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All Access: Ray LaMontagne

Since coming out with his second release, Till the Sun Turns Black, singer/songwriter Ray LaMontagne has been enjoying critical acclaim, which fueled

Eric Heywood, guitars/pedal steel

Since coming out with his second release, Till the Sun Turns Black, singer/songwriter Ray LaMontagne has been enjoying critical acclaim, which fueled a five-week tour of the U.S. before he headed off to the UK early this year. However, this success has not cost LaMontagne fans any of the simple intimacy they enjoy at his shows; the packed crowd at Oakland, Calif.’s Paramount Theater (where Mix caught up with the tour) felt like they were sitting in the artist’s living room.

In fact, this simplicity is mirrored in the audio system, where, according to monitor engineer Rob Zuchowski, he is advancing specs for a line array instead o carrying racks and stacks.

“I’ve been talking with the local sound companies and coming up with the best ways to cover the rooms,” he explains. “Generally, the local guys have been in the room 1,000 times and can suggest the best solution for coverage. It’s a very quiet show, so coverage is key.”

Monitor engineer Rob Zuchowsk

Helping Zuchowski on this tour is front-of-house engineer Doug Dawson, who is manning a Yamaha DM1000. On the other hand, Zuchowski is relying on house boards, where he’s mostly seen Digidesign VENUE consoles. At the Oakland show, he mixed on a Yamaha PM4000. “I’ve got 21 inputs from the stage,” he says, “and I’ll attach the input and stage plot. I have an inside and outside pair of wedges for Ray, as well as the sidefills. Usually, only the center pair gets used.

“The best tool I’ve discovered for mixing Ray is the flux capacitor,” the monitor engineer says jokingly, making reference to the time-travel apparatus from Back to the Future. “I travel into the future and see if it’s going to sound bad. That way, I already know what I’m getting into!”

According to guitar tech Josh “L-Cap-e-Tan” Nobles, Eric Heywood’s guitars include a Creston Electric and a Gibson 1951 Southern Gentleman; the pedal steel is a Williams 11-string single neck, and the pedal board is loaded with a Fulltone Full-Drive 2, a Dunlop tremolo, MXR Phase 90, Keely compressor, Hughes & Ketner Rotosphere, a SIB! Electronics Echodrive and an EBow. LaMontagne plays acoustic Martin D28 and D35s. “I also condone liberal use of the flux capacitor to make sure my guitars will be in tune,” Heywood adds. “Rock ’n’ roll soldiers never say die!”

Jen Condos, bass

Jay Bellerose’s drum kit is a World War II era Slingerland Rolling Bomber. “It’s a great-sounding kit and Jay’s a great drummer,” Zuchowski says. “I’ve been getting away with just kick and overhead mics. We basically have a Shure package for the drum kit, as well. We use a Beta 52 and a Beta 91 mounted in the kick drum; Beta 98s on the toms; Beta 57 for top snare and SM57 for bottom; an SM81 on the hi-hat; and KSM 32s on the overheads. ”

Jay Bellerose, drums

The tour is carrying Audio Analysts VFX 15 wedges and VFX 360 sidefills with power. “They sound amazing,” Zuchowski says. “I just tie them into the house console. The rest of the wedges just look good.”