On the Road with Michael Bublé

FEATURED - Jacob Rodriguez - Buble Tour 2010 - photo Anna Wong

On August 3, Grammy Award-winner Michael Bublé will return to the Erwin Center stage for his biggest production to date bringing his crew of incredibly talented musicians along with him. One of the musicians you’ll see on stage is Jacob Rodriguez, a saxophone player from San Antonio, Texas.

Rodriguez first picked up the saxophone in the 6th grade and hasn’t put it down since. He studied jazz briefly at Texas State (formerly Southwest Texas) before transferring to the Manhattan School of Music where he did a six year stint, plowing through his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Jazz Studies. After playing several gigs, going to shows and crashing jam sessions, Rodriguez became great friends with Nick Vayenas, the original trombonist for Bublé. Vayenas set up an audition for him with musical director, Alan Chang, and he’s been on the road ever since.

Rodriguez was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for us about life on the road and working with Bublé. From what we learned, it seems that working and traveling with Michael Bublé is a pretty sweet gig!

What’s it like traveling on these world tours?
Jacob Rodriguez - Table Mountain National Park - photo credit Rob Wilkerson

Photo: Rob Wilkerson

Airports have become second homes to me. Ten hour flights and six hour drives no longer terrify me. The travel is quite extensive, but some of the places we get to visit are pretty amazing.

What are your favorite parts about touring?
On top of visiting some great spots, I love hanging with a group of amazingly talented musicians. We all have a diverse appreciation for music and share that with each other. While playing the show is a lot of fun, the hang trumps all. These guys are family.

What do you do during your free time on the road?
Jacob Rodriguez - Coffee Tasting in Oslo - photo credit Jake Saslow

Photo: Jake Saslow

There’s a hefty coffee culture among us. One of the first things we do in every city is scout a good location for our stay. You can’t beat a great cup of coffee. I also like to explore new places and take a lot of photos. I try to experience as much of the city as possible. That leads to lots of late nights and early mornings. Hence the coffee.

What other music projects are you working on?

Jacob Rodriguez - Lost in the Trees

Photo: Jacob Rodriguez

Lost in the Trees performing at the Mothlight in Asheville, North Carolina

Currently, I’m working on multiple projects in Asheville, mostly jazz based, although there’s a strong indie music scene here I like to try to take part in. My good friend, Michael Libramento, started a group called Coconut Cake. We play Congolese music whenever we’re all in the same place which proves to be complicated since Michael plays bass and tours with Grace Potter, I have the demanding Bublé schedule and a couple other members tour with national acts. Whenever we do get together, though, the shows are a ridiculous amount of fun. I also had an opportunity to record with a Chapel Hill based band called Lost in the Trees this last year. I’ve been collaborating with their frontman, Ari Picker, on a new project called Lion and the Lamb. We’ll be debuting the project in March 2015 at Duke University. I’ve also been teaching at UNC Asheville. It’s great to work with such talented students in such an arts based city.

What are your favorite things to do during your stops in Austin?
I like to try and catch up with as many of my Southwest Texas friends as possible whenever I’m in town. Austin has exploded so much in the last ten years. I like to check out the new restaurants, bars, food trucks, bands and music venues. I’m looking forward to some Lucy’s Fried Chicken and some Flat Track Coffee when I’m in town.

Do you guys pull pranks on each other on the road?
Let’s just say that you don’t really want to be involved in any sort of prank war with Michael. Even as a bystander. The man who controls your hotel room keys has all the power.

Do have any pre-show rituals?
Jacob Rodriguez - Buble - Lisbon, Portugal - photo credit Rob Wilkerson

Photo: Rob Wilkerson

I’ve been DJing a random mix of jazz an hour or so before every show for the last couple of years. Again, it’s great to hear 13 opinionated guys discuss music. Sometimes it’s polarizing. Sometimes it’s absolutely hilarious.

Do any of you have any interesting or bizarre rider requests?
One of our guys has an affinity for gourmet donuts.

We heard that ping pong and MarioKart was really popular with the guys on the road on some of the past tours, what games are you all playing now and who is the current champ?
Jacob Rodriguez - MarioKart - photo credit Jake Saslow

Photo: Jake Saslow

MarioKart is a great way to kill dressing room time. The standing champ is Josh Brown (trombone), but Jean Caze (trumpet) is the LeBron James of the game. He’s untouchable. It’s tough to tell who’s the master of ping pong these days, although there’s currently a World Cup style tournament going on. Nick Vayenas and Bublé are definitely the most competitive. It’ll be mildly interesting to see who destroys what when they lose.

What’s it like working with Michael?
Jacob Rodriguez - Buble 2011 - Frank Erwin Center - photo credit Carlos San Miguel

Photo: Carlos San Miguel

He’s a sweetheart. I’ve spoken with a lot of people about a lot of artists they’ve worked with. Everybody concurs that the family atmosphere that Michael brings to the table makes life away from home, away from our other halves and our children, so much easier. He’s made sure our Tour Manager and Production Manager are compassionate and highly competent people. The love seems to trickle down nicely that way. As for Michael and me personally, he’s never treated me like anything but a brother. I’ve had a great time “growing up” with him and the other guys in the organization. It’s funny to think of where we all were seven years ago when I joined and where we all are now. Marriages and children. Deaths and break ups. Michael’s been right there with us the whole way. He’s a good friend.

Have you started practicing Careless Whisper? We’ve been requesting that song on Bublé’s Instagram and are hoping to see you featured in a pre-show warm up soon.
A song like Careless Whisper can’t truly be practiced. It’s experienced. We’ll have to see what happens!

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