Jimmy Fallon graces the cover of Billboard Mag, less than a week out from his debut as the new star of The Tonight Show, and if the presence of OKP founder Questlove hovering over his left shoulder was not enough to signal, the insightful feature spells out in no uncertain terms what we’ve been screaming—The Roots are the heart and soul of Fallon’s approach to comedy; a formula that allows him to be funny without forcing it and the rest of the time just be a nice guy and hospitable host:
No one will testify to this more than Christian Clancy, the former Interscope marketing executive who manages hip-hop collective Odd Future, led by controversial frontman Tyler, the Creator. “Fallon humanizes [artists]. That show gave its audience a peek at a kid that connects beyond the shock and all the things people think he is,” he says. “Jumping on Fallon’s back [after his performance], Tyler looked like a 7-year-old having the time of his life.” (Which was totally cool, Fallon says, “but I don’t want everyone jumping on my back.”)
This is Billboard, of course, not TV Guide, so focusing on the music and music industry angle–much is made for instance of Frank Ocean‘s last-minute announcement of Channel Orange‘s midnight release from Fallon’s stage–is perhaps to be expected. Billboard may have a better insight into the magic formula than almost (*cough) any other outlet, considering that Jonathan Cohen–music booker for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (and now the Tonight Show) and the 3rd member of the Fallon triumvirate–is a former senior editor:
“Once we figured out how many ways we could use the Roots as part of the performances, that kicked things up a bit,” says Cohen…”Their presence allows us to do things completely unique to the show.”
Both Cohen and Questo get a lot of time to talk, including some Questlove tidbits on the new theme song and set up for The Roots:
He’s thought a lot about the band’s transition to “The Tonight Show” and decided to add two horn players from soul band Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, to give the Roots a more classic sound. Questlove would like to take full advantage of the reported $5 million set renovation, which boasts natural-wood walls “built so that music actually pops in your face,” he enthuses. The avowed gadget geek has also been “auditioning over 30 microphones” and other gear to achieve a crisp sound reminiscent of talk shows from the ’50s and ’60s.
“Pull up D-Train‘s ‘You’re the One for Me,’ like, that particular texture,” he blurts out mid-interview to a musician in the next room over. One of the most multitastic guys in the business, he’s creating a new “Tonight Show” theme during his chat with Billboard and thinking out loud about how he’s going to find the time to write a new opening song for “Soul Train,” also on the day’s agenda. High-pitched “Close Encounters” bleeps that turn into a life-affirming dance-soul groove waft into the room. He turns his head and looks into space to concentrate on them.