Jon Batiste Live In Brooklyn Photo by Scott Heins 6
Watch Jon Batiste Start A #LoveRiot On The Streets Of Brooklyn [Exclusive Video + Photo Gallery]
Watch Jon Batiste Start A #LoveRiot On The Streets Of Brooklyn [Exclusive Video + Photo Gallery]

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

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

Jon Batiste + Stay Human on the streets of Brooklyn, Photographed by Scott Heins for Okayplayer

Whenever Jon 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?

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

Jon Batiste + Stay Human on the streets of Brooklyn, Photographed by Scott Heins for Okayplayer

Well, we think about for us, we love to play. We love the idea of music being a part of the fabric of everyday life. That was the way that music was at the beginning of American roots music and that's the music that's at the foundation of all that we love. When you go back to how music was played before a music industry was in existence and people had the community involved, it was a part of the fabric of everyday life. We love to play, and we love music in that context. We just try to find a place where we know that people are living their life. Where there'll be a lot of people. We think "Union Square. Bedford Avenue. The subway train, a captive audience." Places where people are having a good time or a bad day, places where people have their girlfriend with them or boyfriend with them for a night out. And all of a sudden--music! A concert.

And I think that that is really what we're thinking about when we look at a location or venue. It's "how can we go into all the different areas of society, where people are?" Subways are really interesting things because New York is a global city, you have everybody here. And in the subway, you have all these different people from everywhere in the world right up next to each other. And that's probably the only place where you really, on a regular basis, have all of these people come together like this in the city. And that's a beautiful thing about New York. There are plenty of opportunities for us to do our thing.

OKP:And New York is kind of a second home for you, wouldn't you say?

JB:New York has been one of those places that I've come to really feel at home at. I consider it a second home, definitely, especially now that I'm going to be doing the show. I'll be here for most of the year. I'm from a place that is a mix of cultures, a synthesis of cultures. New Orleans is somewhere that everybody knows is a mix of different influences that makes it a special place. I feel at home in New York for a similar reason, but also I think New York has such a global mix of people. For an artist, and for someone who has the ambition that I have with my art, to reach many different people, it really makes me feel inspired to be here.

OKP: How is your new Late Show position going to affect this ability to get out into the street? Is the stability of that gig going to change your program at all? Are you trying to get some of the love riots out of your system now?

JB: Well, I think it'll make it better because it's a talk show and we'll be talking. There's nothing that I've experienced like this, and this platform is something that is definitely big. But there's also something about seeing a person on television in your living room and talking, and not really always playing but being more of a personality. It's something that draws you to a person or character, even if it's a fictional show. You feel like you know them in a certain way, and I think that that will play to our advantage when we go into communities, because people will have gotten to know me and who I am even apart from the piano and playing and writing and being a bandleader. More as Jon, the personality, and I think that when we go to communities, that'll make the people who follow the show and follow what it is that we're doing with the band connect even more.

Of course there'll be certain elements--it won't be able to be as spontaneous all the time because people who recognize the band from the show will know what's about to happen, and we usually like it to just happen. Like in a restaurant, where no one knows that we're going to pull out instruments, when they don't even know we're musicians.

But that's not a big deal, because once we're moving people won't see us coming. I'm glad that I have the opportunity to do that, and I think Stephen is a guy who's about people and it'll be a great team. I'm thrilled, it's going to be amazing.

>>>Read from Batiste's interview at Revive

>>>Info on the NoMad Hotel residency is available here.