OKP Exclusive: Jon Batiste Speaks On #LoveRiots, ‘The Late Show’ & His New NYC Residency–Launching Tonight

Jon Batiste Live In Brooklyn Photo by Scott Heins 6Jon Batiste wiggles his fingers, it seems, crowds appear. At least when he waves them over a keyboard of some kind. The 28 year-old jazz pianist and bandleader has become a star in recent years, thanks in equal part to both his keen songwriting skills and his penchant for breaking rules. Batiste and his band–a group appropriately dubbed Stay Human–frequently take their art to the streets, performing impromptu concerts in alleyways, sidewalks and stoops that blur the lines between busking and block party. Batiste calls them love riots.

Earlier this month Okayplayer caught Batiste and his cohorts in full love riot mode, charging down Brooklyn’s Bedford avenue armed with an array of portable instruments. Inspired by that moment, we tracked the man himself down for an interview on what exactly fuels a #LoveRiot, the early plan for his role as bandleader on CBS‘s new Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and what New Yorkers can expect at his new extended residency at the NoMad Hotel which, it turns out, opens tonight (Batiste and Stay Human will be playing eight shows across seven nights from today through Monday June 29th–get more info here.)

OKP: We caught your Love Riot over here on North 7th Street the other day–when can we expect the next one to happen?

JB: You never know, I’m so spontaneous with the Love Riots, that one was something that we thought about like the day before. Over the weekend I had been thinking about it. That’s kind of how it usually happens. A few of our friends and people we know come out, we gather in a spot, and we just kind of let community percolate and see what happens.

Then of course when we play our shows, and we have some coming at the No-Mad Hotel where we’re doing a residency, that one I know is going to have one. Whenever we play our shows live, it’s liable to happen because the energy is there, but it’s a spontaneous occurrence for the most part.

OKP: So it can happen anytime, anyplace?

JB: Yeah. I guess that’s us.

OKP:  Let’s talk about your No-Mad residency–Do you prepare in advance for moving the music somewhere else? Have you ever had any pushback from venues, the city or anything like that for playing on the street?

JB: Well, we’ve gotten pushback here and there but for the most part people have been great. In the residency, we’ve planned to have some spontaneous moments. That planning is a sort of skeleton, to get us from point A to point B, throughout the week so that those moments can have room to breathe and happen. And I think the best way to ensure that you have the most amazing moments happen is to get the right people in the room at the right time, and that’s what the planning is all about. Making sure that you have a roadmap, having a ticket price that’s low enough so people of all socio-economic backgrounds can have access to it, have an educational/mentorship component to it so that we have young people involved, so that we not only have celebrities and tastemakers involved but we get them in the room–people who may not have that access to go see shows and be a part of what’s going on.

And we have food and drink, and are collaborating with restauranteurs, with Chase and the reach they can have. The idea is: now we have everybody in the room, and we know that, in the shows, when spontaneous moments do occur, what works and what the right ingredients are. Now that we have those on the table, let’s leave room for the magic to happen.

OKP:  When you come to Bedford Avenue or somewhere else outside of a venue, are you thinking about it as an intervention or outreach, in the sense of the space that you’re bringing the music to? Like, “Today we really feel like we want to run up on the Upper East Side. Those people need to hear the message or interact with us”? How do you strategize that?

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