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Coachella, everyone’s favorite “cool kid” music festival, wrapped up a few weeks ago and like years before, it rocked our world. Headlined by Ariana Grande, some of the music world’s biggest stars and flyest indie artists hit up the festival’s stages to perform to more than 250,000 attendees.
Founder, Paul Tollet had a vision almost 20 years ago that people would travel across the country to see their favorite radio artists in person. He was right. Tollet recently sat down with the Desert Sun for an exclusive interview. We rounded up some of the most epic tidbits gleaned from the conversation, including what he was most inspired by this year, what he went through to pull off Kanye West’s Sunday Service and what he’d do differently in the future.
Black Panther-inspired his musical lineup this year
According to the interview, after watching Black Panther in a Brazilian theater, he had an epiphany about how he wanted to recruit artists for 2019 Coachella.
“The audience reacted to a line about Coachella in such a positive way and I was especially surprised because it in Portuguese,” he said. Immediately following, he realized there was an international market base that he should tap into.
“I think there’s definitely an international thing going on in the states with large artists from other countries being huge here. You saw what J Balvin and BLACKPINK (did). Africa had Burna Boy and Mr. Eazi. These guys are giants in their markets. But, those artists can be big here now. I think that’s the difference. We’ve had artists from around the world from Day 1. If you look at the first year’s lineup there were people from tons of different countries. The difference is, now some of these are huge in America and in their home country.”
Why he decided to lean heavily on African acts this year
Tollett said that he realized US music lovers have a great appreciation for Afrobeat. Not only did he want to focus on some of the most popular crossover artists, but Indie talents as well.
“We visited one of our artists, Francis Kere in his hometown of Burkina Faso,” Tollett said. “He’s the son of a tribal leader who went to Berlin to learn English.” After hearing his story and listening to his music, we had to incorporate him in the show.
On why he believes that storytelling is one of the most important aspects of making Coachella successful nowadays
This year, Tollett said that he flew to the home countries of most of his international acts for livestream interviews ahead to add a layer of authenticity and familiarity to the event. “We had never done that before — flying somewhere and interviewing them for livestream,” he said. “You want to get backgrounds on these artists so they’re not just names on the poster.”
He also stressed that telling the artists’ stories isn’t about generating sales–it’s about showing appreciation for their humanity.
“I don’t think it’s all money. I just think the walls are down and anyone, no matter what country you’re in, can play shows and come to Coachella,” he said. “With the way streaming works now, when you’re listening to music, you don’t know where it’s from all the time. So, we’re just trying to make it easier for those artists that are invited here.”
He shared his interesting experience working with Kanye West
When asked to speak about the rumors on Kanye West complaining about his performance space, Tollett said that there was much more to the story.
“Based on the description he gave us for what he wanted, it sounded like a dome in the middle of the field. We had already turned our plans in for the main stage to the city and it would have been too hard to change things around,” he said.
He also shared his thoughts on Kanye’s Sunday Service performance and how he came up with the idea.
“I don’t know, but he comes up with ideas more than most people. I thought this idea was really great: a hill the people could sit on, and a hill the artist is on, and then people all around it. It had a look I had never seen, a feeling I had never (felt). It sort of reminded me of the vibe I felt when I first saw the “Wattstax” movie (documenting the 1972 Watts Summer Festival featuring performances by Stax Records artists, including Isaac Hayes and the Staples Singers, plus Richard Pryor, Jesse Jackson and others). There’s something innocent about daytime. And what’s interesting is, none of us were in a hurry because the show (Coachella) didn’t start for a few more hours. No one was leaving to go back to L.A., so it was kind of a chill moment. That might play into it.”
We can’t wait to see Tollett and his team dream up for next year. Will you be attending?