In response to the government requesting the public to self-quarantine to slow down the coronavirus pandemic, people have been coming up with creative ways to keep themselves busy and entertained at home. Chris Martin from Coldplay came up with his own idea; he decided to put on a live, interactive, mini-concert from his home, to share his thoughts, songs and stories, and to let everyone know that we are all in this together. Chris named his project #TogetherAtHome.
On March 16th, Chris, wearing a beanie and a Freddie Kruger sweater, went out live, via his phone, beginning his broadcast by humbly saying, “Hi. I’m Chris.” He continued by speaking directly and intimately to camera, and brought you right in to his living room. He described the mood as “Strange. No one’s really going anywhere. My kids seem ok. One or two people we know have been sick. I feel like the right thing to be doing is to stay quiet and stay at home.” He made you feel that you were sitting there next to him, having a private chat. This took me back to the days I remember seeing Chris in small, intimate settings before Coldplay was signed, before they were even called Coldplay.
Leeza and Rodney
I used to host the “American In London” segment on KROQ 106.7 FM with Rodney Bingenheimer, and work in A&R for Hollywood Records in London, so I saw Coldplay perform as Starfish at the Laurel Tree in Camden in January 1998, and then again, about a month later as Coldplay at the Dublin Castle, also in Camden. But to be honest, neither of those gigs blew me away.
In fact, I forget about the band, until half a year later, when I was in Manchester for the music conference In The City, the UK’s version of SXSW. I went into a local record store and asked the clerk if they had any great music from unsigned bands. He handed me Coldplay’s self-released demo “The Safety EP”, so I decided to give them another chance, and bought the EP for £4.99. It had three tracks on it: 1) Bigger Stronger, 2) No More Keeping My Feet On The Ground, and 3) Such A Rush.
I loved it! I must have played that EP over 100 times. I, of course, made sure to see their showcase at In The City, and meet their manager Phil to see if I could get any more demos off of them. Phil followed up by sending me a demo cassette with two tracks: 1) Ode To Deodorant and 2) Brothers + Sisters. By this point, the band had changed their name again to The Coldplay. But it wasn’t long before they dropped the “The”, and went back to Coldplay.
Phil called me to tell me that they would be playing a gig at the Bull And Gate in London in April (1999), and asked if I wanted to be added to the guest list. Of course, I answered, “YES please”. In the meantime, I made two copies of the Safety EP, and sent one to Rodney, so we could feature the band during my London calling segment on KROQ, and the other went to Hollywood Records urging my head of A&R to let me sign them. Unfortunately, Rodney HATED the EP, and Hollywood thought they had no hits.
I begged Rodney to play them just the once, even if he hated them, so we could at least lay claim to being the first radio station in the USA to play the band. He reluctantly agreed, and we featured “Such A Rush” during my “American In London” segment in Oct 1998, being the first radio station in the US to play Coldplay.
The day of their Bull And Gate gig finally arrived, and I, and every other A&R exec in London attended the show. It was a small venue, but it was packed (maybe 80-100 people). The band was on fire that night! It was their best show by far. Chris connected with every member of that audience and put his heart into that performance. I was mesmerized. I stuck around after the show to have a chat with the band, and told them how much I loved their show. I asked Phil not to accept any offers from any other labels until I gave it another shot with Hollywood. He agreed, but no matter how much I tried to convince Hollywood to sign Coldplay, I got a solid “NO”. So, I had to call Phil and tell him to go ahead with any other offers they had on the table.
The next time I saw Coldplay was a few years later, headlining our KROQ Acoustic Xmas Concert to an audience of over 2,000 people, then at the Hollywood Bowl to about 17,000 people, and then at the Rose Bowl to about 90,000 people. So, those intimate Coldplay shows were long over…that is, until a couple of weeks ago. Even though over 300,000 people were watching Chris’ live broadcast all over the world (Australia, USA, Italy, Iran, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Switzerland, Scotland, Columbia, Costa Rica, Chili, etc.), each person felt they were having a one on one with Chris.
Chris said hello to the viewers by name as they were sending messages. He took requests and played some songs accompanied by guitar (Sky Full Of Stars, and Green Eyes), and some accompanied by piano (Trouble, Up And Up, Clocks, Yellow, and more). He told stories about the songs, and hinted at the new songs coming up on their new album.
Chris also tied in his friends Hugh Evans and Kate from Global Citizen to help people get informed about the coronavirus, by directing them to their website www.globalcitizen.org/coronavirus, where people can also help by donating to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fundraiser.
He ends his broadcast by nominating other artists to take part in his #TogetherAtHome project by saying, “I ask and send a request to John Legend. Do you want to take over tomorrow? Hope so. Then you can see a real piano player, and a real guy that doesn’t need fireworks and all that just to paper over the cracks”, again, showing himself to be humble, modest, and real.
To watch Chris’ full 30 minute #TogetherAtHome broadcast, click on the following link:
Music comes from a place we don’t know | Chris Martin