While that may sound cliché — “The location is a character!” — it’s a fair assessment of the hourlong project set to debut in the spring.
Crowe will write, direct and executive produce Roadies, which offers a backstage look at a tight-knit group of rock band “roadies.” Exec producers include Winnie Holzman (My So-Called Life) and J.J. Abrams and his producing partner Bryan Burk (Lost). Luke Wilson stars as Bill, the tour manager; Carla Gugino plays Shelli, the band’s production manager; and Imogen Poots is the electrical tech.
“I love music and stories where music is a character,” Crowe told reporters Tuesday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour. “Over time I was struck by the fact that Almost Famous spoke loudly to people. It was a very personal story for me and I didn’t expect it to touch people that way. I wanted to revisit the world of writing about music but in a different and contemporary way … [telling] authentic stories about people behind the curtain presenting music to people every day.”
Crowe, who eloquently recalled his time with David Bowie (read more on that here) during the panel, singled out the late rock star when stressing the importance of music.
“If you look at the outpouring over David Bowie, you know it’s not nostalgic. Music is important,” he said. “I wanted to tell stories about people who love music.”
The prolific screenwriter-director also used the TCA platform to stress the authenticity of Roadies. He noted multiple times during the panel that several characters or plot points included in the series are based on true stories — and legends — that exist within the music industry. A story in the pilot about a pianist who flips out when there are fingerprints on his piano is based on Freddie Mercury, Crowe said, while co-star Peter Cambor’s guitar tech is based on Elvis Costello.
Roadies also will address the economics of the music business, with Crowe stressing that the recent doom and gloom about the industry is “kind of bullshit.” He pointed not only to the outpouring of adoration for Bowie but to diehards stressing about sound quality as examples of how music is always important.
“It’s not a bygone era,” said Crowe. “There’s still nothing like when the lights go down. That’s not nostalgic. That’s what we base each episode around. The show isn’t about the big performance you get from a star but everything that goes into setting a stage for that.”
Exec producer Abrams, meanwhile, stressed that Roadies, at its center, is a family show.
“It’s about this family,” he told reporters. “Most family is bound by blood, this family is bound by music. You’ll see that this is the constant thread throughout everything.”
Added Crowe: “Marriage, relationships, different kinds of relationships — music gets to be our favorite backdrop. And their jobs are the backdrop. The idea of doing the show and the way the scripts have been coming out, it’s a chance to explore a lot of contemporary themes.”
Roadies features The Head and the Heart in the pilot and will continue to include bands and musicians in a regular capacity — many of them playing slightly different versions of themselves. To that end, the Eagles’ Joe Walsh will guest star in an upcoming episode that sees the show’s central band having troubles maintaining an opening act.
“It’s like our version of the drummer in Spinal Tap,” said Crowe, noting that Wilson’s Bill has a lot of Walsh’s characteristics.
Crowe also stressed that they looked at Roadies as a platform to help showcase new and emerging artists as they view the series “like a great radio station” with visuals.
A premiere date has not yet been announced.