Tour Profile: Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw

Jul 1, 2012 9:00 AM, By Steve La Cerra

Brothers of the Sun 2012


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photo of Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney

You Can Leave Yer’ Hat On
According to Robinson, Chesney’s main requirements for his ear mix are “clarity, a lot of vocal and some reverb. I have a [Yamaha] REV5 stuck at the bottom of the rack as a comfort from the ‘old world’ for Kenny’s vocal. It’s a ’verb I can adjust on the fly without need for a menu.” (In Robinson’s absence, Baxley quips, “I think that Phill has been using that thing for almost 14, 15 years now. He is married to that reverb. If it goes down, he’s screwed!”)

“During soundcheck,” continues Robinson, “I’ll wear my baseball hat because the timbre of the mic can change depending on the type of hat Kenny wears. His main hats are a straw cowboy hat that doesn’t give me any problems, but he also has a black cowboy hat that is stiffer and more reflective. When you have 75,000 people screaming at your head, all that sound is coming up, hitting that hat and bouncing back into the mic.”

Put Me on The Guest List, Plus 8
Although Chesney and McGraw have toured together previously, this one is unique due to the encore. All members of both bands take the stage. Luckily for the three engineers, that doesn’t mean the number of inputs from the stage is doubled. As Vasquez explains, “In Kenny’s band we have three main guitar players: Clayton Mitchell [lead], Kenny Greenberg [rhythm] and Jon Conley, who doubles on guitar and fiddle. Jim Bob Gairrett is our steel guitar player who also plays acoustic guitar on some songs. Some of the guys have more than one guitar rig. For example, Clayton plays a stereo rig, and a mono dry rig, all miked with SM57s, but I leave the channels up all the time. He has the ability to go back and forth as he chooses and they’ll always be there. This means that some of the inputs for the guests are already in place from Kenny’s band, which makes things a bit more manageable.”

“Tim’s band is sharing much of our instrumentation,” Baxley elaborates, “because most of our guys have separate rigs coming through two channels—for example, one for a Strat and another for a Les Paul. So if my guy is playing the Strat for a song, then the guest will take up his Les Paul rig. The monitor mixes for the guest players are run from Phill’s desk because he has open mixes. It’s just a few more channels.”

At this point in the show, Robinson and McGraw’s monitor engineer, Jonny B, are tag-teaming, working together to create 11 more wireless ear mixes from the same Pro9. All those ear mixes—combined with wireless vocal mics for Chesney and McGraw and the wireless instrument systems—yield a significant amount of RF activity. Since the DTV reorganization, Baxley has noticed “smaller and smaller gaps for us to fit in our wireless channels, especially when we get to bigger cities. For example, out in the Meadowlands [New Jersey], there are a lot of TV and cell towers. You fire it up and it’s a bit of a headache. Stadiums like that where there’s a lot of TV coverage sometimes have a wireless coordinator who might come in on our first day and help us find some holes for our systems, but we’re usually self-sufficient.”

“Terry Fox is our keyboard tech and general fix-it guy,” Robinson adds. “He has a wireless workbench in his world and I have a wireless scanner in my world, so together we figure out what everybody needs and set up frequencies.”

Vasquez, Baxley and Robinson all agree that one of the big challenges of this tour is maintaining consistency night to night. The tour carries a mic package, but Baxley says they “take it a step further and use the same microphone on the same instrument every night. For example, we have four identical Heil PR28 mics for the toms, but we’ll make sure that the same mic is used for the same drum each night. It sounds a little crazy, but we want it consistent throughout the whole tour.

“On the days we don’t get a soundcheck, the band is really relying on us to get it right during line check. They’ll only have about five minutes to tinker between Tim tearing down and our video rolling to start our portion of the show. They’ll never play as a band until the first song starts on Sunday.”

Nerve-wracking indeed!

Steve La Cerra is Mix magazine’s Sound Reinforcement Editor and mixes front of house for Blue Öyster Cult.

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