Sometimes, publicity events for artists in New York involve eating mad food and going hard on an open bar with 150 other people while you “listen” to a new album. Sometimes, they are more low key affairs — a few questions in a board room and a more focused appraisal of the music (this type of gathering is generally reserved for artists who aren’t horrible).
Last Wednesday (April 16), however, the scene went down a little differently. Here’s a night at Izod Center with Colby O’Donis…
6:20 PM: My associate Tony and I arrive at the ICED Media offices in Soho dressed to impress. He has come from an office where he is required to wear a suit; I have come from an office where I often do not even put on pants. I have to find any excuse I can to let my suit thank my tall and lanky frame for making it look pretty good.
6:21 PM: So who is Colby O’Donis? It quickly becomes clear that he is the young lad (20) who looks like the Italian kids I used to played soccer in Newington, CT. A quick visit to Wikipedia on the Blackberry browser reveals a few more nuggets: A native New Yorker and son of Puerto Rican parents, he is signed to Akon’s Konvict Music label and sang “Mouse in the House” on the “Stuart Little” soundtrack at age 9! I am ready to roll.
6:30 PM: We have taken stock of the cast of characters — Colby, his mom, his large and gregarious manager, and various “bloggers” and “associates.”
6:50 PM: Everyone on the party bus! With New York spring in full effect, the aggressive neon lighting and blaring music are at odds with the sunny street and somewhat unenthused vibe of the group. I find that my arm rest holds a vast supply of “tropical lagers” and remember the age-old credo, “When on the party bus, don’t ask where the bathroom is, because there never is one.”
7 PM: Colby’s album propels us through traffic. The lead single — “What You Got” featuring Akon — rings a bell and reminds me that I should listen to the radio more when trying to get it cracking (with young girls). Awkwardly, Colby is at the front of the bus getting into the joints while looking back uncertainly at his generally disinterested bus-mates. Tony and I are feeling the opportunity to feast on some sugary pop tunes in a mobile club — albeit a terrible club. We are particularly appreciating a song about a girl whose booty is “so professional.”
7:15 PM: Colby’s manager is regaling some other passengers with animated stories. He is slightly out of earshot, but they sound pure jokes. A telling detail: rather than letting Akon or the label decide on final tracklist for the album, he let the DJs give him feedback about what was popping in the club and went from there. Thus, Colby O is apparently a collection of songs that get it cracking… but one wonders where. I also learn that Colby made $800,000 in the last quarter. This news must be swallowed with another tropical lager.
8:10 PM: We arrive late and make our way to the luxury box. The Nets and Bobcats are engaged in a lackluster game that means absolutely nothing for either of the equally horrible teams. Still, it’s the last home game of the season, and Vince Carter appears intent on dunking on everyone. It is unclear whether his motivations are celebratory or bitter in origin.
8:30 PM: Colby watches the first half with his mom in the corner while everyone politics and grubs some chicken tenders (incidentally, Izod tenders are not nearly as good as MSG tenders). Finally, some beers appear in the mini fridge. Back of the net.
8:45 PM: It becomes clear that many people think it is odd that Tony and I are wearing suits. But after we tell them we are with Ballerstatus.com, it all makes sense.
9:10 PM: I downgrade Tony from “associate” to “assistant” due to his refusal to take photos.
9:20 PM: Colby has come to life! Turns out he came in from his new home in L.A. on a red eye and is dog tired. We talk about hoops, Hollywood, and his history in the game. After the “Stuart Little” jumpoff, he was picked up by Motown Records at age 10. He’s been singing and playing guitar ever since, but this is still his first album. It’s been a long time coming, and Colby seems like he’s been patiently waiting to blow — this summer he’ll do a Six Flags tour with Mario, followed by a tour with Akon and T-Pain. He also tells me that he’ll drop an acoustic version of the album a few months after the summer release. I make the terrible and false point that everyone loves acoustic versions of “Umbrella,” but to be honest I still think this will be a good look for him. Refreshingly, Colby acts his age and seems very down-to-earth. Granted the situation is a little more casual than a traditional interview, but the fact remains that he is the only artist I’ve ever talked to who has asked me about myself.
9:35 PM: Grey Goose arrives! Things are looking up. Tony and I whip up some cocktails and kick back for the end of the game. Out of nowhere, it goes to overtime. There is a sense that people wish this were not the case, but we ride it out and an impromptu photo shoots kicks off (again, Tony fails to play his role as the Annie Leibovitz of Ballerstatus).
10 PM: We load up the bus and set sail for Manhattan, accompanied again by the saccharine sounds of Monsieur O’Donis.
10:25 PM: BANG! Into me! Just after the Lincoln Tunnel, the bus driver slams on the breaks, sending everyone careening to the front half of the vehicle. Turns out we have hit a van. Remarkably, no is hurt, though I have scraped my knee and spilled tropical lager all over my fresh suit. Tony and I decide to cut our losses and say our goodbyes. As the driver swaps insurance details with the van driver, we head off into the muggy New York night and go straight to McDonalds. A fitting ending to an odd night.
All jokes aside, shoutout to Sowmya and ICED Media for a great evening, and best of luck to Colby, a genuinely nice bloke. Look out for Colby O this summer!