#1 Brad Paisley
FOH engineer Kevin FreemanIt has been almost a year since Tennessee suffered a devastating flood. In an ironic twist of fate, Brad Paisley’s aptly named H2O Tour 2010 assembled in Nashville on the very day that the floodwaters began to rise.
As Paisley’s longtime FOH engineer Kevin Freeman and eight-year veteran monitor engineer Mark Gould recount, the events of early May 2010 certainly got things off to a memorable start. “The day we were supposed to load in for rehearsals, we showed up at the arena, walked in, and the loading dock was full of water,” says Freeman, who left LeAnn Rimes to join Paisley 12 years ago. “We ended up rehearsing in a steel mill north of Nashville.”
Fortunately, adds Gould, production sound provider Sound Image was on the ball. “The guys at Sound Image kept their eye on the weather reports. They were smart enough to have about five tractor trailers show up at their shop, and they moved everything to high ground hours before the flood hit.”
Unfortunately, Paisley, like many other local area musicians, lost equipment when his storage locker was inundated. Other than what was in the truck being delivered to the rehearsal, says Freeman, “We lost all of our band gear in the flood. Brad lost 23 guitars. We tried to dry them out and see what was fixable, but pretty much nothing was. Brad pulled his pickup truck around back, and we just stacked them in there like firewood.”
Freeman, who is also the production manager, had his work cut out trying to get the show ready in double-quick time, as he explains: “Besides trying to put together a new show and having a couple of weeks’ rehearsal, we had to find a new place to rehearse, buy all-new band gear and replace about half of our video equipment. And some of our set got ruined. But we pulled it off.”
Monitor engineer Mark GouldSound Image owner Dave Shadoan took a chance on the unknown Paisley 12 years ago, supplying Freeman with rental gear at a rock-bottom price. “There was no question about who our sound company was going to be,” says Freeman, acknowledging his current Sound Image crew: “Jim [Miller], my audio crew chief, sets my stuff up every day and does all the work that I get all the credit for. The other two guys, Alex [Moore] and [Mike] Moses [Beck], monitor tech and PA hanger, are just great. And I’ve got to thank Brad. He’s the smartest, most talented guy I’ve ever worked with.”
Gould, who also thanks Paisley’s management in addition to Shadoan and the Sound Image crew, has one special credit: “My wife and kids for letting us do this. A lot of guys don’t get to have a family and do this at the same time, so I’m grateful that I have that.”
Happily, the tour’s inauspicious start was offset by some career highlights for Paisley and the crew. “We sold out Gillette Stadium [in Boston],” remembers Freeman. “That was our first chance at seeing if we were going to be a stadium act. We had all of our PA there, all of Jimmy Buffett’s PA, and a couple of other large stacks for delays. It’s a feeling of power, standing at front of house; that’s a lot of PA!” The tour also took Paisley to Europe for the first time.
“I think, that last run, we only had one show that wasn’t a sellout,” notes Gould. “It shows Brad’s determination, that he wants to be successful and he wants to work real hard at it. It’s a fun ride right now.”
Midas Heritage 2000
JBL VerTec (44) VT4889, (16) VT4880; (10) QSC PowerLine
(2) SI PD15, (2) G2; (4) JBL VerTec VT4880
Sennheiser G2; Westone ES3
Crown I-Tech 8000
Crown I-Tech 8000
Shure KSM, Beta Series; Royer
TC Electronic M-5000; Eventide Harmonizer; Yamaha SPX990, SPX2000; dbx DriveRack; BSS; TC Electronic 1128
#2 Rascal Flatts
FOH engineer Jon Garber (left) and monitor engineer Stuart DelkCountry is often seen as music about values, and one that Rascal Flatts has clearly taken to heart is to have a strong work ethic. Touring extensively every year, the group works hard even as it’s having fun, and that attitude extends to its longtime sound crew. Stuart Delk became the band’s monitor engineer nine years ago, and Jon Garber took over band’s FOH position a year later.
At the time, Garber was Rascal Flatts’ system engineer: “I was also mixing all their opening acts, and Jay [DeMarcus, bassist] would come out and listen to my mix. It was a natural progression; I just moved up to the FOH position. To be 23- 24, getting my big break mixing Rascal Flatts at the time that they were starting to get their big break was massive!”
Delk’s move into the monitor position was equally serendipitous. Starting out as a guitar player and occasional FOH engineer, he moved into working monitors at the now-defunct rehearsal facility, Nashville Cartage and Sound. “That’s when I found out there was a big need for monitor guys,” he recalled. “This is only my second monitor gig—it was Lila McCann and these guys.”
While the engineers may say they were in the right place at the right time, keeping the gig has proven their mettle. Since those days, the band has become an arena mainstay, while the engineers have successfully navigated the jump from conventional PAs to JBL VerTec line arrays, and from analog desks to Studer Vista 5 consoles. While they’re comfortable with the high-tech at their disposal—and looking forward to trying Shure’s upcoming Axient wireless systems, for that matter—they readily admit that technology is only half the job.
“It’s hard to live on a bus with 11 other guys who have their own personalities, but you just gotta get along,” said Delk. “It’s 50 percent hang, 50 percent ability. Even if you’re the best engineer in the world, if you’ve got a really bad attitude, no one’s going to hire you.”
Over at front of house, Garber’s focus is to please the audience: “I want to replicate what the guys are doing in the studio, but with a live feel—get some more air moving, so people get up and have a good time. That’s what I love about live sound: If they’re having fun, then I know I’m doing my job right.”
Of course, it’s easier to do that job when you have the right tools and support. “Sound Image has always been great; Dave Shadoan, the owner, is very involved in what we’re doing, and he’s a nice guy,” said Delk, who also noted the support of Studer, Radial, Sennheiser, Ultimate Ears and Shure, the last of which endorses Rascal Flatts. Garber pointed out the backing of the audio crew: “Pete McDonough, Jason Blackburn, Jeremy Peters—I couldn’t do this gig without them, hands down—and our production manager, Kendall Carter, keeps us all in line; we can rely on him for whatever needs we have.”
Rascal Flatts’ 2010-2011 tour ends this month, but it won’t be long (June, to be specific) before the group’s back on the road, selling out venue after venue. It’s a long way from the band’s start, banging around the Nashville music scene, but the same could be said for the engineers, too. “We all started in the clubs in downtown Nashville,” mused Garber. “Starting from small, and thank God we’re where we’re at today, which is pretty awesome. We all live and grow, and luckily it’s taken us to this place.”
Jon “Jon” Garber
Stuart Delk FOH Console: Studer Vista 5
Studer Vista 5
JBL VerTec (90) VT4889, (32) VT4880 subs; (12) QSC WideLine
JBL VerTec (6) VT4889; (4) Sound Image 1 x 18-inch sub bass cabinets Personal Monitors: Sennheiser G2; Shure PSM700 L2
Crown I-Tech 8000
Crown I-Tech 8000
Shure UR4D with 58 caps; AKG headset mics FOH Equipment: TC Electronic 5000, D-Two, PCM96; (3) dbx DriveRack 4800
#2 Bon Jovi
Since a Bon Jovi tour means sell-out crowds and record-breaking grosses, it stands to reason that the band’s sound crew would keep winning Centerstage Awards. And 2010 was no exception.
FOH engineer David EisenhauerThis year marks the third time that front-of-house engineer David Eisenhauer has won (all for Bon Jovi), the fourth time for monitor engineer Glen Collett (three with Bon Jovi, once with N’ Sync), and the first time for relative newcomer Andy Hill, who also works in Monitorland.
The Circle Tour, which started in February 2010, has circled the globe, but the night that really stood out was last May when Bon Jovi became the first band to play the New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey. “We were the guinea pigs, so it was definitely a challenge,” recalled Eisenhauer, “but it was pretty special.”
All three engineers are quick to thank Clair Global for all its support. “They make an extra effort in the training of their system engineers,” said Eisenhauer, “plus there’s Clair’s packaging of the equipment and how it’s incredibly consistent every day.”
Eisenhauer got into audio, he jokes, because “I had no other marketable skills.” Hailing from St. Louis, like many engineers, he started in music at an early age only to find himself the “guy in the band who owned the sound equipment and got stuck doing the sound.” He became well known working at clubs around town, began working in the studio, and in the early ’90s, got a “fluke call” from Sheryl Crow, with whom he had worked in the studio, asking him to be her live-sound mixer on the road. “It took off from there.”
Monitor engineers Glen Collett (left) and Andy Hill.Collett was a music teacher in Vancouver, Canada in the early ’70s, playing in local bands on the side (“I was the one with the van and the checking account,” he quips), when he “fell into” a local sound company in 1974. After a stint with Waylon Jennings, Collett toured with a slew of Canadian artists before hooking up with Bryan Adams, with whom he stayed for 16 years. Since selling Jason Sound to Clair, he has been working with the company ever since.
By contrast, Hill’s background is quite different, having started working at a local Vermont sound company while still in high school (he’s in his mid-20s now): “I found out which company did most of the highend tours [Clair], knocked on the door and they hired me.” A sound tech during Bon Jovi’s 2005 tour, he missed 2007’s Lost Highway tour (“He was too much in demand by others,” Eisenhauer interjected) and joined the Circle Tour last year as monitor engineer for guitarist Richie Sambora.
For now, Bon Jovi dates are lined up through August—which means it’s entirely possible that the crew will be in the running for next year’s Centerstage Awards. Stay tuned….
Glen Collett, Andy Hill
Midas Heritage 3000; Avid Profile
Clair i-5, i-5B, i-3, BT-218, FF-2
Clair 212AM, SRM, L3 NT/LF, ML-18
Sennheiser 2000; AKG IVM 4
Aphex 622; TC Electronic M5000, M2000, 2290; Summit TLA-100, DCL- 200; Smart Research C2; Empirical Labs EL-8; Amek 9098
Monitor Equipment/ Plug-Ins:
Aphex 622; TC Electronic M5000, D-Two; Summit DCL-200; Yamaha SPX990; dbx 160A x
Sennheiser MD-421, MKH-416; Countryman DI; AKG C 414, C 460; Shure SM91, Beta52, Beta58A, SM98, SM57, SM58, UB wireless