Lady Gaga's visual director and choreographer, Richy Jackson, chats about the star's upcoming festival gig

By Mariah Haas
April 15, 2017 12:45 PM
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Get ready Little Monsters! It’s almost time for Lady Gaga to take the stage at Coachella. But until then, the artist’s visual director and choreographer is spilling a few details about her highly anticipated gig.

“When we work together, we just try to make everything different depending on the venue,” Richy Jackson, who’s been working with Gaga since 2007, tells PEOPLE exclusively. “So this is going to be about making a great performance for Coachella that will live at Coachella and be for Coachella and about Coachella.”

“This is sort of like a little Coachella-exclusive,” he explains. “That’s the way I would look at it. It’s going to be high-energy and fun. But it’s done for this show, for this venue.”

In February, Gaga announced on social media that she would be replacing Beyoncé as the Coachella headliner on consecutive Saturday nights. Queen Bey, who is pregnant with twins, had to postpone her performance at this year’s Coachella on the advice of her doctors.

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“I just remember finding out on a plane. I saw it on social media and I just thought it was a joke,” recalls Jackson, 38. “I’ve been thinking about Beyoncé all year! So I’m like, ‘Oh, you know some fan is probably like, “Oh! [Gaga’s] performing!”‘ And then the next thing I know I get off the plane and I talk to Bobby, her manager, and I’m like, ‘It’s true?’ and he’s like, ‘Yes.'”

From there, it was “pedal to the metal right away,” says Jackson, noting that the team works “well” under pressure.

“We’ve crunched a lot of performances that you guys have seen over the years,” he shares. “So for me this isn’t like, ‘Ah!’ It’s more of, ‘Okay. Let’s just get it done. Who do we have to call? Make the calls now.'”

Thanks to that mindset, the San Francisco native admits prepping for the music festival “hasn’t been crazy.”

“It’s just been about the efficiency. We need to get this job [done] and make it happen because there’s no time,” explains Jackson, who says that leading up to the show, everyone in the performance has been rehearsing “six to eight-hour days.”

When it comes to the choreography and visuals for any event, including Coachella, Jackson says Gaga is “super involved.”

“As far as the choreography aspect of it, once we have our initial conversation of what we’re going for, then I just ‘Go,’ which is great,” says Jackson. “Then visually with everything, she’s definitely involved in every aspect of that process.”

“She’s hands-on,” he shares. “She’s always been hands-on, which is fantastic.”

And once Gaga wraps in Indio, California, Mother Monster and her team will get a short break before the focus shifts to her Joanne tour, which kicks off in August.

“We get to do Coachella and then from there we get to start to really dive into the creative of the Joanne tour,” says Jackson, who can’t wait to “see the Joanne album come to life” along with the star’s past records.

“That’s the most exciting part about any tour for me,” shares Jackson. “Bringing the album physically to life with the dancing and the outfits, the band … how does it sound being played live? Those things are what excite me about the tour.”

“Then on top of that, we see fans and go to their cities,” he continues. “It’s always great when we show up to a concert and we see all the little monsters out there with their outfits, and they’re super, super excited, and they just can’t wait to see what we’re going to bring to the table. I love that.”

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And as Gaga fans know, the 31-year-old pushes the envelope (and crushes it!) during her shows.

“What’s interesting about working with her is that I don’t know how many other people in this field who get that creative freedom to pitch things that do sound crazy on paper until you execute them,” says Jackson, who’s also worked with the likes of Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Nick Jonas, Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, Meghan Trainor and Charlie Puth, among others.

“A lot of artists, they’re not as fearless,” he adds. “And so because she’s fearless you can pitch something and she’ll be like, ‘That’s amazing!’ But you can probably never ever pitch it to anyone else.”

However, Jackson admits there is one thing that could potentially limit the singer-songwriter’s performances.

“With her, I just think the creative boundaries are endless until we physically can’t do it,” says Jackson. “That’s what stops it. If we physically can’t do it? Okay. We tried.”