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Katharine McPhee & David Foster on tour in Japan: Behind the scenes with bassist Kenji Hino


Kenji Hino was asked to be the bassist during the David Foster Hitman Tour in Japan. Now, he joins us as guest author to give us the behind-the-scenes tale of his amazing experience back in August! Check out Kenji’s recap of it all below:

Kenji “Jino” Hinjo | Photo courtesy of Kenji Hino

Ok, here we go. So… For an entire month I was so psyched to meet David Foster and Katharine McPhee and to play with them. I grew up with Davids music and I remember Katharine from American Idol and her single “Over it”, so it was a total dream coming true for me. Well, not only for me, it’s every musician’s dream coming true.

To be honest, I was really nervous being the only Japanese guy in the band, and I assumed they never worked with Japanse musicians in a band situation before.

I was born in Tokyo and at the age of 7 my father moved us to New York City, where I lived for 30 years, until I got held up with guns a couple of times. I got sick of living in fear and at a certain point I even owned a pit-bull to feel safe during a walk at night. Japan is so safe. You almost never have to look over your shoulder or feel scared. That’s why I moved back to Japan and I got signed at Group Universal Japan.

The preparations:
I received a copy of their live shows and it sounded so great. A perfect mix of Blues, Jazz, Soul, Rock, Funk, … It really had everything: I loved the music plus it was so entertaining with humor and love. What a dream gig! I even felt more privileged now and so honored to be a part of it.

Learning a new song is like an adventure: I love the challenge. I started imagining how thrilling and beautiful it was gonna be with David on piano, Katharine’s vocals and Master Groove man JR at the drums.

I like to be prepared, so I always listen to the show and copy whatever the bassist is doing. I also re-write my own charts so I can feel comfortable during the shows, but somewhere down the line there was a little mix up and I didn’t receive a set list for the Japan tour, but I thought I was prepared as I studied the gig from The Carlyle and I felt ready for the unimaginable gig of a lifetime… But oh boy, I was wrong…

The big day finally came. I was feeling good and I was so psyched to finally meet Katharine and David, until I arrived to the rehearsal and I found out the new set list for the Japan tour. Oh boy! Half of the songs I studied wasn’t on the set list and a few songs that I never played before, were added to the list. I started to feel ill and felt so bad about myself.

I immediately started to re-write and listening to the new songs. I mean, we only had one day of rehearsals and next day the tour started so I was in a total panic mode… And there they were… In the corner of my eyes I saw Katharine and David arriving. They looked amazing but I was not ready to meet them, at all! Imagine this: It’s mid Summer and the airco is kicking hard but I was in a cold sweat. I couldn’t bring myself to greet them feeling like this, but I also didn’t want their first impression of me to be weird. So I forced myself to greet them, with a bit of a fake smile. It was such a wonderful moment but I just didn’t feel that way, because I was so nervous.

During the rehearsals I was trying to sight read, but I’m messing up left and right, so we kept stopping because of my mistakes. During the breaks I kept re-writing the songs to my iPad. I felt so bad because I saw the look on their faces and they looked kind of disappointed. I would be too… Jet lagged and their shows started tomorrow and I was messing up.

But here’s the thing about people like David Foster and Katharine McPhee: They’re such wonderful people and world class super stars. They were really sincere and patient. But they also guided me and gave me pointers to make it work. So I started to feel like it wasn’t the end of the world and it made me realize they were more than just cool. They truly are the music industry’s treasure but also cool people up-close and they made me feel like an important part of the show. Maybe that was just what I needed.
When it all was coming together David said “Sounds good!” in an encouraging way, so positivity started to roam my mind, even though I was feeling like a worthless chopped sushi a minute ago. After all, it was Kat’s first time performing in Japan and I couldn’t let all of her fans down, I couldn’t let David down. So I knew what I had to do: Practice the new set and re-write all my charts.

So after the disastrous rehearsal I stayed ups all night re-writing my charts, slept for only 2 hours and practiced in the morning, to be ready for day 1 of the first gigs!

The tour:
Ok, so I knew Katharine from the 5th season of American Idol, and now off course from the tour in Japan. She literally has a voice from heaven that strikes my heart. She literally sang every single note straight from her soul, and David always reacted with “mmm” or “yeah” or “wow”. And even tho I didn’t make those sounds, I felt the same way. It was so amazing and so beautiful. I got goosebumps every single time she sang.

David and Katharine are a once in a lifetime couple and to be honest, they don’t need a band to tour with. It’s pure joy listening to them when they just make music together, or sing together. Their love is so genuine, it’s so beautiful to see and they share their love story during the shows: How they met each other during American Idol. Fun part: I got to translate it in Japanese.

If I remember it well, it was the second day during the sound check, when Katharine goes to David and hugs and kisses him while he’s playing the piano. I mean, the moment she arrived at the venue and started the sing and harmonize with her husband, it almost looked like a perfect movie scene.

In the beginning of the tour, I was totally glued to my iPad reading the charts, but then when I looked up after every song, I literally saw people wiping away a tear. Even my friends. As the tour went by, I finally started to memorize my parts and that made it possible for me to really perform and make more eye contact with Katharine, David and the audience. That really boosted my confidence, because sometimes Katharine smiled at me, like I was doing a good job or something.

The language:
One of my closest friends and guitarist Masa Kohama told me that, when he went to see David in Japan a few years ago, he was one of the few people that understood his jokes and humor, because they are really funny. So I told David I wished there was a way to make the Japanese audience understand them too during the show. A few moments later he asked me if I wanted to translate during the show. So next thing I know, I was not only hired as their bassist in Japan, but I also became a tolk.

It was so funny: Katharine and David would say something on stage and then stopped and stared at me until I started to translate.

Special moments:
We went out together two times during the tour: The first night and the final night and it was so much fun. We had amazing food and great conversations.
I’ll never forget that Kat complimented me on my wardrobe on the first night. I was ecstatic. And then her shoe broke during the second night and she did the rest of the show barefoot.

All and all it was such an amazing tour that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

Backstage | Photo courtesy of Kenji Hino


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2 responses
  1. Gigi Herrera Avatar
    Gigi Herrera

    This is absolutely inspiring Jino,not only you are a world class bass player but a wonderful person too.this kind of gig would frighten any normal bassist but you being you totally killed it proud of you bass brother!

  2. Eric G Wood Avatar
    Eric G Wood

    Man do I know the feeling. Beautiful insight. Thanks for sharing. They knew you could do the, as did I and everybody else.