Listen Now

Richy Jackson: Legendary Creative Director, Richy Jackson, Shares What It Takes To Become A Star!





COACH MIKE BAYER: Welcome back to the “Coach Mike Podcast”. I am shifting things a bit and calling this podcast, “Always Evolving” and I’m always evolving and I’ve shifted this to be more bitesize, uh more value based. Uh probably some-- somewhere between 20 to 25 minutes and I’m gonna be releasing more of these types of podcasts. Today I have a dear friend of mine who I consider a creative genius, creative director, choreographer for some of the biggest artists in the business. Uh his name is Richy Jackson and thanks for coming on the show.




MIKE: Richy! Richy, but break it-- break it down? Why-- why should-- why are you the expert in this space? Like what have you done?



RICHY: Okay Coach Mike, okay, okay, okay. Okay so, I’ve basically danced with everybody. Let me just start with Will Smith in the 2000 Grammy Awards, Jessica Simpson, Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, Missy Elliot. I did Coke commercials. I did iPod commercials. The original iPod commercials, me. Uh the original iPod billboards, me. I’ve danced with-- well let me just move on. Then I started to assist for people like Brandy and Keri Hillson and it eventually got to Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and more. I did “A Star is Born”. I did the Oscars with uh-- with Lady Gaga and uh Bradley Cooper and now we’re here today speaking with you and I also did the Super Bowl. Whooo!!



MIKE: But Lady Gaga-- and when you say you, “did it” (STAMMER) explain what, exactly, you do?



RICHY: Okay, I have a couple of hats. Uh the first hat is choreographer, putting together the steps, uh the vibe. How do we move? How many dancers do we need, twenty-three, two, fourteen, maybe ten? And then I creative direct, which is also choreography plus, you know, what are we doing with the hair, the makeup, the look? What is the tour about? What is the set about? What does each act about? How are the dancers dressed? How are they moving? I literally have to just be sort of the head of all of that as well when I’m a creative director. When I’m a choreographer, I’m just over the dancers and the artist’s movement and staging. It’s a lot.



MIKE: (STAMMER) and does so much of it depend on the chemistry you have with someone?



RICHY: Totally. Um, I think that when you are working in this business, you have to have chemistry. Uh, it depends on what kind of chemistry you’re going for. You know some people will become “yes people”. “Yes, yes, yes” to everything. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that’s maybe a cool chemistry at first, but good luck ‘cause you’ll eventually fall off because I don’t think anyone great wants “yes people”. Uh the chemistry (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...



MIKE: Like what? (STAMMER) like an artist would show a dance move? And do you ever-- do you ever-- do you remember any artists that would show something and you’d be like, “No, we’re doing it this way”?



RICHY: Most of them, yes. Most of them.






RICHY: No (STAMMER) no, no, no. Not right there. You know a few of them have gotten a couple moves in. I’ve been like, “Yes that makes sense.” If it makes sense I’ll roll with it, but if it does not, I’ll be like, “Nah let’s try this.” You know what I mean? So um-- but also again, if the chemistry’s all about how can you actually like, work with who they are, who they are as a person, who they are as an artist and what are they going for. And sometimes that chemistry has to be, “yes” and “no”. You cannot be afraid to say “no” in this business because if you do, they won’t respect you later.



MIKE: Well I can’t-- I can’t think of someone-- uh you know I love the arts and I worked with a lot of entertainers and you’re, you’re the best out there.



RICHY: Yeah.



MIKE: Uh so good that I even have you-- I even have you come over and do dance classes with me. Uh...






MIKE: And (LAUGHTER) right. And what, um what is for-- for anyone like looking to entertain, what is a common mistake that you see someone do, because you’ve worked with so many huge iconic talents?



RICHY: Okay, the common mistake that I see a lot of, let’s just speak about artists, do is, they don’t play to the venue, meaning there’s a difference between a MTV Music Awards performance and a Super Bowl performance. There’s a difference between a House of Blues performance and a Coachella performance. There’s a difference between what you do on a music video as to what you do live. And when you don’t know what kind of venue you’re playing, that’s when they, in my opinion, make the most mistakes; is they, they do something that feels less than the venue that they’re at.


MIKE: So do you have any examples?


RICHY: Uh, oh my God. Okay. How can I say this, but not say this (INAUDIBLE)...



MIKE: I know. I already-- I’m already like-- I, I get it.



RICHY: (GASP) Um, oh… you know I’m gona (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...



MIKE: You can let it out.



RICHY: I don’t wanna “out” anybody. I’m just-- all I’m saying is-- only thing I would say is-- what, what year is this, 2020?



MIKE: Yeah.



RICHY: We did 20 (INAUDIBLE). You know think of-- (LAUGHS). Think of any Super Bowl after 2017. Did you feel like you-- with those half-time shows, did you feel like you got something more than you expected? Is the question I would ask and that’s just a (STAMMER) just a question. Like, do you feel like when you saw anyone after 2017, did that give you more than what you expected? If they did, then they did great. If they didn’t, maybe they just didn’t play to the venue.



MIKE: Got it, ‘cause you’re saying the Super Bowl’s a venue where you go totally out of the box?



RICHY: The Super Bowl is like you go to the moon. Like they literally are like, “What can we do? Well what’s-- what can we not do?” Like we-- you literally go to the moon. You have to. (STAMMER) when you stand on that fifty yard line Mike and you-- you’re looking around, you’re like, “This is crazy.” Like you, you feel like you have the world at your feet and if you don’t use that space and that opportunity to go for it…



MIKE: Yeah.



RICHY: …(INAUDIBLE) missed opportunity.



MIKE: And, and let me-- let me ask you, like you’ve seen so many people, quote, “try to make it”, right?



RICHY: Yeah.



MIKE: And when does someone know if they’re just not a star?



RICHY: Ooh. Oooh. You are shady for that question. Okay. When does someone….



MIKE: (STAMMER) by the way, I feel like this is-- this is across all industries.



RICHY: Yeah. I mean this is the thing about it.



MIKE: Cause you’ll get-- I know Richy. I know. I know you’re get-- you’re the guy where people are like, “Oh he works with Gaga. He works with Katy Perry. I want him to work with my kid.” or “I want him to work with my relative and we-- the money’s not an issue.”



RICHY: Right.



MIKE: And you’re suddenly-- you’re suddenly brought in.



RICHY: Yes. Okay, for me personally, that when I know that someone should wrap it up and just like call it “quits” is when you’re starting to force them to do what they are supposed to do. When you’re trying to…






RICHY: ...make them do this and make them do that and they’re dragging their feet and they’re not happy with who they are themselves or what the situation is and you’re in there pulling their everything, they need to go. Because they have to still be the anchor of this whole thing. They have to still be the seed.



MIKE: But I’m talking about, like new in the biz.



RICHY: Well if you’re new in the biz after-- listen after so many “nos” and so-- listen you can either be-- what’s our girl that did um-- uh what’s, what’s-- I mean that movie is huge now. Her brand is humongous. You can be our girl who did-- what’s the magician’s movie? “Harry Potter”!



MIKE: “Harry Potter”? She was in “Harry Potter’s” movie and she’s a (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...









RICHY: The writer of “Harry Potter”. I’m, I’m blanking on her.



MIKE: Oh, you mean J.K. Rowling…



RICHY: Okay.



MIKE: ...the writer of “Harry Potter”. You see eventually she made it.



RICHY: Yeah. I mean she heard a lot of “nos”, but eventually someone said “yes”, but after a very long time and I commend her. But I feel like these days after so many “nos” ‘cause the opportunities are-- is not the same anymore. It’s not like it used to be in the old days. I feel like after so many “nos” you might have to just call it quits and wrap it up.



MIKE: Do you think that the more that somebody becomes a star the more narcissistic they have become?



RICHY: No. I think that-- I think that now with today’s artist-- I feel like today’s artists are starting to actually be a little bit more narcissistic. I think that we’ve gotten too “Kumbaya” too, “We like everybody!” Like no one wants to be different anymore and I feel like that’s what made the stars of, like, the 80’s and the 90’s. They were all fighting to be not like the other one.






RICHY: They were (INAUDIBLE) social media so they-- and they also didn’t listen to what their fans thought was good on them or not. Um you have to imagine Prince and uh, Michael Jackson listening to someone in wherever telling them, “We don’t like those heels you’re dancing in Prince.” or “We don’t like that…” I don’t know. “...those gloves Michael or those flooding socks that shimmer.” Like we may not have had those stars listening to people who are giving their opinions behind some phone. So I feel like today’s artists actually dive back into themselves and try to make sure they’re not like anyone, at all.



MIKE: I mean how-- how do you (STAMMER) just-- how do you teach someone to have more stage presence?



RICHY: (SIGH) You have to put them in front of a mirror. Because most times when people don’t have good stage presence, they are-- sometimes are even afraid to see themselves, so you have to (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...



MIKE: Like I note-- I notice I always have, “resting bitch face”. Right?



RICHY: Yeah.



MIKE: Like my face is always like-- when I’m listening to my-- it looks like I’m kind of angry and you’ve helped (STAMMER) Richy you’ve helped me with some talks. Remember I’ve called you beforehand and I’m like…






MIKE:’re like (STAMMER). You know what’s so smart about you is when I had a-- I had a talk with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Vegas...



RICHY: Yeah.



MIKE: ...and I facetimed with you beforehand. I’m like, “What do I need to do?” And you’re like, “No. First you come out in full suit, but then you take off the jacket and then you roll up your sleeves so then they’re feeling like they’re getting down to business.”



RICHY: Yass! You gotta set the tone.


MIKE: So, like even on these Zooms when people have these (STAMMER)-- just any advice in general. How do you have a presence?


RICHY: Well (STAMMER) I think what I’m saying is like, the presence has to start with confidence. You gotta have confidence and then after that you have to know what you’re talking about. What do you want to convey to the people or person that’s listening? But first and foremost, you definitely need confidence and if you don’t have that… it’s just gonna go down. You have to have…



MIKE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a lot of big artists don’t have confidence?



RICHY: Um, I do nowadays. I (STAMMER) completely. I, I think that nowadays it is a com-- like the, the artist has flipped. I think they’re collectively more insecure, more worried about what people are saying, more concerned about outside influences or outside input. I feel like nowadays it’s so much about what everyone else is saying. It’s almost like you're allowing people who don’t even know you to make who you are.






RICHY: 100%.



MIKE: Who, who do you feel like does the least of that, though? Who do you think kind of fights against that?



RICHY: Fights against what? What they sort of should be doing?



MIKE: Yeah.



RICHY: Uh I have to say Lady Gaga. I would have to say Jojo Siwa. I would have to say Ariana from what I’ve seen recently, like meeting her and speaking with her and just feeling her energy. Um, I would have to say as far as older artists, I mean it’d be like the Michaels, the Princes, Cher, Janet, uh freaking Led Zeppelin, KISS didn’t give two shits. And they were all…



MIKE: Wow! How-- how are you evolving in your craft?



RICHY: Well I actually spoke with someone about this the other day. Um, you know what evolves me is like it-- it is the client. It’s, it’s who I’m working with. It’s like-- it’s like what are we trying to achieve? That, that’s how I evolve, is sort of taking on more obstacles or, or situations or sort of becoming creatively better with the person that I’m working with. That’s how I evolve. I sort of evolve with who I’m working with. Personally for me evolving, it’s not about the next dance move. It’s not about-- it’s, it’s more about like what’s the next concept? What’s the next way to show something? Uh, what’s the next story that we could tell? There can…



MIKE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you, you caught-- you know what’s inter-- you talked to me about how like, they’ll be people online who like, do dance moves and they-- it-- but it’s just them doing dance moves, right?



RICHY: Yeah.



MIKE: And then they-- to actually put it into practice, to orchestrate, literally a…



RICHY: Yeah.



MIKE: ...a whole symphony of dance moves and dancing and I-- it’s a totally different game right? And I don’t think people understand the difference.


RICHY: Well, so like people that dance online in most cases, they’re dancing for themselves. It’s about them. It’s about how they look. It’s about how they move.





RICHY: It’s not about anyone else except for them. So it’s sort of like there’s no orchestration, it’s just about, “look at me”. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what I’m saying, when you are a dancer or a choreographer you are looking at an entire picture. You are trying to not-- you are trying to put movement on a cast of people that is gonna affect the world. It’s just-- it’s not about me, the choreographer, it’s about who I’m working with, who I like, the music that I’m working with and how do we, uh, put energy out to the world so they can all feel it. You know what I mean?






RICHY: I think that very much like, “Look at me! Look at me!” and the moves are sort of like, you know, simple and ‘A’ and ‘B’. I mean if you put some of that-- those steps on a humongus artist, you’d get sliced, diced and thrown away.






MIKE: (STAMMER) and you do the (STAMMER) it’s so competitive for dance. So many dances come to L.A. trying to get that next shot. Like…



RICHY: Yeah.



MIKE: be a dancer on a tour, what have you, like how do you ch-- what are the, like, top three qualities when you’re looking for someone?



RICHY: When I’m looking for someone and they come into, like, anyone of my auditions, I am looking at first of all who is a star. I think that every artist and or every project, commercials, videos, tours should have star dancers behind them. Uh we should not be worried about someone behind an artist or someone behind an actor or actress pulling focus…






RICHY: ...or worrying about much. I don’t know, uh fan-- what’s the work I wanna look for? Like there’s just people that worry about those things. I’m just like, they’re not there for them though. They’ll never pull more focus than you. The lights are on you.



MIKE: Yeah.



RICHY: Everyone’s just um…



MIKE: Yeah, they’re not there to see them.



RICHY: No. So I-- they’re there to be like, “Who’s on the bill? Oh okay that’s who we’re here to see.” Um, so I always look for a star dancer. I look for people who are going full out, meaning like they are giving it their all as soon as they (UNINTELLIGIBLE) learn the first step. And then I look for people that can actually deliver back the vibe and how I gave them the dance. I want them to give it back to me, but even better and those are sort of the three qualities I look for no matter your height, weight, skin color, where you’re from. If you-- if you’re in dance…



MIKE: And they-- I must say you have 100 people in the room, just guessing since you’ve done this so many times. How many of those people actually do those three things?


RICHY: If I have 100 people in the room, I want to say today, probably about-- ‘bout 25.


MIKE: Got it. And then how do you cut after that?



RICHY: Now I’m cutting on look, vibe, uh do you have a social media problem. Are you gonna be on set or on (INAUDIBLE)...






RICHY: ...a person who’s trying to like videotape or blog? Uh...



MIKE: Oh so when you look at all their socials and be like, are they-- are they gonna sit here and cause tantrums and…



RICHY: Oh yeah (INAUDIBLE) know. It’s to the point now where your phones are outside. There are no phones in rehearsals. No. Because someone’s always trying to record something, trying to get this to try to show that and I’m just-- I’ve had to make statements like, “Listen you are on a job with someone else. This is their gig. This their career.”






RICHY: “Yes you are (INAUDIBLE) not your moment to own it and take footage and snap pictures and blog about it or talk about it. This is not that moment, so yeah I also…



MIKE: And what-- what’s a mistake that you learned a lot about with bringing on a certain type of dancer? And then over a period of time you’re like, “That just doesn’t work for me. I don't know why he was doing that? I knew in my gut.”



RICHY: Well the, the only mistake is-- the mistake is a recurring mistake that I have to deal with every time. So like every time-- I’m just gonna give you an example. I could do a job with Gaga and if it’s involving, like, more than our normal, like, 12 core dancers, every time I have to hire more than that, there’s always the mistake of or the risk of someone acting up, acting crazy. Uh you know I always hear about like one or two dancers who are just like the worst collectively that everyone has had a problem with that I didn’t even know the whole time. So it’s a recurring mistake because I have to tell myself, “Okay we’re looking for 20 dancers. We’re looking for more than 12 dancers on this job or that job.”



MIKE: Mm hm.



RICHY: So there’s always that, that mistake that I’m okay with making. I want to invite new artists and young dancers to work with me and around us. But there is a mistake that someone’s always gonna just go a little left or get a little crazy or try to have an attitude. There’s just always that mistake that I just…



MIKE: Got it. So it’s almost like if it’s not broke, don’t try to fix it?



RICHY: Well ‘cause I-- well I can’t fix that because I do want to continue to have great people around (INAUDIBLE STAMMER)...



MIKE: Yeah.



RICHY: ...and new people, new artists, new young dancers. But in that, always comes, “Well did someone act up this time?” So…



MIKE: Yeah I gotcha. And then what is-- what is uh-- in terms of dancers and artists and talent that you see-- ‘cause I think sometimes it’s just so helpful to learn from mistakes. That's how we all-- and, and we all go, “Uh huh I’ve done that too.”






MIKE: Oh gosh I was-- I-- what is something that you see with someone who’s so great they could be such a star…


RICHY: Yeah.



MIKE: ...but the mistake they make?



RICHY: You ready?



MIKE: Yeah.



RICHY: Their attitude!



MIKE: Attitude?



RICHY: That (INAUDIBLE) has to be-- I mean especially if we’re talking about dancers. Like…



MIKE: Yeah.



RICHY: have to come in there and just dance. You don’t have to-- you really don’t have to ask any questions. You don’t have to make any comments, all you do is look at the choreographer and just dance and you’re fine. And if you kill it, great. But then all of a sudden they wanna speak, ask questions, have an attitude, complain, “What’s this? What’s that? Eh, eh, eh.” And by the time they're done with all that, you’re just like forget it. Uh, I don’t care how great you dance, you’re out of here ‘cause I just don’t want to (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...



MIKE: But what is like (STAMMER) just-- just so I can understand. Attitude, right? Cause when you say, “attitude”, like what’s (STAMMER) like is it that thing, you’re like, “It’s time to dance.” and you see them going, (SIGH)? Or is it they’re off on the ph-- like what is uh, typical (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?



RICHY: It’s (INAUDIBLE) it is (SIGH), or it’s, “I don’t like this!” or “Why is that?” or “I thought you said we was gonna be (STAMMER) done at this time.” or “Wait, you told me…” Like all of that when you’re working with creative people where times and (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You know how things are. You can-- you’re supposed to something at 12, it ends up being one o’clock or, “We didn’t eat meals at that time because we had to do this.” or, “I don’t know, this outfit’s gonna change completely. We have a whole new vibe. Like you have to-- as someone-- as these young artists are working with other artists, you have to sometimes just roll with it.



MIKE: Let me (STAMMER) you-- how long you been with Gaga?



RICHY: Since 2007.



MIKE: Alright. What (STAMMER) it’s incredibly rare that someone would be the creative-- like that you would-- that you’ve gone through so many transformations, reinventions, shifting, collaborating with her. Why do you think you’ve-- you’re still in the mix (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? That’s incredibly rare, ‘cause everyone’s always looking for, “I want that creative director. I want that choreographer.” You know it’s always mixed up.



RICHY: (STAMMER) I think it’s-- well (STAMMER) I will say this, and I’m speaking from what I (STAMMER) well what I’m thinking. Uh I met her from day one which is just she was still on Myspace. Um, I’m also a very loyal, uh client. Like I, like, stick with my clients. Um, I also feel like I do good work and I feel like if people do good work, you know why not keep them and, and keep them around. And I just think that we just been through so much together that throughout it all we still continue to push each other. She does great work. I do great work. We have a great team around us and I just feel like you keep the people that, that are there for you through thin and thicker and that’s what we’ve done, so.



MIKE: So you (STAMMER) but you-- the industry itself is extremely transient, right?



RICHY: Well yeah and the-- and what I would say about that, to be honest with you, is that people who go through 50,000 people around them, there’s something going on with them.



MIKE: Right.



RICHY: “I’m just the choreographer” or “It’s not the producer” or “It’s not the style.” What’s happening with you if you’re making these changes every album?



MIKE: Yeah. (PAUSE) Well Richy, thank you for, uh, hanging out and coming on, “Always Evolving”. It’s good to know, ‘cause I think it’s (STAMMER) I think anyone who hires is always like, you know, they wanna hire someone that’s a star. They wanna hire someone who has a good attitude. They wanna hire someone who has the right vibe and listens and gives feedback and I think those are incredible tips for anyone especially people just looking to get back into the workplace. Looking back at just how they reinvent their own lives and I consider you best in the business. You're a creative mastermind. I call you on anything I have creatively.



RICHY: Whoo!!



MIKE: You’ve even dealt with me when I’ve had down times and down days and “What the hell am I doing?” and “How do I make life coaching be more exciting or interesting?” And you’ve just been such a great friend and I really appreciate you coming on the podcast.



RICHY: (INAUDIBLE) Mike this was fantastic. I will see you soon.



MIKE: Soon.









MIKE: Bye.





MIKE: Hey guys thanks for listening to “Always Evolving with Coach Mike Bayer”. Please subscribe and download, also let me know your thoughts. Did you like this format to give you smaller bitesize podcasts or do you like a longer version? Please rate and review it and I’ll talk to you guys real soon.