Since Moving From Dallas To New York City, The Self-Proclaimed “Loop Daddy” Has Become A Bona Fide Sensation, Selling Out Shows Around The World.
It was just about a year ago now that Marc Rebillet moved to New York City, pulling the trigger on a thought that so many Dallas musicians before him have entertained. Coincidentally, it was just a little less than a year ago that Rebillet (pronounced “reh-bee-yay”) started to blow the fuck up.
Reached by phone as he’s driving from New York City to his almost entirely sold-out current tour’s kickoff gig just outside of Boston, the improvisational live-production wizard largely demurs a little when asked if correlation equals causation in his case. Rather, he says he’s not sure if it’s the move to New York City or if instead the kick in the butt that the move inspired in him that’s spurred his rise.
All he really knows is that he’s loving life right now. And why not? With a fervent live show fan base that extends from sea to shining sea (and well into Europe), with a dedicated set of online fans that gathers in the tens of thousands whenever he pops a livestream onto YouTube or Reddit, and with cosigns from the likes of SiriusXM’s Sway In The Morning, Rebillet has clearly come a long way since he was holding down weekly residencies at The Common Table, BrainDead Brewing and the Twilite Lounge here in his native Dallas just a year and a half back.
The spotlight’s been a long time coming, really. The 30-year-old performer has been playing piano since he was five, attended Dallas’ vaunted Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in the acting cluster and then continued his acting studies in town at Southern Methodist University for a spell. Long charismatic, he even attempted a music career in Paris after college didn’t work out. But until 2017, when his entire department at a corporate call center was eliminated at once, he’d pretty much resigned himself to an adulthood devoid of his past creative endeavors.
For the last two years, though, he’s pursued a music career with a renewed spark and a what-do-I-really-have-to-lose mindset. It’s been working out for him: He now boasts a booking agency, a tour manager and his own subreddit with more than 9,000 members. When his current tour brings him home to play the legendary Dallas venue Trees on Friday, September 20, it will without a doubt be a triumphant return. The show sold out within a few days of its announcement.
Still, we couldn’t help but use Rebillet’s return to town as an excuse to catch up with the performer and find out how the year since he left Dallas has treated him. Over the course of our half-hour chat, we discussed how he feels about being “of the internet,” how he has changed his live show as his audience has grown and just how badly he freaked out when he recently met his artistic inspiration Reggie Watts for the first time.
Read the whole thing below.
How are you, man? Where are you at the moment?
I’m good, dude! I’m good. I’m almost done here in another 45 minutes or so on my drive to Cambridge for the first show on the tour.
Where are you playing tonight?
You got a crew in the car with you? What’s the situation?
I’m rolling by myself until I hit Dallas, and then my tour manager is going to join me for the rest of the tour. It’s a dude name Matt Battaglia.
I know Matt!
Dude, he’s awesome. He basically he came to a few of my dates on my last European tour with Shane McCormick, the photographer. Shane shot a few of my shows around the UK, and then I think he came to Berlin as well. And Matt was just sort of tagging along with him, and we all got along. Y’know, we got drinks on a few of those dates. And, yeah, so Matt just sort of kept putting a bug in my ear, like, “If you ever need tour management, I’m around!” So, just sort of thinking about my options and thinking about whether or not I wanted to bring it TM along with me due to the fact is I never have before, I went for it. Y’know, he’s a younger dude and he is like sort of itching for the opportunity, and I took a chance on him and he really has been killing it!
Well, that’s just one of the many ways in which the Marc Rebillet story has changed in the last year since we wrote that story about your residency at the Common Table. So, I was just looking at some straight numbers. You’re up to 20 million YouTube views now, for one thing. And, at the time that we wrote that story, you were 12,500 subscribers. Now you’re at 295,000. That’s one tangible difference — but, obviously, a lot’s changed. This is a crazy large question I’m about to ask, but how has your world changed in the last year?
That’s a good question. Yeah, man, definitely a lot has changed. I mean, I left Dallas having a amassed a decent following locally and sort of wanting to take that hopefully to a larger stage. So, I just gambled and moved to New York. I didn’t have any connects or gig leads, or anything like that. I just sort of wanted to give myself the chance in a larger market. So I went there and started doing the same thing I did in Dallas when I was first starting. I just went to the hot areas and bothered the bartenders and bothered people. I got a few gigs that way — maybe three to four gigs a month. But it was very tenuous — like, it was at places that weren’t really venues. There was a guy that sort of helped me get a couple of half-legit gigs. There was Le Poisson Rouge and then one Bowery Electric. But they were one-offs, and nothing like the residencies that I had in Dallas. And so it was very much like, “What gigs am I going to get this month? And what gigs am I going to get the next month?” I was not on solid footing. I was kind of panicking for for a while there.
When did things kind of turn? Was there a specific moment?
Yeah. It happened very, very quickly. It happened like at some point in September. So, I guess, right around a year ago, the whole online thing just took off in this very aggressive way. Like, people around the world just started sharing my stuff on Facebook primarily, and my audience on Facebook went from 7,000 or 10,000 followers to, within a week or two, 50,000. Then it was 100,000. And it just kept climbing! And with that spike came all of these booking requests from all over the world that I really had no clue how to deal with or what to do with. But, luckily, that sort of coincided with some interest from this booking agency, and they sort of helped corral all of those requests into into, like, my first sort of tour, which was throughout the US at smaller cap venues from September to December. It was very all over the place. The routing was not good. It was just sort of like, “Let’s put all of this shit together and see what happens!” Because, at that time, the venues and me and the booking agency, we really didn’t know if the hype — if you want to call it that — would translate into like numbers.
I guess it’s kind of a funny thing because, even though you put on such a great live show, you’re in many ways kind of a musician of the Internet.
For sure, for sure.
And I know you embrace that between all of the livestreams that you do — I mean, this is very much part of the Marc Rebillet model.
Absolutely. Yeah, I mean, this would not be my job if I didn’t have the internet. For sure.
So the concern was: Will this Internet hype translate to real life success?
Yeah. Now, having spent a little bit of time in the business, I know that, for venues and generally people doing the live business, it’s a big risk to a book internet people. Very often, people’s popularity online does not translate to ticket sales. And so it was just a risk. But we very, very quickly found out that it was luckily not the case for me, which was great. Just that whole stretch of shows over those four months sold out within like a month of their announce.
And that’s continued on to now. Looking at your tour schedule, it’s like almost every show on there has the words “Sold Out!” next to it. I imagine finding out about sell-outs in advance like that is an incredibly comforting thing in a touring world filled with so many unknowns.
It’s a very comforting thing. Announcing these tours is always a period of really high anxiety for me because it’s like, “OK, let’s see if people still give a shit!” And, fortunately, they do so far! But it’s just always a thing with me. I just don’t know, and I’m always trying to find a way to continue to give people a reason to give a shit. It’s an uphill, just constant thing.
Sounds like that’s part of the risk the took on a couple years ago when you decided to just headlong dive in and give music a go.
Very much so.
And it seems like that has been perpetuated throughout your story — like, even moving to New York was this big unknown. And, I know we were talking about it before, but I think there’s an obvious question there. I know that move was something you were thinking about for a while, and obviously it is something a lot of artists from around Dallas think about. For you, it seems to have worked out. But could your story have worked out in Dallas, do you think? Or did the move to New York work out for you in way that it might not for others — just because of the kind of artist you are?
That’s a good question. I can only speak personally, but I think that being in New York definitely what was helpful. Now, I wouldn’t say this in a way that disparages Dallas because that’s not the case at all, but the move gave me a reason to stretch my legs out — again. And to try and make it happen for myself — again. Doing so pushed me to try and make content that was a little better. Not playing to an audience that I would see week after week helped get me in a “How do I make this work?” mindset of not being comfortable. I feel like after gigging in Dallas for however long it was — like, maybe a little shy of a year — I definitely did start to become comfortable with those venues and with the people that were coming to see me. And even though it was growing, I definitely felt like I wasn’t sure where I could make it other than just booking bigger venues in Dallas. And I was not really sure how to do that — because I wasn’t getting any response from any sort of legitimate venue. I mean, not that the places I was playing weren’t legitimate, but they were restaurants and bars.
That’s an interesting point. Because, not soon after you left, you got a show at Blue Light.
[Laughs] Right. Yeah.
Is that a weird thing to reconcile?
Well, this is just my instinct, but based on the interest — or, rather, the lack of interest that I had from any sort of like real music venue while I was playing in Dallas — I don’t feel like I could have booked The Blue Light until I left. And certainly not Trees.
And Trees, in particular, is a legendary venue here in Dallas. I imagine getting a show booked there — and having it sell out in advance — must be a great feeling.
Yeah, man. It really is, yeah. It feels good to be coming back to the place where I started trying to make this thing happen, and to play in a place that you know that’s really one of the hallmarks of Dallas music. It makes me very happy.
Kanye West everytime Black Twitter drags him…pic.twitter.com/qvF9zXmtxJ
— Caleb Dume Once Dated a Crackhead… (@pfunk1130) August 23, 2019
Did you see that you’ve been memed a couple times now? Like, I saw this meme of you and it was making fun of Kanye West somehow, I think?
Oh, I think I did! That was from the Reddit performance, right?
Yeah, I believe so.
Yeah. That whole video really took off on Twitter for a second there. It got like three million views or something. It’s insane.
That’s amazing. I think it speaks to that whole musician-of-the-internet thing we were discussing earlier. It seems to me you’ve kind of become this recognizable face in this Very Online world, but people don’t necessarily assume that those people are local to anywhere, let alone here in Dallas. Like, I’ve shared some clips of your stuff, and people will be like, “That dude is local? I keep seeing him in my feed!” Is that something you’ve encountered at all? Are you noticing that kind of lack of geography that the Internet offers?
Yeah! Right now, I live in downtown Manhattan and it’s just you’re walking around a lot of people all the time, and so I get stopped fairly regularly. A lot of the time, people will say “Wait, you live here?” And I’m like, “Yeah, this is my neighborhood.” And then they’re all, “Wow, I didn’t know you lived here!” And it’s like, “Well, I have to live somewhere!” But you’re right, when people look at you, you’re sort of divorced from a location unless it’s a part of your brand or unless you’re like Casey Neistat, who is known for shooting in New York or something. But if you don’t really attach a location to what you do, then people just assume you exist in the ether.
But you kind of do exist in the ether, right? Like, beyond the internet stuff, you’re constantly on the road and doing tours all the time. How many shows do you think you’ve done in the last year?
Oh, well over 100 touring dates.
How have you acclimated to that?
I have learned now how to handle it. You have to be very regimented about the way you treat your sleep, the way you approach playing a show. I had to quit smoking. All that stuff. You have to give yourself every possible advantage — because the show, as you know, it’s a very high-energy affair. There’s a lot of screaming, a lot of sweating, a lot of jumping. I don’t know. It just takes a lot out of me every night.
And it’s an expectation game too, right? These videos of you performing are out there, and people have an idea of what a Marc Rebillet performance is going to be like, right.
Yeah. And I’m trying to surpass what you’re seeing in the videos in terms of energy. I want people to get, at a live show, just mayhem — just complete fucking chaos. So, yeah, there’s sort of that expectation to step it up. And then there’s also just the rigorous schedule. It’s definitely a lot. Like, I don’t want to be doing it like this forever. But it has single-handedly expanded my audience beyond anything I really can do online. There’s something about touching all of these cities, and being there, and taking pictures with people, and giving the in-person experience to people. It creates fans and spreads things in a word-of-mouth way. It’s weird, dude. Like, on my last Europe tour, I think my my social media numbers went up way more than they really ever do. There’s something about being there. So, yeah, it’s been great. But it’s been a lot to get used to, for sure, because I have never done anything like this before.
Just hearing you talking about it, it’s clear: This is a job and you’re approaching it like a job. There’s a lot of hard work involved. It’s not just these goofy video. You know your numbers. You study this stuff.
It is a job. It is absolutely a job. There are a lot of people in the creative sphere that will sort of paint it another light, and maybe it’s the way that they really do think, where they’re oblivious of that. I admire those people who are just like, “This is the dream, and I can’t believe I get to do this. What an amazing thing!” From a certain perspective, that’s absolutely true, and I agree. But in order to sustain something like this — at least just personally — I really do have to treat it like a job. I think 10 years in the corporate world definitely primed me for that. And also playing those residences in Dallas. Like, I knew that every week I had three gigs, and I usually would book another one-off. So it was like four gigs a week that I had to make. And those shows were two or three hours! In terms of getting me ready for a rigorous performance schedule, Dallas was fucking excellent for that.
Yeah, sounds like a great training ground.
It really was, dude! It really was. I got to play around. It was sort of low pressure. It sort of taught me how to sing better and use my voice in a way that would allow me to play a show at the same energy level the next night. That’s all stuff that just takes doing and doing and doing.
OK, so let’s talk about this current tour. It’s almost entirely sold out. You’re playing real venues. How does that change the show at all? And how might that translate to the show here in Dallas? Like, what are your expectations?
Well, the formula for the show has remained relatively unchanged. It’s still the same spirit, in terms of how the entire show is improvised still — just as it always has been. And then maybe I throw in one or two songs from from my videos at the very end. But, other than that, it’s all made up. I think playing bigger venues with larger capacities, and just playing to a larger crowd — meaning more people farther back and more people on the sides — I have tried to make it just bigger in terms of energy. Basically, I spent the summer playing festivals and dipping my toe into the festival game. And I played tents with 4,000 to 5,000 people, and it just really makes you aware of what you have to do to command the attention of a room like that. You have to make yourself bigger — physically, vocally, energetically. You have to just enlarge yourself. And so it’s running from the left side of the stage to the right side, talking to people at the end and at the front. Bigger pieces. Maybe simpler pieces that more people can respond to. Call and response shit.
So there’s obviously a difference, inherently, between playing a 600-person room and playing a livestream, right?
Oh, big time. And I like thinking about it! But the reality is, when I’m backstage and I’m hyping myself up to go out and perform, all of that goes out the window. It’s very instinctual. It’s like, “OK, let me go out there and feel what this room feels like.”
As I noted earlier, I went back and read our story about your Common Table residency to prepare for this chat. And in that story, you’re quoted as saying that you’re “basically Reggie Watts on bath salts.” I believe I saw that you just met him, too?
Oh, man. I sure did!
Can you tell me about that? That had to have been a major moment for you.
It really was. It was a dream come true. I mean, I’ll say this: I would not be doing this if he didn’t exist. Like, his performance? And me seeing that years ago? I sort of got wise to him maybe six or seven years ago, and when I saw him do his show, which is all improvised and very abstract and strange and sort of comedic in nature but blending dope musical intentions with comedy, that sort of turned a light on in my head. It was like, “Well, fuck. If there was a way for me to just be able to make songs on the fly, that would take away all of the bullshit about production and engineering and mixing — all the stuff that really always hampered my joy for music because I’ve never really enjoyed the production process very much — and that would be a game-changer.” He is the most direct influence on my show out of anybody. He is The One. He is sort of like my hero. So, anyway, he started following me on Instagram a while back, which awesome and which absolutely blew my mind. Then, he started commenting on my stuff, which blew my mind even more. And so I knew that he knew who I was, and I certainly knew who he was, but I’ve never really been in touch with him outside of that. So I saw that he was playing in Brooklyn while I was in New York, and I said to myself, “I’ve gotta go to the show.” I bought tickets. Then I told my agents to get in touch with his manager and tell him that I was coming. And so they did, and Reggie put me on like the backstage thing. So I saw his show, and then I went back and I met him, and we like hung out for an hour back there! I told him what an extraordinary influence he’s had on me, and he was super sweet about it. And then, like, two days later, we went and got coffee! We hung out for like two hours and just talked about stuff! Just talked about random shit!
Were you able to learn stuff or ask him questions? You must have had some.
I mean, I sort of just I just wanted to be a friend more than anything. So we just bullshitted about whatever — and now he’s coming to my show in L.A., and I’m going to go hang out with him while I’m there. So, yeah, dude. It was, like, really surreal to within a year have taken the show to this point where the dude who is directly responsible for the show being what, to be able to hang out with him as a peer was really something I never would have imagined happening. It blew my fucking mind. That’s really the high point of this whole thing so far.
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That’s so cool to have things come together like that.
It really is! And, I gotta say, I’m just as stoked for this return show to Dallas. I can tell you: Playing for five to 10 people at Common Table, and just speaking to my friends in Dallas, and then coming back and playing there? It’s one of my favorite parts of this job. Really, my entire childhood and upbringing is there. So it means a lot.
I can just imagine how long your guest list for the Trees show is.
[Laughs.] Actually, the best part is that most people you’d think would be on there, they bought tickets!
That’s great. Either way, that room is going to be filled with so many people you know.
It’s going to be a great energy, dude. I really cannot wait to play Trees. Just to be able to play back in Dallas, it just feels good. It feels really good. Oh, and starting at the Dallas show, I will have vinyl as merch! It’s a 12-inch, and it’s gonna be Loop Daddy and Loop Daddy II, one on one side and one on the other side. It’s been confirmed: I will have them starting at the Dallas show. So here’s also looking forward to that!
Cover photo by Sippy Cup Productions. Courtesy of Marc Rebillet.