Jasper native working as tour manager for popular singer

By ED HOWELL, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 7/14/17

Jasper native Maggie Mitchell is coming to the Foothills Festival in downtown Jasper on Sept. 15-16 — not to play music, but as the tour agent for artist John Paul White.

She describes it as a dream job.

White, a …

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Jasper native working as tour manager for popular singer

Posted

Jasper native Maggie Mitchell is coming to the Foothills Festival in downtown Jasper on Sept. 15-16 — not to play music, but as the tour agent for artist John Paul White.

She describes it as a dream job.

White, a former member of the Grammy Award-winning duo The Civil Wars who has launched a solo career, was recently added to the list of artists for this year’s festival. White will play the festival at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16.

Mitchell, 28, has seen White up close since October, when she became White’s tour manager.

She has been very impressed with the down-to-earth nature and respect shown by White, a Muscle Shoals native who lives in Florence.

Mitchell, the daughter of Judy Mitchell of Jasper, has been living in Nashville for the past three years. She moved this week to New York City to advance her career, while still being tour manager for White.

She is a 2007 graduate of Walker High School. At the time, she dealt in sports instead of music at school, playing softball, volleyball and basketball in high school and later basketball at Wallace State Community College.

“I was always pulled between my love for sports and my love for arts and music,” she said, noting she was writing songs and getting into photography early on.

Mitchell got an art degree from Wallace State, which had an emphasis in photography.

“It became my major, and so I was like, ‘I want to photograph music, because I love it and want to be as close to it,’” she said. “Then it just hit me one day, why not just be in the music?”

At that point, she decided to follow the business side of music. She then went to the University of North Alabama in Florence, where in 2014 she got a bachelor of science degree in the entertainment industry, with an emphasis in business and a minor in public communication.

(As it turned out, White also graduated from the UNA program in its earlier incarnation.) 

That led to the perpetual show biz story of trying to make it in Nashville, working full-time retail and waitress positions while trying to get her foot in the door with what little time she had left. But in time she started doing some booking agent work for smaller artists in Arkansas and Arizona that involved time in front of the computer.

“It wasn’t for me, but it at least kept me active and hopeful,” she said.

Then last year, a former student from UNA called her. While in school, she had helped friends and band members she respected.

“On the weekends while I was in school, I would tour with them and tour manage them. He heard about me through them and then through some teachers,” Mitchell said. “He heard about me through them and then through some teachers. He gave me a call one day and asked if I was interested in tour managing,”

The man — who turned out to be White’s tour manager for the summer who could not commit to work into the fall — told her the artist would be White, which floored her. He then arranged a meeting over coffee between her and White, and she was soon hired. She had met White earlier at a UNA talk he gave.

“He didn’t remember meeting me, so I gave him a hard time about that,” she said. “But he is as genuine as they come, honestly. I couldn’t be out with a better group.”

As for life on the road, she noted someone has told her, “If we weren’t already a little bit crazy, this would drive us insane. 

While a lot of work, she said she enjoys the logistics behind it.

“I take care of other people much better than I do myself,” she said.

She will get contracts from the booking agent, and she contacts the talent buyer or the promoter, sending a packet with details. She works through the schedule to make sure of details, such as meals, parking, pay checks and hotels.

“It’s pretty much seeing that everything goes smoothly, that the artists have what they need, that if there are any hiccups you have to be ready to solve whatever,” she said.

Going on the road are currently six people in a 15-passenger van pulling a trailer, although sometimes it is smaller. Five or six tours have been held since October.

Once they arrive, she loves the rush of events — meetings with the event manager or promotor, finding out about meals, locating the green room, having the set list of songs is available and making sure the stage is set up.

Mitchell has even had to be involved with merchandise during the show after an intern moved to Prague.

“You are usually the first one in and the last one out,” she said.

As for being a female tour manager, it is a physical job. Mitchell said her research showed Alabama Shakes and other groups have female tour managers, as the practice is becoming more common. “I do pride myself on the ability to pick up things,” she said, noting she was a tomboy growing up and that most of her friends were male.

Fortunately for Mitchell, the members of the tour are gentlemen and offer to help her if an item is too heavy to carry, or to take turns helping her if she is busy with other tasks. “They are still very respectful to me as a woman,” she said.

Overall, few problems have occurred. “We did get snowed in in Pendleton, Ore., for four days, and we had to cancel two shows because of that,” she said.

Mitchell said she was a fan of White before she worked with him, and has been “quietly inspired” by his work in terms of her own songwriting, although she has been respectful not to try to ask him much for advice, as he gets many similar requests. She still writes, but she does more poetry and mixed media, these days.

Her mother once wrote songs, so she has been very supportive of her work.

Touring has also allowed her to see things she otherwise might not. She was allowed onto a VIP tour given to White at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, where they saw rare museum items kept in the archives. Montreal impressed her, especially as she is half Canadian.

She was impressed to see the foreign language on signs and to be out of her element. “It was a gorgeous city,” she said.

As for the Foothills Festival, it was scheduled without her help. She found out the booking months ago when she got the usual calendar from his manager.

“I got really excited and texted him and asked him, ‘Are you really playing Jasper?’ John said, ‘Am I?’” she said. Once he realized he was, he was “super pumped” about playing in Jasper.

Moreover, she and her family is excited that she is being allowed to work on the schedule that weekend, so she can come back to her hometown. “I would have come down anyways. It will be great to work it,”she said.

Moreover, the Spin Doctors are headlining the night White sings, which will please those on White’s tour bus.

“They guys have been on a ‘90s kick for the last couple of tours,” she said. “All they’ve been listening to are ‘90s music.”

As for the future, “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I will do this as long as he lets me. In New York, there are a few job opportunities that will allow me to work there and tour, so I am basically changing my home base,” Mitchell said, noting White and his other managers have been supportive.

She said she loves Alabama and Jasper, she is still young and she wants to look into opportunities, which could even take her to her ultimate goal of the West Coast, which she also saw recently for the first time.

White has some of his management team in New York, she has friends and connections there and she even has narrowed down possible churches to attend.

“I think it will allow me to grow in ways I haven’t yet,” she said, adding she will come through town a number of times because of the tour dates.