Lady Antebellum Tour Profile

Jan 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Sarah Benzuly

COUNTRY ROCKERS BUILD ONSTAGE PRESENCE

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Lady Antebellum, from left: Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott

Lady Antebellum, from left: Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott

Front-of-house engineer Brett “Scoop” Blanden has seen Lady Antebellum, the three-piece also known as Lady A, skyrocket from the debut of their self-titled album in 2008 to last year’s release of Need You Now (which garnered the band Vocal Group of the Year and Single of the Year for “Need You Now” at the 44th Annual CMA Awards, as well as Grammy nominations for Record, Song and Album of the Year). Along the way, Blanden has helped to create the tour’s “audio family” and sculpt his mix so that the band really shines, as they recently did at the Fox Theater (Oakland, Calif.)

“I think that the show has really developed itself,” Blanden says of the band’s evolution onstage. “In the first place, Lady A has been really aggressive in the way that they push their music and their desire to present that experience to the fans. Have my mixes changed? I hope they have. I hope that I’m increasingly a better engineer day to day. When we started out, it was a three-piece band, so I experimented and used stereo-miking guitar concepts just to provide a richer guitar experience. Now that we have three guitar players onstage, some of those things have become minimal.”

What hasn’t changed for Blanden is the way he attacks his mix. Having grown up in the recording studio side of the industry (he’s a former manager of Ocean Way Nashville), he tends to mix for a flatter sound, paying closer attention to mic placements and things of that nature rather than diving straight for the EQ. “Part of it is natural, and part of it is because I love lyrics,” he explains. “I tend to put vocals on top just so that everybody can understand what’s being sung without having to listen too hard. I think that Lady A runs the gamut in terms of the spectrum of the music: They do everything from a cover of Bonnie Raitt’s ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m on Fire’ to up-tempos to power ballads.”

THE TOOLS AT FOH
With such a diverse range of musical styles to contend with every night, Blanden relies on the Studer Vista 5 board and Lexicon 960 effects processor to create a wide palette of “colors.” Sound company Maryland Sound brought Blanden to its headquarters to listen to five different consoles on five different types of P.A.—all interchangeable in one setting—so that he could choose the right gear for the job. “I don’t know how many people get the opportunity to do that, but it was really informative. It allowed me to choose the components that I thought would work best for my artists. The Studer seemed to fit my style of mixing best, and I thought it was going to give me the best representation of my artists in a live environment.”

In addition to the 960, an Eventide Eclipse (vocal doubler) and TC Electronic D-Two delay all run AES out of the console, with Blanden working with the console’s onboard comps and gates. He’s using the Studer-branded PC to interface with the board to manage his Waves C6 multiband compressor VST plug-ins, which are used on vocals. “It’s really worked out well for Hillary [Scott, vocals] and Charles [Kelley, vocals]. It’s also a viable de-esser; anyone looking to choose a de-esser in their live mixing environment should check this out. The latency is so low that we don’t really notice it at all. I have that on my five vocal channels. I have the 960 set up to recall custom programs I made for each song when I go down the cue list in the Studer.”

Blanden can make tweaks to the cue list, most specifically in response to the type of crowd the band is performing for that night: “Do we have a younger crowd or an older, seasoned ticketholder? Things like that definitely dictate many things, from how predominant the lows are in the room or how much sub I’m going to use, how loud the show’s going to be, what types of instruments we choose to be more noticeable; if it’s a more rockin’ crowd, I’m going to put more guitars on top,” Blanden explains.






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