Support slots have laid the foundation for many a touring career, but how often does an artist break out as both the support act and headliner for their first tour?
Enter Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino. Though he is best known for his role on the NBC sitcom “Community,” labeling him as solely an actor wouldn’t be fair to the multitalented Glover, who also raps, performs standup and writes.
Glover signed with CAA about three years ago. He began testing the waters as rapper Childish Gambino with some small shows around NYC in 2010 when inspiration struck for his first major trek – the “I Am Donald” tour featuring a Childish Gambino / Donald Glover bill.
CAA’s JBeau Lewis told Pollstar the show featured a 20- to 30-minute standup set by Glover, a video interlude, then Childish Gambino backed by a full band he’d formed with “Community” composer Ludwig Göransson.
“This wasn’t your typical DJ and a rapper onstage,” Lewis said. “This was a full band with violin players and backup singers. Really, it was Donald as the frontman of a rock band, except he’s rapping.”
The show proved successful in test markets and a 25-city tour of 1,000-cap venues was booked in spring 2011, selling out every date in advance and getting Childish Gambino some attention from Glassnote Records, which offered him a label deal.
Several shows including Terminal 5 in New York and Club Nokia in Los Angeles were timed to coincide with the release of Childish Gambino’s Camp that fall and also sold out “well in advance,” Lewis said.
Childish Gambino began a run of 2,000-capacity-plus venues in April and is making stops at colleges and nearly every major festival in the States through August.
Lewis said the strategy has always been to take a decidedly “rock-band approach to developing a rap career” and develop Donald “as a legitimate headliner.”
To that end, Childish Gambino heads to the UK and Europe in August for more festivals and headlining dates. Plans for Australia and Japan are also in the works.