While growing up in the small town of Chesterton, Nicholas Keiser said he listened to the music of the Rolling Stones, but never dreamed he would one day meet the band.
But after many years of hard work and pursuing a passion to see the world beyond the Region, Keiser began working for The Stones in 2013, and now refers to lead vocalist Mick Jagger as his boss.
"I never thought I'd meet Mick Jagger," Keiser said last week from a hotel in New Orleans, where the band is scheduled to appear Sunday night as part of its No Filter U.S. Tour 2019. "He's a musical icon."
Keiser, who at 39 was still a year away from being born when the Stones released their 16th American studio album Some Girls, has worked video for the band since 2013 and was promoted to video director two years ago. He is charged with the important tasks of deciding which camera is on which musician during a concert, and which image goes on which of the four 65-foot stage screens, all under the careful review of Jagger himself.
"He said what the show should look like," Keiser said. "I said, 'Yes, I'm happy to do that.'"
Working under the pressure of top-name performers is nothing new for Keiser, who has worked for and/or alongside such big names as Metallica, Elton John, Foo Fighters, Black Sabbath, James Taylor, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Lil Wayne and a long string of country music stars.
"This was never presented as a possible career choice," Keiser said, hoping to encourage young people to think outside the box for their own careers. "These jobs are out there."
'(I can't get no) Satisfaction'
Keiser, who is married and now lives in Switzerland, said after graduating from Chesterton High School in 1998, he set out on the traditional career route of studying math at Purdue University.
"I quickly learned I didn't want to be an astronaut," he said.
He refocused on studying film with the intention of joining the independent film making movement at the time. This led him to an internship at the university's Elliott Hall of Music and a video production class of six students, but "only two of us showed up."
Keiser's willingness to start at the bottom running cables led to him operating cameras.
'I made it clear I wanted to learn all aspects of video," he said.
After graduating with degrees in film studies and English, he went back to Purdue working as a camera engineer and director, both within the theater and for sporting events.
Keiser said his break in the world of professional music came in 2003 when he went to work for Nashville-based video company MooTV and hit the road as a tour camera operator for country music star Alan Jackson.
Even after moving to Nashville, he was able to work at Purdue during the week because country music tours are typically scheduled Thursday through Saturday, "and then they're home for church on Sunday."
He went on to work for such big names in country music as Wynonna Judd, Hilary Duff, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, and shows such as Veggie Tales, American Idol tour and the Rock Band tour.
'It's only Rock'n'Roll (But I like It)'
Keiser, who has always worked for companies hired by the artists, said he has had differing levels of interactions with the performers over the years, decided largely by them and the positions he has held. But at all times he has maintained a professional approach.
"It's a fine line," he said. "As soon as you're approaching them as a fan you're going beyond an employee and breaking a boundary. It's an easy way to lose your job."
Keiser said he had lots of interaction with the members of the southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, which was fortunate because he was a fan.
"It was like a big family out there," he said.
Keiser is also enamored by the Rolling Stones and said he enjoys hearing the music and watching the show each night.
"I don't get tired of The Stones," he said. "The energy they give is crazy. I was blown away the first time I saw them."
He said there are no recordings used during the show and Jagger is provided with a video after each concert that he reviews nearly immediately because he cares so much about the quality of the performances.
Keiser spends less time on the road with the Rolling Stones — three months a year — as compared to earlier tours in his career. But he has no complaints or regrets, despite travelling and staying in far less ideal conditions than the artists.
"I was OK with it because I wanted to do the work," he said.
The many years of laboring 60 to 80 hours a week have paid off for Keiser, who can now be more selective in what work he accepts.
"I can pick and choose," he said. "I wanted to climb the ladder and show I can do it."