Bradley Tucker of Relix Magazine had a chance to sit down with Moonalice & Doobie Decibel System Tour Manager Jenna Lebowitz for an interview that is not to be missed!
Jenna Lebowitz is the founder of Jenstar Productions, where she manages the careers of artists such as ALO and Brokedown in Bakersfield. In addition to a long stint as ALO’s tour manager, she has served in that capacity for Moonalice, Doobie Decibel System, Brandi Carlile, Brett Dennen and Tea Leaf Green as well as assistant tour manager for John Mayer. Lebowitz is married to ALO guitarist Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz (“We work and travel really well together. We’ve been together a long time and we were friends before we were a couple.”) and continues to strike a balance between the many facets of her life.
What was the live music scene like where you grew up?
I grew up in Danville, Calif., a suburb east of San Francisco. The music scene here was pretty mellow but I grew up with a lot of musicians, like Todd Sickafoose, who plays with Ani DiFranco, and Mike Silverman (That 1 Guy)—his high school band played my bat mitzvah. As soon as I could get on BART [Bay Area Rapid Transit]—or get my parents to drive me 40 minutes into the city or drop me off at shows—that’s what I wanted to do all the time.
And that led you to start putting on events?
It led to me producing a lot of stuff just for my high school. I was one of those kids that was involved with a ton of groups and student council. A big part of my thing was bringing events on campus, doing concerts and events for causes—environmental causes, Earth Day, weeks of awareness. There was a multicultural week with some performers from around the world, actually bringing them into our high school. And that continued into college at UC Santa Barbara.
I met ALO during my freshman year at UCSB in the dorms. I went to a fraternity party where they were playing, and I was like, “Oh, this band is amazing.” They said that they were releasing a CD the next day and I bought it, and about a year later, I started doing shows with them. Of all the different artists, ALO is the band I’ve been the most consistent with. I stopped working with many bands so that I could manage and tour manage ALO.
What was an early lesson you learned?
There are so many. I feel like I could write a sheet of bullet points on things: Don’t take things personally. Flexibility. Those are repeated lessons. And just being persistent but being patient. The biggest thing in booking is you have to be nonstop—not annoying—just consistently on it. But not annoying.
Also from tour management, I’ve learned to make sleep count when you get it because it’s going to be very limited. So make it impactful sleep—I don’t know if that’s something I’ve learned or if I’m just blessed to be able to sleep anywhere. [Laughs.] Make sure your phone is always charged and that you have backup battery sources. [Laughs.] Stay hydrated because you don’t know when you’re gonna eat. And making sure that your artists are always hydrated, fed and caffeinated—if caffeine is their thing—is gonna be the key to semi-harmony in the world. And then everything else is just going with it as it flows.
How has your job changed from when you started?
I think the biggest change was becoming a mom. I love tour managing so much; Dan and I waited seven years before we had a child. We were really trying to figure out if we love traveling together, if we love touring, how a child would fit into it. And then being ready to dedicate time and energy to a child—that was a very conscious decision for us. And so the dream was, “All right, she’s gonna travel as much as she can. School and all that will figure in also, but initially, we want her to understand that this is her lifestyle and this is what her family does and it will always be a massive part of her family’s life. Even if I slow down on my touring, her dad will still be on the road a good amount. So her first show was a month after she was born and her first tour was two months after she was born. And she just loves to come on tour and she talks about it and she has memories of it—of the different daytime experiences—and then nighttime is about the show. The biggest change for me is being a mom, tour managing [and] being married to a musician, and incorporating all of those things.
What is the worst part about your job?
I don’t know if there is a worst thing. It’s endlessly challenging because I feel like I always want to be available to the artists and the people I work with. I don’t have “office hours,” especially being married to a musician—the office is always open. But I love that. It might be a little challenging, but I don’t think I could have it any other way, and I don’t think I could be in a relationship either with anyone who isn’t on all the time with their music passion as well.
I love post-show reflection, I love hanging with our daughter ’cause she’s on the road with us. Hopefully, she’ll be up late so we’ll get to hang out post-show—or she’ll be at the show and 5he’1l be jazzed to be seeing the music and hanging out. I love just hanging with Lebo or any of the musicians that I’m working with—talking about the show and listening to them talk about it on the musician level. I love how they dissect the music, listening back to the recordings from the night to talk about what happened. And then, for me to reflect on how it all played out backstage or in the house, with the audience—I love that. I get so fueled. Like all of us working in the music business, music is what fuels us and fuels our souls. So post-show it’s, “Oh, yes!” It’s a wild ride, but you stick with it, talk about it, love it and then get to sleep for a moment before it starts all over again.
Pick up the March 2015 issue of Relix magazine now.