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Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

Jason Isbell Live

Jason Isbell’s tour is in Europe now, but Mix caught his Bay Area show at the Fox Oakland. Isbell is playing a catalog-spanning range of songs, as well as tunes from his powerful recent release The Nashville Sound. Mixing FOH is longtime engineer Cain Hogsed, who mans an Avid SC48 console.

“It’s easy to navigate,” Hogsed says. “I like to multitrack-record our shows, and so it allows me to do that really easily. I’m using all inboard processing and effects, too—I like the C6 multiband compressor on his vocals and a little bit on the snare drum, some basic reverbs—but this band doesn’t use any crazy effects.”

Isbell and band are using venue-provided P.A.s, but they carry a full complement of backline and mics, including several Shure models, as the tour is endorsed by the mic maker. Isbell, for example, sings into a Beta 58.

“Jason has a huge dynamic range, and it can really handle his explosive vocals, but also the lighter stuff when he’s off-mic a little bit,” Hogsed says. “It stays very clear, so I only have to do very minimal EQ’ing. It’s a standard for a reason.”

Hogsed also uses Shure mics to capture guitars. Both Isbell and Sadler Vaden play melodic leads and solos, so keeping their sounds distinct is essential.

“Both rigs have basically the same mic configuration,” Hogsed says. “Jason uses three amps onstage, and he uses all of those in different configurations. On each of those cabs, we have an SM57 and a KSM313 ribbon; I use the 313 as the meat of the guitar tone, and if he’s going into a solo I’ll use that 57 a bit higher to make it stand out in the mix.”

Vaden plays through Vox and 3rd Power amps, and Hogsed mikes them with a KSM313 and an SM57, respectively. “It’s the same principle,” Hogsed says. “The Vox sits in the mix and I boost or bring down the 3rd Power with the 57 when he’s playing leads or a lead melodic line. The 57 is more like the icing on the cake.”