The grind hasn’t stopped for multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer Adam Blackstone. Currently the musical director for both Nicki Minaj and Justin Timberlake, Headliner recently spoke to Blackstone about his musical ethos, playing and performing with some of the biggest artists on the planet, and why he wouldn’t be without his JH Audio Roxannes.
With music instilled in him from a very young age, Blackstone found his way playing upright bass in jazz clubs and restaurants, just as neo soul and open mic nights were booming in Philadelphia in the early 2000s.
“At these jam sessions, everybody from Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Anthony Hamilton, India Arie - they were all coming in; those experiences taught me that you’ve always got to be prepared when your number’s called,” says Blackstone. “I was just at a local club, but I would always treat it like Madison Square Garden, right? And that’s the focus and the diligence that I’ve tried to put into every single one of my gigs: to come prepared, to care about the music, and to always give it 100.”
It was one of these jam sessions that led to him first meeting Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of hip-hop band The Roots, which he admits changed his life in many ways. After being taken under the wing of his friend and mentor, Blackstone’s first big gig was as a bass player on Jay Z’s The Black Album tour in late 2003. This saw him go on to work with the likes of Kanye West, Beyonce and Rihanna, the latter for whom he was the MD and bassist on her 777 Tour, which involved playing seven shows in seven countries around the world on seven consecutive days...
“That was the smartest and worst thing we ever came up with,” he laughs. “But honestly, there isn’t one person that I’ve worked with who hasn’t impacted my life in some way. I’ve been on some real creative, innovative tours like Glow in the Dark with Kanye West. My brother, Justin Timberlake; he’s always just been able to set the bar, even across genres - with him there’s so many different styles of music encompassed into one show.