FOH engineer Michelle Sabolchick
Mix was recently invited out to the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, Calif., at the tail end of Melissa Etheridge’s fall tour. It was a rock ’n’ roll show—loud and clean, clearly defined guitar and punchy drums with a solid low end. At FOH was Michelle Sabolchick, who besides Etheridge has been out with Indigo Girls, Jewel, Gwen Stefani, Big Time Rush, Mr. Big and, most recently, Goo Goo Dolls.
She also has devoted time over the past year, with colleague Karrie Keys, to establishing soundgirls.org, a Website with the aim of connecting with and mentoring young women who want to enter live sound. But first, Etheridge…
“Melissa’s show is really pretty straight-forward,” Sabolchick says. “It’s a four-piece band, including her, and everything you hear is coming from those four people—no tracks, no loops, nothing that isn’t being played by someone on the stage. Her set can be very dynamic, just like her vocal. Her microphone is a Telefunken M80, and the only thing I do to it is add some compression. Other than that, a little reverb and delay and that’s it. She’s got an amazing voice and it’s got a lot of texture, so the only tricky part is cutting a hole for it to fit into the mix.”
Despite her decidedly analog mixing preference, on this tour she is carrying limited production, which includes a Midas Pro 6 for consistency rather than relying on house-supplied boards. “The Pro 6 is a very good-sounding digital console, but I am an old analog girl. I’ve done my share of mixing on digital over the past several years, and I still hate it. [Laughs.] While I definitely see a place for digital, analog just sounds better, there’s no two ways about it.”
At the 2012 AES convention, Sabolchick joined four other women onstage for a panel on women in live sound. She realized at that point that she had met only one of the other panelists in all her years in the business. So she and Keys launched SoundGirls.org to help support young women coming up.
“In my 20-plus years of touring I have met many women and girls who would like to get into live sound but don’t know how to go about it,” she explains. “It’s a tough business to break into, especially for women, but it’s not impossible. When I decided to pursue live sound as a career, I had no idea where to begin. It was a lot of trial and error, taking every job I could and learning as much as possible at every turn. I had several people who were incredibly supportive and gave me opportunities. They had a terrific work ethic and attitude and I feel lucky to have had the experience to work with them and learn from them early in my career.
“At SoundGirls.Org there is so much experience to draw from,” she continues. “All of us in this business have our own stories to tell of how we got our start and how we got our foot in the door. Through the Website we are trying to provide a support network that women and girls of all levels of experience can take advantage of as well as a road map for those who are thinking about a career in audio but don’t know where to start.”