Photos: Steve Jennings
The last time Mix caught up with Maroon 5 was last year when they co-headlined with the Counting Crows. Since then, there’s been a bit of a change: They’ve trashed the backing tracks, added a new keyboard player (PJ Morton), brought on a new monitor engineer and released their latest, Hands All Over.
“All the backing vocals are gone; they’re singing live and they’re playing very live,” says front-of-house engineer Jim Ebdon, who held the FOH position during the co-headlining tour, then headed off to mix for Aerosmith and is back with Maroon 5. “I didn’t know what to make of that because, for me, Maroon 5 was that really tight studio, Pro Tools-y track band. But now the band has evolved and become more of a live act, with more dynamics in the performance, and I’m really enjoying the mix. And the more they’re playing, the better it seems to be working. I’m really pleased with the way things have turned out. The two keyboard players [Jesse Carmichael and Morton] can manage pretty much most of the keyboard parts and sounds. Matt Flynn, the drummer, plays to a click track, of which he is in total control. There are a couple of songs on the new album that have loops, so he’ll play along to those, but all the backing vocals are gone; they’re playing very live.”
Monitor engineer Steve Walsh, who started with the band in March, agrees: “It’s much more of a band mix now. Back in March, when they were finishing the record [and playing one-offs and corporate gigs], they were trying to remember their parts; now, they’re playing together. I just try to help out with the solos and when certain keyboard parts drive certain songs—just make sure that everybody is hearing what they need to hear and paying attention.” Walsh mixes on a Yamaha PM5D, a board that has been a staple on past Maroon 5 tours; he previously used the 5D on the 2009 Blink-182 tour.
Front-of-house engineer Jim Ebdon at the DiGiCo SD7
Ebdon mixes on a DiGiCo SD7, a board he’s used exclusively for the past two years. He says he was a D5 user literally from day one, “and that was my digital board of choice. They made the SD7, and it was the obvious choice to upgrade. It’s an amazing console; I can’t say enough good things about it. I like the sound of it and I get good results with it—well, I think I get good results with it. [Laughs]”
Ebdon is taking advantage of the plethora of onboard effects, using just a few pieces: TC Electronic 4000 reverbs (one on drums, one on vocals; both MIDI-controlled to the console), an SSL stereo bus compressor on drums, a de-esser on vocalist Adam Levine’s voice and a dbx 160x on Mickey Madden’s bass. “The rest is all within the console. I also use a Crane Song HEDD 192 on the master output. With all this digital gear, fantastic-sounding P.A.s and processing, it becomes difficult to listen to, I think. I get ear fatigue quickly so I’ve been using the HEDD since working on digital consoles—just to sweeten and take the edge off the mix and a break from the digital sound.”
Monitor engineer Steve Walsh at the Yamaha PM5D
The Clair Global–supplied tour carries an i5 P.A.; the co-headlining tour saw a prototype version. They typically hang 12 i5 cabs a side and 10 Bs a side, as well as eight of the new iDLs as side hangs. “When we’re in sheds, the iDLs sound fantastic as a complement to the P.A.,” Ebdon says. “We hang those just to get that extra bit of width. This is my first arena tour using them as side hangs, but we have not sold seats past the downstage edge.” Ebdon employs Smaart to help in turning the rig, looking at the program “just to make sure there’s nothing I’m missing with my ears. Once the band starts playing during soundcheck—or show!—that’s when I do the rest of my system EQ’ing.”
Rounding out the speaker complement are Clair SRM wedges and a double-15 for Madden. “He’s the only guy not on in-ears and he likes a lot of kick drum,” Walsh says, “so I have a somewhat beefier wedge over there. I have some sidefills, a couple 18s and two Clair R4s per side. The drum sub and both keyboard players have subs. I also use some shakers: a drum thumper and a keyboard thumper.” In-ears include Sennheiser G3 transmitters and packs with Ultimate Ears UE5s and UE11s; Levine wears Future Sonics MG4s.
Sound crew, from left: system tech Craig Robertson, monitor tech Carlos Sallaberry and P.A. tech William Langford
Walsh’s mix is pretty straightforward, adding in just a little bit of room on the drums and a fairly wet plate reverb on Levine’s vocal. “Everybody gets a pretty comprehensive band mix with themselves on top. They really like to play with each other; nobody’s too loud and everybody’s listening to each other. It’s pretty fun to mix because of that reason. They’re really talking to each other musically on some of the jam parts; it’s nice to facilitate that.”
As for Ebdon’s “mixing style,” his mantra is mic technique, mic placement and having some musical awareness and artistic sympathy. “I tend to not do anything [in the mix] that isn’t there,” Ebdon explains. “I mix just to make sure that there’s a good vibe going and you can hear everything. I tend not to overcompress anything or over-gate the drums; it’s about getting a good balance and the vocal sitting right on top. My drum channels are extremely flat; I have no EQ in the tom-toms because they don’t need it, and I think it sounds fantastic. I don’t have to use compression or EQ just because it’s there.”
Drum mics include a 91 and 52 on kick; SM57 on snare top and an AKG 404 on bottom; KM18s for hi-hats, tom-toms and ride; Beyer Opus 88s on tom-toms; and a 57 on wood block. “My drum sound is largely based on the overheads with the kick and snare and everything else mixed in,” Ebdon continues. “It’s a big drum sound. I’ve actually been having a problem with his kick drum because Matt’s gone to a 22-inch kick drum from a 24-inch, and we’ve had to increase the hole in the front because when he whacks it, the mic doesn’t pick up [the air pressure] so it loses all of its low end. We’ve increased the hole to let more air out and chosen a better mic position for it, and suddenly we had all that low end back.”
For Levine and James Valentine’s axes, two cabs run simultaneously but with a different sound. Ebdon is trying out the new Royer R-101 ribbons on one of the cabs and places a 57 on the other to get a blend between them. “I’ve been using Royer 121s a lot on guitars—especially with Aerosmith, Matchbox Twenty and now Maroon 5. Royer just turned me on to the 101 and it’s a spectacular mic. I’m enjoying getting a nice balance between that and the 57 on guitars.” Bass goes DI with an Audio-Technica AT4050 on the cab. All vocal mics are Shure Beta SM58s, except for Levine, who sings through a regular 58 capsule. The Leslie sees two 57s on top and an Electro-Voice RE20 on the bottom.
Ebdon’s careful mic placement also helps Walsh achieve his goal in mixing: clarity. “Things just shouldn’t get lost in the mix,” he explains. “You should have things quieter in the mix but not be buried. I achieve that with judicious use of EQ. I find that especially with digital, I use a lot of lowpass filtering. I’ll take out a lot of information that is beyond human hearing and roll that right off. I get less distortion that way. I’m trying to keep it as simple and straightforward as possible and let them play among themselves.”
As with previous Maroon 5 tours, Ebdon has a 64-input Pro Tools HD2 Accel system for recordings. The system is straight MADI to an SSL DeltaLink MADI converter. “One of my [previous] recordings and mixes made it as a bonus track on the new album, so it’s worthwhile doing. I’ve already been asked to come up with some mixes for whatever they’re going to use it for. I love mixing this band, which is why I made myself available to come back and mix for them now.”
Sarah Benzuly is
’s managing editor.