving is so amazing.”

Garrett adds a “Reach Up” video wasn’t necessarily on the docket, but the project “just evolved and morphed into this huge thing that keeps getting bigger and more awesome.”

The singer-songwriter remains busy composing as well as writing and performing ad jingles. Her other major project now, however, is a memoir titled Look Inside that she hopes to have out during the spring of 2016 and tells her story from growing up in Los Angeles to signing on with Jones as a writer and background singer, eventually going on to her own recording career. There will be plenty about Jackson, but she plans to keep that on the positive side.

“It’s not exactly a rags to riches story; more like the hood to the west side,” Garrett says. “No one in my family expected me to be or do anything. It’s about the fact that I kind of ignored their expectations for me and set my own goals and not only met them but kind of surpassed them. I never dreamed I’d be meeting let alone writing for and touring with (Jackson); that’s just not something you kind of wish for, y’know? The fact that it happened to me is just…It’s all a blessing, what can I say? I feel blessed in every way.”


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Sources: Bravewords | All Things Michael

In episode 68 of The Double Stop, host Brian Sword is joined by guitarist Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson, Jeff Beck); a few excerpts from their chat have been transcribed:

On working with Michael Jackson: “Jumping into that world, of touring on that level – I mean going from crappy Hollywood clubs to the biggest thing in the world – I just spent a lot of time being stunned. I think it was years later when I moved back that I thought wow, that was pretty amazing.”

On the size of the show: “I remember I was in Japan and Dokken was playing at the time. George Lynch came to one of the shows and he was saying afterwards, ‘It must be really amazing to be part of a show like this!”. And I thought, you’re in a big rock band. But really it doesn’t compare. At all. For instance, Michael was at a point then that he didn’t have to play every day. He only played two or three days a week, they spent a million dollars just on costumes. There was a hundred people in the entourage that would travel from city to city.”

On Michael Jackson vs Jeff Beck “For (Michael) Jackson it’s the awareness of entertaining the audience. Far beyond the music. Which is why I think I ended up doing a solo multimedia tour, and learning how to edit films. And with Jeff (Beck) it’s creativity, and always searching for new things. With Beck, he’s always expanding, and you wouldn’t believe the stuff he listens to. And he just absorbs it all.”

Listen to the entire interview via the audio player below.

Version 2

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Thriller Live’s Samantha Johnson Competes On America’s Got Talent

Sources: Boston Globe – By Lauren Daley | All Things Michael


Age: 26

Hometown: Grew up in Dennis, moved to New Bedford during middle school, 2007 New Bedford High School graduate.

Think of: “I’d hope people think I have a unique voice, but I take influence from Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion — I love divas. And I love Michael Jackson,” said Johnson, who performed in some 500 shows around the globe in the London-based Michael Jackson tribute show, “Thriller Live” from 2011 to this past April.

What caught our eye: A current contestant on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” Johnson offered a rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” that wowed celebrity judges Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, and Mel B.

Light bulb moment: “Music is a part of who I am. I’ve known forever, since I could start talking and making noise, that there’s nothing else I’d want to do. My mom is a flute player — she studied at Boston Conservatory — and I started playing her flute when I was 4,” said Johnson, who played flute competitively in high school (go to YouTube to see her playing “Flight of the Bumblebee”) and whistles like a bird. “My dad is a great whistler; his whistles are so precise to the song. I picked it up from him.” (Again, hit YouTube to hear her whistling Billy Joel’s “The Stranger.”)

Biggest thrill: “I’m really lucky; I get lots of big thrills,” said Johnson. “I was doing ‘Thriller Live’ in Japan, and their reception was overwhelming,” she said. “But this experience on ‘America’s Got Talent’ takes the cake. To have [the judges] tell me I belong onstage, and knowing that 10 million people were watching at home . . . that was the biggest moment of my career.”

Biggest surprise: “I didn’t think so many people would respond the way they have” since the June 30 performance, said Johnson, who tweets at @SamanthaTheBomb. “The response on social media was amazing.”

Inspired by: “I love show-women and divas — Bette Midler, Barbara Streisand, Whoopi Goldberg, Christina Aguilera. I love Diana Ross because she was able to have it all — she was a mother and a Motown legend. . . . I would love to get to that point in my career.”


Aspires to: “I’d love to be on Broadway; I’d love to be a show-woman,” said Johnson, who loves improv comedy and impersonates Rick James, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, and Shakira, among others. “I’d love to be like Bette Midler — when you see Bette Midler, you know you’re going to get dancing, songs, monologue, comedy. I want to be like that.”

For good luck: “I truly have nothing that I do for good luck. The stage is so comfortable for me,” said Johnson. “I walk on stage and I’m ready to go.”

What people should know: Active in theater in high school, Johnson tried out for Fox’s “American Idol” at age 16 and 18, and for “America’s Got Talent” the first time at age 20 before making it on AGT this season. “It’s a good thing I didn’t make it earlier, because I’ve got so much stage experience from ‘Thriller.’ There’s so much more to [performing] than being able to sing — you don’t want to hear that when you’re 16, though,” she said with a laugh.

Coming soon: Johnson will compete on an upcoming episode of “America’s Got Talent,” which airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.


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Michael Jackson’s Guitarist Jennifer Batten Does House Show In Seaside

Sources: Monterey County Now – By Adam Joseph | All Things Michael


Jennifer Batten oozes genius, eccentricity and punk mystique. Sporting an oversized puff of bleached hair, Batten does things on her custom Ibanez Roadstar electric guitar that make Steve Vai and Joe Satriani look stuck in slow motion.

Her command of the fretboard, as she bends, swells, taps and employs 100 mph riffs, ultimately earned her a spot as the lead guitarist on Michael Jackson’s Bad tour. Batten, 29 at the time, had been teaching and gigging around Los Angeles daily, barely making a living wage, when she won the life-changing opportunity. The New York City native beat out more than a hundred guitar talents hand-picked to audition.

“It was like a paid vacation,” Batten told music writer Charles Thomson. “I was working seven nights a week and all of a sudden I’m on the biggest tour in the world, making 10 times the money and only working two or three days a week.”

After two years on the road in front of more than 5 million people, Batten stowed away “Beat It” and “Billie Jean,” and got to work on her solo debut Above Below and Beyond. Produced by Stevie Wonder guitarist Michael Sembello, the instrumental rock album features innovative originals along with unique takes on everything from John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” to Otis Redding’s “Respect.”

Batten joined the King of Pop again for his Dangerous world tour; she and Jackson also performed the halftime show at Superbowl XXVII. The broadcast aired in 80 countries to an estimated 1.5 billion, which was the largest audience in television history.

Before Batten set out on her third and final tour with MJ – in support of his double album HIStory – she released Jennifer Batten’s Tribal Rage~Momentum, a mash-up of didgeridoo, steel drums, bagpipes and African percussion that differs dramatically from her debut. Batten’s one-woman show is similarly multifaceted, weaving together guitar, electronica, vocal samples and film. Limited seats are available for her Seaside performance, which takes place at the Seaside home of Joe and Auburn Velasquez, a hidden-in-plain-sight indoor/outdoor house concert venue that’s hosted everyone from reggae jam band Dyemusica to Nashville singer-songwriters the Waymores.

Joe explains: “The Venue is an intimate experience where people can listen to great live music, make new friends, eat potluck dinners and meet artists.”

JENNIFER BATTEN (and Asian potluck). 8pm (7pm doors) Saturday, July 18. The Venue, Seaside. $20 (limited seating). 236-0220


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PMC Speakers Help Deliver The True Sound Of Michael Jackson For Sundberg Seminars

Sources: Digital Pro Sound – By | All Things Michael


Dierks Studios in Cologne, the facility where Michael Jackson recorded his 1997 hit Blood on the Dance Floor – recently played host to In The Studio With MJ, an unusual series of seminars highlighting the experience of recording with this legendary artist.

Organised and presented by Brad Sundberg who spent nearly 18 years working with Michael Jackson as a sound engineer and technical director, this four day event also included insights from Brad Buxer and Michael Prince, both of whom were part of Jackson’s recording team. The three presenters gave in-depth and highly personal accounts of working with Michael Jackson in various recording studios and at his Neverland Valley Ranch where he had his own recording facility.

“Since Michael’s death in 2009, I have been presenting these seminars in various cities around the world, including the USA, Europe, Russia and the Far East.” Sundberg explains. “The concept was born out a desire from Michael Jackson?s fans to know more about how his incredible projects came to life. People want to go back to the music, to where it all began – in the studio. During each seminar, guests are taken on a journey of music, stories, unseen studio footage and memories from my days of working with Michael.  Most of my guests are not studio professionals, so this is a chance for them to be in a studio, feel the ‘vibe’ of a studio, and most importantly hear music the way I am used to hearing it.  For many people, this is truly a highlight.”

At Sundberg’s request, British loudspeaker manufacturer PMC supplied MB2S 3-way monitors to Dierks Studios to ensure that the music, sound effects and videos played during seminars were heard with absolute transparency.

“When I was working with Michael, we usually relied on massive Westlake SM-1s, Augspurgers or Boxers for our main monitoring requirements and it wasn’t until several years later that I first heard PMC speakers,” Sundberg explains. “As soon as I did, I loved them so much that I actually became a dealer for them. Now I use them for my seminars whenever I get the opportunity because they delivered all the clarity, punch and bottom that I need, plus they have a very open and airy top end. This makes them much easier to listen to for long periods of time than a horn-loaded system.”

Sundberg adds that guests often comment on the audio they hear through PMCs, especially those who are not used to hearing music through professional monitors.

“I can’t tell you the number of times that my guests have told me that they have never heard Michael’s music sound that way before.  These are people that listen to MJ music every day, so that is very high praise! Listening to Michael’s amazing music, including uncompressed, raw mixes from the studio, on PMC’s incredible speakers helps elevate my seminars far beyond what a pair of PA speakers could ever do.  I am always proud to have PMC on either side of me when we launch into a seminar weekend.”

Having completed his seminar programme in Germany, Sundberg is now hosting similar events in Spain over the summer.

“Michael Jackson’s creative process was unlike anything I have ever been a part of, and if I can give people just a glimpse of what it was like, that’s very rewarding,” he explains. “From studio production to tour prep to Neverland Valley Ranch, I was there and I am very happy to share technical information as well as my own personal memories and stories.”

About PMC
PMC is a UK-based, world-leading manufacturer of loudspeaker systems, the tools of choice in all ultra-critical professional monitoring applications, and also for the discerning audiophile at home, where they provide a transparent window into the recording artist’s original intentions. PMC products use the best available materials and design principles, including the company’s proprietary Advanced Transmission Line (ATL?) bass-loading technology, cutting-edge amplification and advanced DSP techniques to create loudspeakers that present sound and music exactly as it was when first created, with the highest possible resolution, and without coloration or distortion. For more information on our clients and products, see

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Tyrone Lee Talks About Touring With Thriller Live And His Album

Sources: The Stage – By Georgia Snow| All Things Michael

Screen Captures5

Since joining the musical Thriller Live in 2009, Tyrone Lee has toured the show to more than 20 countries and is currently a resident lead vocalist in the West End cast. He has also released his debut album, Invitation.

Why do you think the show has enjoyed such long-term success?

I think people love the music, and the show aims to give people that Michael Jackson feeling. The fans of Michael Jackson can come to the show and feel that essence of what he was about. A lot of people come back again and again. Then there are lots of people that want to go for a good night out. In both cases I think Thriller delivers that.

How does your music background fit in with the show?

The way that this particular production is done, it is quite like a concert. In fact, it is more a concert show than a stage play, so my background as a singer fits in quite nicely. We are encouraged to perform and have our own personality, not to really try to copy Michael Jackson but be ourselves. The dance element was completely new to me. When I got the part my sister warned me that I would have to dance, but I had no idea. The producers kept saying it would be fine so I guess they had more confidence in me. Over the years I have grown into the dancer they wanted, I think – I got there eventually.


What other kind of work have you done in your career?

I like having the balance between different types of jobs. I have released an album as a solo artist, as well as doing Thriller and touring with other artists. I find that quite refreshing. I’ll go from singing with Thriller to being on tour with Blur, go back to Thriller and then tour with Emeli Sande. I have done really contrasting jobs in that respect and I appreciate the different disciplines. On a conventional music stage there is quite a lot of improvisation and you are encouraged to pull out new creative aspects, but with Thriller it is quite disciplined. It is good to go back and forth.

Has working in theatre influenced other parts of your career?

As well as singing and dancing, I do a lot of narration in the show. In that regard it helps me engage with the audience and speak to them. In my own shows it has built that confidence to address my audience and give some information about myself, or just speak to them. That has been really helpful.

Would you like perform in other stage shows in the future?

I have always looked up to singers, like Michael Jackson, that really perform their music. I never thought of myself as a theatre performer and when the Thriller production came around it was something very new to me – I didn’t know what to expect. Now that I have done this, it has opened my eyes to the possibility of doing more theatre. I have definitely learnt a thing or two from this.

Thriller Live is running at the Lyric Theatre. The album, Invitation, is available now.

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What Jennifer Batten Learned From Michael Jackson

Sources: Guitar Girl Magazine | All Things Michael


As some of you may already know, famed guitarist Jennifer Batten will be hitting the road in her motor home starting in July to conduct a series of seminars entitled “Self-Enpowerment for the Modern Music Experience.

In a recent interview with Guitar Girl Magazine, Jennifer provides details about the tour and a few things she has learned from working with Michael Jackson.  To read the entire article, please click on the link at the end of the page.

You are holding three-and-a-half-hour sessions for people with seven-second attention spans. How do you keep them, and yourselves, interested and engaged?

One takeaway from working with Michael Jackson was the entertainment value. For him, the music was the foundation and he built from that. He added the “wow” factor on top of it. Being aware of the attention spans, and my own attention span being short because I’ve got just as many gadgets as everybody else, I’m pulling out all the stops as far as trying to get information across in an entertaining way. Some of the videos are only 10 or 30 seconds long, to take your attention outside of this zone and put it in another one for just a second. By having the point driven home several different ways, it pounds it into your head more. The most dry thing I can think of is having sentences on a PowerPoint and reading them to the class. My sister has been in the corporate world forever, and when I told her that I was getting into PowerPoint, the first thing she said was, “Whatever you do, do not read what’s on the screen.” And in fact I don’t have anything written on the screen. It’s JPEGs or entertaining videos or something hitting them at all times. I worked for Cirque du Soleil for six months, and their whole thing is constantly overloading you with imagery. You can see the same show three times and get three different shows, if you focus on different things. That’s how I intend to keep the attention spans. Having Jesse as my co-host also means there’s a different person to listen to. So every 15 to 20 minutes there’s something brand new, and within those chunks there will be as much entertainment as I can muster.

One of your topics is monetization. How do you approach this when we live in a world where many people believe that anyone working in a creative field should work for free, that creating is not work, and that if you love something, getting paid for it should not matter?

I have tons of resources. There’s a book called The Trick To Money Is Having Some, by Stuart Wilde. The gist is that the amount of money you make is directly related to how you feel about yourself. If you believe in yourself, then why would you sell yourself short? I will never forget — this guy wanted to be my manager right after I had done the Super Bowl with Michael Jackson, and he wanted me to do this certain thing for free. For “exposure.” I’m saying, “Motherf****er, I just played for 1.5 billion people and I got paid for it!” A lot of public speakers say, “If you do it for free, you get your name out there and you get known.” Every time the offer comes up to do something for free, you’ve got to weigh it. Is it going to be valuable to you to get you used to the stage? Will there be certain people in the audience who might be shopping and it makes it worth your while? But making a habit of working for free, or playing for cheap, just cheapens the whole industry. I got that training when I was with Michael Jackson. I was making ridiculous amounts of money, and as a result I have no problem saying, “This is what I cost. Take it or leave it.” Also it’s a psychological thing. I have done ten- or twelve-hour flights to Europe so many times, and I know very well what happens from jet lag, especially when I return and I’m absolutely useless for seven days minimum. I have a certain dollar amount in my mind that if you want me to do that, this is what it’s going to cost and I feel OK about it, but if it’s less, I’m going to feel abused. The last time it happened, someone had me fly to Birmingham, England, for a one-off for $1,500. I flew home and I thought, What the hell was I doing? I’m never doing that again. My price doubled after that, and it’s probably doubled again.

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Sources: Head Gear – By Christopher Currell| All Things Michael

The “Bad” World Tour

To refresh your memory of where the story left off, here’s Part 1 and Part 2.


There were so many experiences while on the “Bad” tour, and it is almost an impossible task to write about them without making a complete book. I could break down the tour into three primary categories. The rehearsals; the actual tour which covered Japan, Australia, America and Europe; and the period right after the tour. I will talk about some of the experiences in the above mentioned three categories. What I will not discuss are the political/business aspects of the tour as these subjects tend to be somewhat of a downer. Due to the amount of information, I will write about my experiences on the Bad tour in two columns. This month I will talk about the rehearsals. Next month I will talk about the actual tour with a few additional notes of what I experienced shortly after the tour. Let’s get going….

The Rehearsals

My biggest worry was how to play the Synclavier Live. I am not a keyboard player. I am a guitar player. I needed to search for the latest technology that would allow a guitar player to play an instrument with guitar like technique but would output digital information reliably to a computer to trigger the Synclavier. I tried everything! In the end, I chose an instrument called the SynthAxe. After plying it for 5 minutes, I knew this instrument could do the job. It was $12,000! I bought one for myself and I had TTC buy two for the tour. Now I just had to learn to play it in a few weeks!

My biggest worry was how to play the Synclavier Live. I am not a keyboard player. I am a guitar player. I needed to search for the latest technology that would allow a guitar player to play an instrument with guitar like technique but would output digital information reliably to a computer to trigger the Synclavier. I tried everything! In the end, I chose an instrument called the SynthAxe. After plying it for 5 minutes, I knew this instrument could do the job. It was $12,000! I bought one for myself and I had TTC buy two for the tour. Now I just had to learn to play it in a few weeks!


I happened to be at Leeds the day Jennifer Batten came to audition. She pulled up in a beat up pickup truck. She was a guitar instructor at GIT. She had her guitar and her amp. I was walking into Leeds at the same time so she asked where she should set up. She did not look like a rock star…she looked more like an introverted librarian. I showed her the stage. As I recall, Rory was there too. Jennifer asked what she should play. We said anything she wants. So she played the Eddie Van Halen solo on Beat It perfectly with no backing music! We were floored! Later that evening, at Michael’s house, we were watching the videos. I told Michael that Jennifer was really good and he should really check her out! He watched and got very excited and said…”Wow! She is really good but we have to do something about her look!” We all laughed! She was immediately in the band!

Next, came a referral for a bass player! Don Boyette! He had played with many people including the Pointer Sisters and had just come off a year tour with Lionel Richie. Great player and a great look he was in right away!

There were many keyboard players auditioning but Michael wanted Greg Phillinganes. He had played on some of the songs in the studio and he had been working with Michael for many years. I am not sure why we even held keyboard auditions. He was the last musician to come into the band.

It seemed that the plan was to use Jonathan Moffett on drums and David Williams on guitar since both were on the Jackson’s Victory tour. The problem was, they were currently out touring with Madonna. Her tour would soon end allowing a couple of weeks to make the transition into the band. For rehearsals, we needed substitutes for the drums and guitar. Ricky Lawson was brought in on drums. He had also been on the Lionel Richie tour with Don Boyette so they were already very tight playing together. Ricky wanted to take some time off from touring so he agreed to set in temporarily for Jonathan Moffett at the rehearsals. As it turns out, Ricky and Greg were both from Detroit, Michigan and had already done much playing together. I found that interesting because I am also from Michigan and had also lived in Detroit.

LA session guitar player, Paul Jackson, Jr. was asked to fill in for the rehearsals but turned it down. He referred a guitar player named Jon Clark. As I recall, Jon had a day job being a messenger for a record company. When he got the call, Jon said yes right away even though it was just a temporary gig.

If I was to also play guitar, I needed a guitar system so I had TTC buy two Mesa Boogie amps and speakers. I realized very quickly, however, that my gig was going to be very demanding with the SynthAxe and the Synclavier. We had very little time to assemble, program and learn the music. I decided playing guitar was not really necessary since we had two good guitarists already. So I dropped the idea of playing guitar to focus on just playing the SynthAxe and Synclavier.

The band at this point was me, Greg Phillinganes, Rory Kaplan, Ricky Lawson, Jennifer Batten, Don Boyette and Jon Clark. We were finally ready to begin band rehearsals!

Everyday the sound got better and better. We were impressed how well we played together and how good the sound was!

Meanwhile it seemed that Madonna was extending her tour. She would not be finished until we were in the middle of the Japan tour! Clearly this was a problem. Our integration of technology and performances would not be easy for Jonathan Moffet or David Williams to just walk into with little or no rehearsal. Also, the band was sounding great as is! Even Ricky changed his mind and wanted to do the tour! The band had a meeting and we all agreed that this was going to be THE band! We decided that we needed to make our thoughts known to Michael and Frank. So Greg, Rory and myself had a meeting with Michael and Frank to discuss the situation.

We explained that it would not be easy to quickly integrate other players because so much technology was being used. Plus a different drummer and guitar player would change the basic feel of the band and already it was sounding great. We explained to Michael that we thought that the current lineup of members should be the final band. Michael agreed. He thought the band as is sounded great! Frank had no problem with the current lineup because he was already frustrated with negotiations concerning the high salaries that Jonathan and David were demanding. So it was decided! The current lineup was to be the official band! We reported back the good news to the other band members. Ricky was very excited! Jon Clark was in tears! He had no idea that he would actually become a final member in the band! He was overjoyed!

Next stop…production rehearsals!

Production rehearsals were to take place at the Universal Studio’s largest sound stage in Los Angeles. These rehearsals are where we refine everything…the music arrangements, the vocals, the sounds, the choreography, costume changes and the pyrotechnics!

The first day at rehearsal, I had the SynthAxe strapped on. Michael walked up and saw it for the first time. I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head! He said “Wow! Where did you get that!” I responded with “I have my ways” with a smile. Right away he wanted some future looking guitars dug out of storage from the Jacksons’ Victory tour. Jennifer and Jon diplomatically tried them but declined as they were too hard to play.

Everyday there was new arrivals. The backing vocalists showed up for the first time…Kevin Dorsey, Dorian Holley, Darryl Phinnessee and Sheryl Crow.


During the rehearsal time spent at the sound stage, our work required long hours. Basically we ran the two hour plus show three times a day. Then in the evening, we would work on programing the gear to reflect the additions or changes to the songs as Michael requested. If I recall correctly, we would arrive around 10:00 am and work until about 1:00 am everyday.

Michael would go rehearse with the dancers at another place when we finished playing the show for the day….


Christopher Currell

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