Ty Bailie quickly went from playing small clubs with his Hammond B3 organ trio to 15,000-seat arenas with one of the world’s biggest stars.
The Mesa native joined Katy Perry’s Prismatic tour in Barcelona for the Feb. 16 show, two weeks after Perry played the Super Bowl halftime show.
Things haven’t slowed down since.
The tour has 100 people working on it, with dancers, costume changes, numerous props and pyrotechnics.
“It’s the biggest show in the world right now,” said Bailie, 37, while back in the area on a break. “We had our own 737 to fly in, and, by the end of the tour, it was full of people.”
Bailie returned to Mesa to see his sister’s new baby because the European leg of the tour wrapped up March 22 in Stockholm. He isn’t staying long before heading back out for the Asian shows.
Some of Bailie’s earliest memories were playing his grandmother’s piano. He got his own piano from a dryland wheat farmer down the road from his family’s farm.
He took up jazz piano when he was 16, attended Connell High School and soon was off to the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle.
“He just took off at an early age,” said his father, Terry Bailie. “He just continued to take lessons, and the instructor said, ‘He can’t do anything more here. He’s got to go somewhere else.’ ”
In Seattle, Ty Bailie played diverse music styles, performing with artists including Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, Duff McKeagan of Guns N’ Roses and Heart’s Ann Wilson.
Bailie also joined up with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s band, playing on yachts and mansions all over the world.
“He’s a pretty rippin’ guitar player,” Bailie said of the Seattle Seahawks’ owner.
Bailie spent many nights on Allen’s yacht Octopus, which was the world’s largest of its kind when it was built.
The seven-story ship holds two submarines and two helicopters.
But even that can get old.
“It’s amazing how you can want to get off a megayacht,” he said.
Bailie also performed in a jazz duo in Seattle, and had an indie rock band called Dept. of Energy, the name of which wasn’t related to Hanford, he said.
He moved to Los Angeles two years ago and started hauling his 400-pound organ around to different venues. Max Hart, Perry’s keyboard player at the time, started coming to Bailie’s performances.
Bailie said that Hart put in a good word for him when Hart decided to move on from Perry’s band. That helped Bailie earn an audition.
Bailie first auditioned in front of a camera on a keyboard in the middle of a large room. He said the footage was played for Perry, and the field of candidates narrowed.
He then performed in front of her and earned a place in the band.
He took over just after the Feb. 1 Super Bowl XLIX halftime show, which was Hart’s last. Sadly, he couldn’t get a ticket, even though Perry performed and Allen’s team was playing.
Bailie now plays a variety of instruments on the tour, including pianos, synthesizers and organs — “anything with keys,” he said.
He will go to China for the first time for Perry’s April 18 concert in Guangzhou. He also looks forward to visiting Japan.
“I’m really excited to meet friends I have over there and eat way too much sushi,” he said.
Bailie had played some larger shows before joining Perry, including performing in front of 9,000 people at Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver and briefly joining Pearl Jam on stage in front of 30,000 people, he said. But nothing compares to playing arenas night after night.
Bailie is most at home playing in front of 20 people in a jazz club, so he has to prepare himself for the larger gigs.
“You have to be really cool,” he said. “You can’t get too excited. It’s really easy to get excited and mess up your parts.”
Bailie will get to play before his largest audience when Perry performs at Rock in Rio in September in front of more than 100,000 people.
Perry will play some “one-off” dates in North America this year, with the closest to the Tri-Cities in California and Whistler, British Columbia, Bailie said.
The best crowd Bailie performed with along with Perry came in Oslo, he said. His favorite song to perform is By the Grace of God, an acoustic song where he plays with just Perry and two background singers.
“The show’s a big wild and crazy thing with big visuals, flames and lasers, but then it slows down and is just about the music,” he said.