By: Seamus Fay
Whether fulfilling his role by supplying Henny, ordering 50 wings to the club, or rushing an artist to a venue, the show doesn’t go on without the help of Roxbury’s own, Joe Johnson. As a tour manager for some of Boston’s most prominent names in rap including Cousin Stizz and Michael Christmas, Johnson has solidified his spot as a pivotal figure in the logistics of getting a few of our favorite talents around the country and beyond, most recently taking the wheel during Cousin Stizz’s One Night Only tour.
In pursuit of learning a little bit about what Joe does and how he does it, I had the opportunity to ask Joe a few questions about his life as a road manager and how this is all came to be. You can read our conversation below.
What was high school Joe Johnson like?
I actually went to boarding school for a couple of years in Maine. Outside of intense ping-pong battles with international students, I would say in those two years I was connected, literally. That was 2007-2009 – I had just gotten a laptop and was online basically self-educating, observing, learning.
What role did music play in your life at this point and did you ever think you would become a tour manager?
I’ve always been into music. My father had a Caribbean show on the radio growing up. He has played in celebrity basketball games (although missing every shot he took) so it was a cool experience. I was always at the station and got to meet some folk – Terror Squad in ’99, Master P n Lil Romeo, Christina Milian in like ’02. I used to always see the managers and busy people around and kinda wondered what they did.
How has Roxbury helped to shape you as a person?
Love and humbleness and civility. That’s what Roxbury has given me.
Describe Boston in 3 words.
Patriots, Celtics, Sox.
How did you decide that you wanted to be a road manager?
One day Michael Christmas introduced me to someone like “Yeah this is Joe, my road manager”. That was when I knew.
What is the most difficult part of being a road manager and why?
Dealing with artists with low bladder control can be a real hassle. Say you have 8 hours ahead of you and you just turned onto a 315-mile stretch and an artist has to use the bathroom. It can really hurt morale and can take upwards of 20 minutes to get back on the road. On top of that, you are changing time zones and losing an hour, so…
What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
Getting to see the artist’s dreams come true and impact fans of every background.
How did you first link up with names like Stizz, Christmas, and Leano?
Stizz and I actually met at Children’s Hospital – it was my mom’s birthday and she was visiting my Aunt in the hospital who had just given birth to a legend. Leano is a package deal with Stizz that came in the later years. I’m pretty sure I met Christmas over a tray of baklava.
When and how did you decide to start working with them on tour?
When they needed a driver I was the guy. I was able to rent a car and was responsible, haha. It’s funny because I actually brought Christmas, Stizz, Replay, Dan Mac (Rolex Daytona), and another rapper to Long Island for a release party for this old brand I was working with in like 2013. The first real road trip was in 2015, I think.
What does Joe Johnson’s typical tour preparation routine consist of?
Nothing. I just get up and get to the bag. I pack a little, but with an iPhone you can do a lot on the go. I usually make sure I tell my momma I love her, that’s necessary.
What tour has been the most fun for you to be on and why?
One time we did a two-show run in Canada with Christmas and Stizz co-headlining. Leano came along for the trip. We hit the dispensary and racked up on like 30 pre-rolleds. The rest is history. Our Northern neighbors are great.
What specific show has been the most meaningful?
The sold-out House of Blues show as cliche as it sounds because we sold out the House of Blues.
What is one story from the One Night Only tour that you can share with our readers?
Albuquerque. I can’t actually share that story but it’s a funny one lemme tell ya.
Lastly, what are your goals for the next 5 years?
See Europe, win a Grammy, own a pair of Off White x Nike Prestos size 12, at least ten tour bus tours with the squad, and to meet Rihanna.
I just wanna say hi mom, look it’s me! Thanks for everything. Thanks!
After speaking to Joe Johnson, it becomes clear that he’s not only passionate about what he does and the role he plays in the lives of artists, but he is, in every way, for Boston. People like Joe play crucial roles in the logistics of music and simply put, that cannot be overlooked. Thank you, Joe, for the interview. Best of luck moving forward!
***All photography courtesy of @perspec7ive
Connect with Joe Johnson on: