Jason Aldean: Riding the Night Train in 2013

Jul 1, 2013 9:00 AM, Mix, By Tom Kenny


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From L to R, at the Avid Profile: Spectrum P.A. tech Bob Campbell, FOH engineer Chris Stephens and crew chief/system engineer Jeremy Seawell

From L to R, at the Avid Profile: Spectrum P.A. tech Bob Campbell, FOH engineer Chris Stephens and crew chief/system engineer Jeremy Seawell

According to Stephens, the rapid growth in size of venues didn’t lead to much of a change in the style of mixing, mainly because of the way the band plays and the choice of d&b rig. “The P.A. provides a level of consistency that doesn’t require me to start over or make drastic changes when we move from small clubs and promo shows to stadiums,” he says. “The way the P.A. scales, we can go from a small groundstack array to a stadium hang and feel comfortable that we are providing a consistent sound. I have been working off the same show file, with a few changes, for the past three years. Honestly a lot of P.A.s are so good now; it’s mostly preference, like picking a vocal mic.”

Stephens grew up in Knoxville, Tenn., mentored by Mike DeFreece in a megachurch through middle and high school and later attended Belmont University. When he graduated, he began working with Spectrum Sound; very shortly after, he was mixing FOH for Wynonna. Then he spent two years mixing monitors for Michael McDonald. Now he’s with Jason, among other artists.

For Aldean, he mixes at an Avid Profile, which he has been familiar with since it came out. About a year-and-a-half ago, they modified the front end. “We’re using Midas XL8 preamps, the DL431,” he explains. “The splitter outputs AES50 to a format converter, then MADI into the Avid input card. The change to the sound was incredible. And then you also get the Profile processing and mixing power. It really gives us the best features of both systems.” The same is done for the monitor mix, with Midas DL451 output converters between the Profile and the in-ears.

Effects and tools are mainly in the box, with Waves V9, SPL Transient Designer, Crane Song Phoenix, Massey De:sser, Rane Serato, Rational Acoustics Smaart v.7 and the like. But this is definitely an act, whether studio or live, that believes it all begins up front, at the mic. The band had already been working with Audio-Technica when Stephens came onboard, and after initial skepticism, the team feels confident they have matched the best mics to specific instruments in specific places, over many years, fine-tuning all along. It’s essentially a studio philosophy of micro-movement of the mic rather than micro or massive EQ and processing.

“This show is really guitar-heavy,” Stephens explains. “I have an A-T 4081 ribbon and Shure SM57 on each guitar cabinet panned slightly to either side, then add slight delay at the console to phase-align the two mics. I EQ guitars barely at all. Highpass filter, that’s about it. The right mics in the right place, and we get a nice wide image with plenty of space for the vocal. Jason’s vocal mic is an Audio Technica AE6100, which is processed by a Massey De:Esser, Rvox, to CLA-2A, to C6 multiband compressor to Hybrid EQ. I only use the H-EQ if he jumps on the thrust. I try my best to listen first and not make knee-jerk reactions. You can really dig a mix into a hole by relying on EQ. It’s best to fix problems at the source.”

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