MOSCOW — She’s a little bit country and he’s a little bit rock ’n’ roll, but Donny and Marie Osmond were a lot like family for Jeremy Barron this past holiday season.
Barron, associate director of Conferences and Events at the University of Idaho, also works as a freelance tour and production manager. It was in that role that he oversaw the Osmonds’ 2018 Christmas Tour.
The brother and sister entertainers are best known for their 1970s television variety show, where they often sang the duet “A Little Bit Country, a Little Bit Rock ’n’ Roll.”
Barron’s takeaway from the Christmas tour is that Donny and Marie are every bit the decent and warm siblings that many watched grow up on TV.
Craig Clohessy: How did you get into the tour and production management business?
Jeremy Barron: I went to school at BYU-Hawaii (Brigham Young University) on the North Shore of Oahu. ... I graduated in 2005, in international business management, but as a student one of my roles, one of the jobs I held, was as the coordinator for what was called “Performance Series.” We’d bring concerts and stuff to campus. I’d schedule all those and negotiate those contracts. ... I loved it so much that after college, my wife and I moved to Utah and I started working with some local musicians there. They weren’t super well known ... but they were known regionally and so just over time grew from regional stuff to national and international jobs. That business isn’t so much a business of applying for jobs, it’s more of networking. And so it’s more about who you know, who you’ve worked with and building on those relationships. While I have messed up plenty in my life, the one thing I do think I’ve done a good job of is building those relationships and maintaining them through long periods of time. And now, fortunately, there are times I can go back to somebody I worked with 10 years ago and pick up that relationship and keep working with them. That’s kind of how all that started.
CC: You helped coordinate Donny and Marie Osmonds’ Christmas Tour in 2018. How much involvement do you have with the stars in that situation or is it more behind the scenes with what you do?
JB: It’s a mixture of both. Obviously there are a lot of roles, especially on a tour that size. So that tour, you’ve got two stars. Both of those stars are on private planes, that’s how they travel. We traveled with two semis and then tour buses — there was a crew of about 30 people. My responsibility was to make sure to be that communicator between our camp, the Donny and Marie camp, and the venue — to advance everything in regards to travel, hotels, catering, all those details. We have a production manager who handled everything related to the stage. But when it came to everything related to Donny and Marie and the crew, I took care of all those logistics. I worked very, very closely with both Donny and Marie. I needed to make sure they were where they needed to be. ... If challenges came up, if either one of them had challenges, they’d call me to help solve some of those challenges. So it’s both behind the scenes, but you are the point person for the artist.
CC: You say they are as nice in person as people have seen on television?
JB: They are fantastic human beings. Both of them have been superstars since they were children. And I don’t know how they’ve done it, but through that entire time they are great, great people. They’re great people to work for, they’re great people to be around. One of the things we would do before some of the shows on the tour is we’d sit down, the crew would sit down and watch a movie. ... And oftentimes Donny would come and hang out and watch Christmas movies with us before the doors opened. When you’re with each other as often as you are on the road, whether it’s with the star or the crew, you become very, very close. And it’s long days, it’s a lot of traveling and, you know, you really need to get along with the people you work with.
CC: Another thing that you’ve done is what’s called talent buying. What does that entail?
JB: I’ve been fortunate enough to work on both sides of the equation. I’ve acted as the tour manager on behalf of the artist, but I’ve also done a lot of work on the side of the venue, the people that are doing the buying, negotiating the contracts with those artists. One venue that I’ve worked with for a long time — I think I’m going on 12 or 13 years now — is the Sandy Amphitheater. It’s down in Sandy, Utah, and it holds just 2,750 people. ... I do the negotiating and the buying on behalf of that venue for the artist that they want to bring into the venue. This particular venue is an outdoor venue. They run a season from June 1 until the middle of Septemberish. And I work very closely with them to find out who they want to bring in. And then I’ll go work with those agents, who I built, again, relationships with over the last 15 years, and negotiate those performance contracts on behalf of the city. We’ve brought in everybody from Chicago and The Doobie Brothers, Taylor Swift, Kelsea Ballerini, Pat Benatar, Melissa Etheridge, everybody.
CC: Are you a musician?
JB: I have no musical talent whatsoever. In fact, I hate to even sing. My wife will sit in church and she will jab me because I don’t even sing the church hymns. A lot of times, the creative people aren’t great at business and vice versa. But yeah, I have no creative talents whatsoever. I’ll voice my opinion occasionally with the artists because I am an admirer, I love the music. We’ll be out on the road and the artist will come and say, “Well, what do you think of this or that?” But they’re getting more of a fan response than a creative response from me.
CC: What brought you and your family to the Palouse and your current role at the University of Idaho?
JB: We were living in Nashville, Tenn., and we moved here in November of 2016. When I was doing all freelance work, I was traveling about 250 days out of the year — sometimes more. And when you’re married with four young children, that’s not very conducive for a good family, at least it wasn’t working for us. My wife wanted me to be home and to be more a part of my kids’ lives. She’d send me these jobs. She’d say, “Here, apply for this, apply for that.” Sometimes I would, sometimes I wouldn’t and I’d tell her I did. But the University of Idaho job, to be honest, I don’t even remember applying for it. But obviously I did and I got a phone call to participate in an interview. I was headed to Paris to do a show and we did a quick phone interview, they flew me out for an in-person interview just before, like two days before I flew to Paris, and that’s how we ended up here. Frankly, it came down to wanting to be home more. And the university has been great. I’ve loved my job and they’ve been flexible with allowing me to still do some of this freelance work. So I got to do the Donny and Marie stuff last year, I go to Amsterdam in September for a show. So the university has been great. It’s been great for my family and I.
CC: What is your role with the university.
JB: I’m the associate director of Conferences and Events. Anything event-related that happens on campus falls within our department — even athletic events — so the football games, basketball games, conferences, commencement, all those events fall within our department. We’re not necessarily the planners, we help facilitate some of the planning, but we do more of the execution. ... We run the venues, make sure scheduling happens and help facilitate the communication with other departments, whether it’s parking or catering.
Clohessy is managing editor of the Lewiston Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2251.