Interview: Tre Henderson

Influence of Church on Your Career:

You’ve mentioned the significant influence of your church background on your career. How do you feel the traditional and spiritual elements of your church experiences shape your musical and speaking style today?

I previously mentioned how being in a traditional, pentecostal church was my introduction to live music. The experience shapes me in that it taught me to be prepared yet improvisational. The experience taught me to anticipate the unexpected and be ready to continue performing seamlessly. The church experience (as it has for many of the greats) taught me how to sing and enjoy various styles of music, accompanied by polished orators. Church was where I further developed charisma and the ability to better read crowds and create or respond to what appeals and excites the crowd. It also taught me to approach each audience with positivity and conviction.

Crafting the « Tre Experience »:

You emphasize the importance of a tailored approach for each event. Could you share a specific instance where you had to adapt your performance style on the fly, and how it impacted the event?
I recall performing for a corporate event and having been told by the long-time event organizer that the attendees are more reserved. Naturally, with that in mind I (along with the band) kept the music more ‘easy listening’ as opposed to dancey and exciting. I stood on stage and watched many in the audience swaying and clapping, almost dancing in their seats. As a result, I naturally changed the style of music and tempo, and even began to invite attendees to the dance floor. It worked! They really weren’t a very reserved group, they were simply waiting for permission to have a little more fun. The attendees later spoke of how great it was, different from previous years. The event organizer was also hearing the same directly from attendees. That small change reshaped how that corporate event was organized. That change caused more employees to attend in the following years.

Memorable Performance in Cabo San Lucas:

That improvisational speech before the fireworks in Cabo San Lucas sounds captivating. How do you prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for such impromptu moments, ensuring they resonate well with the audience?

The experince in Cabo was epic! There is no ‘secret sauce’ though. I simply pray before each performance and I make sure I understand what the event is about/its focus/purpose. I then do my part to go from vision to manifestation. Most often in these moments, truth is what resonates. I speak from the heart. I cannot pre plan that. I suppose, it’s the church in me.

Collaborating with Pharrell Williams:

Working with Pharrell Williams must have been an extraordinary experience. Can you share any specific lessons or insights you gained from observing his creative process that you’ve incorporated into your own work?
The experience was out of this world. There is much to share, but for now I’ll say he demonstrated the importance of being unafraid to be creative, different, ‘other’ as he calls it. He also personifies the phrase I heard used by the Artist, Prince- he said, « keep your vision clear. » Pharrell was able to articulate exactly how he envisioned the music, the feel, etc. and it communicated what we needed to do to bring that vision to fruition.

Influence of Iconic Artists:

Performing with legends like Michael McDonald and Karen Clark-Sheard must be both inspiring and challenging. How do you balance paying homage to their styles while maintaining your unique voice and presence on stage?

There are thousands of musical creatives. Many aren’t famous. I encourage others to do what I’ve done- listen to an array of music and learn, but don’t copy. I apply the same method with public speaking. I watch presidential speeches, I listen to rap (rhythm, cadence), I watch via TV and in person court cases, sometimes just to observe the speaking and presenting styles of litigators. I try to flood myself with creative work in different genres so that I’m influenced perhaps by a myriad of things as opposed to becoming a copy of one.

Adapting to Different Audience Sizes:

You mentioned the importance of reading the audience’s vibe and energy. Can you provide an example of a particularly challenging audience and how you managed to engage and energize them?

Corporate events/audiences tend to be more challenging. After all, everyone is concerned about image and many don’t want to enjoy themselves too much around colleagues, clients, and bosses. To overcome this challenge, especially if I’m accompanied by my band, I encourage the performers to have fun with one another. If we are having fun, the crowd can see it, if they can see it, they are more likely to ‘buy into it’. I also tend to spot an energetic person in the crowd very early. Once I grab that person (bring him or her to the stage or dance floor), the energy is transferrable and before you know it, everyone is having fun.

Collaborating with James Dawkins:

In your collaboration with James Dawkins on « Smile for Me, » what were some creative challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them to achieve a harmonious result?
Ensuring Consistency and Authenticity:
One challenge I faced was my own perfectionist attitude. It was important that the Artist received what he envisioned and important to me that I represented myself well and had that same pride. I simply recorded a few takes and enlisted the opinions of the creative people around me (sound engineer, other present musicians). I’d recommend having people around that are trusted, respected, and accomplished.

Maintaining humor, personality, intelligence, and charisma consistently is no small feat. Do you have any rituals or practices that help you stay grounded and authentic before stepping on stage?
I Prepare, pray, think positively, and determine within my own heart and mind that my performance will be excellent. It is difficult to inspire happiness and good feelings if one doesn’t bring that resolve to the stage.

Preparation for Live Performances:

Could you walk us through a specific preparation process for one of your most successful performances? How did you select the songs and engage with the audience to ensure a memorable experience?
When working with a client, whether booked directly by myself or an agent/company for which I work, we find out what music/etc appeals to the client and get basic demographic information. That helps to choose the right genres of music and helps to prepare to have something for everyone to enjoy. Aside from that preparation, sometimes the plan is no plan. Try different things in the moment and find out in real time what the crowd responds to. I recall opening for an artist and aside from having different styles of music to play to the diverse crowd, I was determined to be positive and keep the crowd excited throughout the duration of the performance. I did just that. That flood of positive energy with good music made the night memorable for all.

Advice for Aspiring Entertainers:

You’ve given some valuable advice to aspiring artists. What are some common mistakes you see newcomers make in the industry, and how can they avoid them?

One of the most common mistakes is becoming so programmed that you forget to be genuine. Another mistake is being impatient, tense, and too uptight. Newcomers have to learn to relax. Let potential collaborators, colleagues, and audiences get the opportunity to experience you. authentic you. un-stressed you. Watch, learn, and incorporate what you can to make yourself better.

Looking Ahead:

What are your future aspirations and projects? Are there any new ventures or collaborations you’re particularly excited about?

I would like to author a book and perhaps tell some of the stories about my industry experiences. I’d also like to develop a more consistent mentoring program to make younger musicians aware about this world of private events, and to equip them to successfully navigate this part of the entertainment industry.