Interview by Jamie Franklin
Hi Jetro. You've been touring with Whitney now for a while. How is the tour going?
The tour is going great. It’s a chance to revisit all of my favourite cities, London being one of them. I love Australia and because I’m techy, Japan is amazing! England is becoming kind of a home as I’m doing my PHD here with Liverpool University. It’s also great to play some new arrangements that differ from the last tour I did with Whitney.
What factors are involved in making sure you and the band have a great show?
For this particular gig, I have to make sure that the sounds and the patches are correct. My tech Joe and myself go through all the sounds and cables as it can be unpredictable. I also have to make sure I can hear all the sounds ok myself, as we are not all wearing in-ear monitors instead of having floor wedges.
Growing up in Brazil, how hard was it to get the chance to learn and play music?
That’s a difficult question to answer, as there are many layers to it. To get access to good music education in Brazil is very difficult. At the same time we need to define the word education. A poor kid living in the Favelas, has access to a lot of music, especially percussion and stringed instruments given at Sunday schools. In my case I grew up in a church, so I was exposed at an early age to classical music and choirs singing very European church. The radio stations in Brazil are also different to America. They play anything they want on various stations, so we listened to Stevie Wonder, Jackson 5, Michael Jackson, then bands from the UK, so I didn’t know it until after but I had a great understanding of Western music. I started playing piano when I was 12, but the professor she couldn’t afford a piano, so she would teach me theory and how to learn chords just using my ear. In Brazil you have the very rich living right next door to the very poor. The very rich have great access to piano training because a lot of Brazilians in the past studied in Europe and some of them were concert pianists. They teach you the right way to play.
You have played with some true legends including Earth Wind and Fire, Chaka Khan, and Stevie Wonder. What did you learn from them, and who was your favourite?
What I learned from them all was very important, and I hope that any young music student takes this seriously. Before meeting them I learned the whole repertoire of the artist. It’s so important to know their music in your head and your heart. If you're going to play with Earth Wind and Fire, listen to a lot of Earth Wind and Fire! Get used to playing the songs in different keys too; the musician who can play the songs without the aid of music sheets will be the best for the job. If I had to pick one person, it would be Gladys Knight. She was always prepared. She taught me the lesson of ‘the show must go on’. She had just lost her son before a gig we were about to play. The audience never knew and she played one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. She never cancelled a concert, even when she was losing her voice. She would sing the same way, same notes each night, and do it so well that it would make us cry. Sometimes it's not always about being creative and change notes all the time. True professional.