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JD McPherson

Spirited Rock ’N’ Roll Revival

Singer/songwriter/guitarist JD McPherson has been steadily building an enthusiastic new following with his own infectious take on North American rock and R&B of the 1950s, which he blends with his other influences, including The Clash, Led Zeppelin, The Pixies, and Wu-Tang Clan, among others. McPherson and his four band mates—Sutton, Jason Smay (drums), Ray Jacildo (piano/keyboard) and Doug Corcoran (sax/guitar/keyboard)—are continuing to tour behind McPherson’s 2015 sophomore release, Let The Good Times Roll. Following a winter run through clubs and ballrooms in the continental U.S., they will land in Australia for gigs in February.

Mix caught McPherson’s January performance in Seattle at The Showbox. Tour manager and front-of-house engineer Ryan Mchugh says that while no sound company is supporting the tour, he and the band happily dive into a DIY approach to achieving their tour sound.

“JD has never actually toured with production, so far,” Mchugh says. “We have some pretty quirky backline. We’ve got vintage Ludwig drums, an old Kay upright bass, a Hammond M3—we don’t have the muscle or the trailer space for a B3 quite yet—and an old spinet piano. The guys have been dialing these elements in for a long time, though it’s an ever-evolving process.”

Mchugh embraces the challenges of relying on house-provided sound reinforcement gear, and developed his workarounds for McPherson’s show. “There’s something more intuitive about mixing a show on a big board with faders and knobs that push back,” he says. “With that said, I’ve really come to love certain features of the SC48. I’ll put those [Avid] Smack! plug-ins anywhere I can fit them. I also love to put the Pultec EQs in front of the Fairchild comp, and then carve away the bad mids and pump in the warmer frequencies, making the comp get a little wacky.”

For McPherson’s vocal, Mchugh uses the tracks on Let The Good Times Roll as a starting point. “There’s warmth and grit and the right type of compression,” Mchugh says. “It sounds thick and full [with] none of those shocking high-mids. If I’m on the SC48, I’ll put the Pultec MEQ5 in front of the Fairchild comp. I’ll chomp out some 2k, then pump in a little low-mids. Then I’ll get that Fairchild fluttering away. Then I’ve got my channel EQ to pull out any other little bad guys and I might use the key frequency feature of the channel comp to get a little wideband de-essing, depending on the room.”