In this Crazy Tour Stories segment, the indie rock artist, Grayson Erhard, shares one of his stories from being on the road. You can check out the story and listen to his newest single, Tell Me No, after the break.
How to Go Viral: From Tuff Shed Digs to Stevie Wonder Riffs
Reasonable people would assume that the time leading up to performing with legendary musician Stevie Wonder would be filled with countless hours toiling away practicing and a metric ton of nerves.
These reasonable people would be only half right.
While I’d certainly spent more than my fair share of time practicing my craft before the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) trade show, you can’t be nervous for what you don’t see coming.
Instead of sweating the hours, minutes, and seconds that lead up to my showcase at NAMM, my brother, my friend, and I were busy attempting to surf but ended up spending time in the ER before the trade show January 2017 in Los Angeles.
After landing at LAX and picking up my horribly handled Gibson acoustic guitar, we had headed to the beach to get some sun and work our post-flight, pre-show jitters out. But what started out carelessly, quickly became a serious situation when my brother dislocated his shoulder.
I’d like to say his shoulder dislocation was in some “Jaws”-esque accident, but really he had just caught the short end of the luck straw while surfing. He asked me to pop his arm back into place and I found myself shaking and pale, counting down the minutes until we reached an ER that could better repair him.
After three hours at the local hospital, the next stop was a rock star’s dream sleeping arrangement: a Tuff Shed in the backyard on the property of a family who sorta-kinda knew my friend Ryan’s relatives. Luxury at its finest, but generous nonetheless since they didn’t know us at all, really. While I was used to sleeping on floors as a touring musician, I wasn’t used to sleeping in a shed during one of Pasadena’s most historic downpours. Surprisingly, we woke up dry and in great moods.
We checked into NAMM and I headed over to the stage I was booked to perform on, completely unaware of the historic moment ahead of me. It was a decent stage in the middle of the Marriott Hotel’s lobby, surrounded by restaurants.
Knowing it was a wallpaper gig, I played my set sitting down, patiently accompanying the droning conversations of guests as they ate their meals in the hotel restaurants.
I crept towards the end of my set and performed one of my favorite covers—”Superstition” by Stevie Wonder—I played casually, running through the first verse a couple times, sidestepping the fact I hadn’t quite learned the second or third verses.
As the notes faded off the end of my incomplete rendition, I wasn’t greeted to the sounds of people’s scattered claps, conversations, and meals, but rather animated gasping as Stevie Wonder himself stood in the audience, taking in my cover of his original.
“Oh my God, Stevie, I’m so sorry!” I vaguely remember uttering through the growing wave of adrenaline. “I don’t actually know the second and third verses yet.”
Stevie smiled in his wise way and reassured me that he would teach them to me, making his way toward the stage.
As the audience fumbled with their phones to get an angle and my friends desperately positioned to capture the moment on camera, I went into autopilot. With the help of his entourage, Stevie stood on stage next to me, making comments on the Women’s March happening that day and whispering lyrics into my ear.
Though he contributed with his own vocals, most of his time on stage was spent telling me the lyrics I didn’t know as I repeated them into the mic. Like the myth he is, Stevie, faded away just as mysteriously as he appeared as the last notes of the second verse hung in the air, leaving me dumbfounded and quickly running through the rest of my set.
Though the rest of NAMM gave me the opportunity to play one of my originals in front of guitar heroes like Steve Vai, meet several of my childhood icons, and perform and party in a California mansion like the stars of old, all that played in my mind were those minutes on stage with Stevie Wonder.
When I woke up the next morning, I found myself featured in Rolling Stone and Consequence of Sound and taking calls from the BBC and Good Morning America.
Riding the high and the newfound wave of viral fame I had garnered at NAMM has since felt like a rollercoaster, one I’m not sure I’m off yet, or honestly, ever truly will be.
To watch the performance click here.