Lady Antebellum performing.
Lady Antebellum recently finished up an opening slot for the Kenny Chesney 2009 tour, and Mix caught up with the group (vocalists Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood) at Chicago's Soldier Field.
The Chesney tour supplied Yamaha PM5D boards for the act. The 5Ds were digitally linked into Chesney's Midas XL8 via AES. Lady A's house engineer, Brett “Scoop” Blanden, explains that, after a couple shows running analog out from the 5Ds, they decided to eliminate the AD/DA conversion by running a simple two-cable AES connection. “We've all been really pleased with the result,” Blanden says. “Most notably, I think the low-end tightened up; it's a lot more punchy.” Monitor engineer Jeff Laughinghouse (also Lady Antebellum's production manager) ran the stage sound on a Yamaha M7.
Blanden, who has been touring with them since the release of Lady Antebellum, focuses on filling the room with a full rock sound while keeping vocals upfront and well-blended. A three-piece band backs the three vocalists: lead guitarist Jason “Slim” Gambill, bassist Dennis Edwards, and drummer Matt Billingslea. “I have to try to make the band sound as big as possible with just a few players,” Blanden says. Crediting longtime friend and mentor, Steve Melton, with the technique he uses on Gambill's guitar, Blanden puts two different mics on the guitar amp — a Sennheiser MD 421 and an Audio-Technica 4033 — pans them hard left/right, and flips the phase on them.
Lady Antebellum engineer Brett Blanden
Photo: Paul Natkin
A drummer himself, Blanden takes a thoughtful approach to tone on the drum kit, leaning toward using dynamic mics. He puts Sennheiser 904s on the rack toms, and uses the Sennheiser 902 on the floor tom because its scooped-out low-mids give the tom a good punch. On the kick itself, he likes the Sennheiser 901 coupled with a Shure Beta 58, using the 58 only sparingly to provide just the right amount of boominess. On Edwards' bass, he also keeps the low end under control by using a light touch with the Sennheiser 902 he has on the amp, primarily using an Avalon DI in the mix.
Vocal mics are all Sennheiser 3700 Series wireless. Kelley, in the center vocal position, gets a nice, natural tone using the Neumann KK 105 condenser capsule, which blends well with the Sennheiser e935 capsules used on the other two vocals.
Blanden gets the vocals to meld using another technique inspired by Melton, who was a pioneer in the use of the Cooper Time Cube (when it was made from a coiled garden hose), and Blanden has found a vocal doubler on the Yamaha PM5D console he's using that mimics the Cooper Time Cube's sound.