Jason Aldean: Riding the Night Train in 2013

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


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Monitor engineer Evan Richner, left, and monitor/RF tech Ryan Stotts

Monitor engineer Evan Richner, left, and monitor/RF tech Ryan Stotts

Stephens explains more about how he achieves the band’s mix: “The mix is based very heavily on multi-stage bus compression. Input channels are compressed very lightly and then are bused to stereo and to post-fader groups for drums, guitars, background vocals and so on. Then those groups are compressed very heavily with multiple compressors—the idea being that each compressor is only responsible for a small amount of gain reduction and attack and release times are set so that when the first compressor is releasing, the next in the chain is attacking, and so on. This enables me to apply a large amount of compression without hearing the compressor ‘breathe.’

“These compression, or crush groups, are then mixed back into the stereo bus along with the lightly compressed input channels. This allows me to very easily control the dynamics of the show. The groups are post-fader, so as I move the channel VCAs up and down, I am changing the amount of compression on the groups and therefore the dynamic level of the whole show.”

What the Band Hears

Monitor engineer Richner, along with the band’s previous FOH mixer, was instrumental in developing the A-T relationship and long-term strategy starting in 2005. “Jason likes them,” he says simply, “and then over the years we’ve matched them to the instrumentation, one by one. Try this, try that. They’ve been great to work with, from Roxanne on the artist side to Bob Green with the wireless.”

Richner got his start at Bowling Green University, studying visual communication technology. He caught on with Cleveland production house Rock Capital Sound during, then after college, gravitating from graphics to audio. After a couple of years there, a former RCS colleague and roommate, who had earlier made the move to Nashville to go out with Richard Marx, called and said this new guy Jason Aldean was looking for a monitor engineer. It was a Yamaha M7, not bad at all, though the crowds sometimes dipped below 100. The scale all changed, of course, but not the family-like vibe, according to Richner. From the techs back at Spectrum to the band onstage.

Things have actually gotten easier, Richner only somewhat jokes. Replacing wedges with Ultimate Ears UE11s, through a Shure PSM 1000, has led to a more consistent sound and a happier band. He limits himself to a pretty simple and straightforward six main mixes, all stereo, with a couple guest channels ready, and they’ve had no real issues with wireless, which Richner attributes to the design and coordination of monitor/RF tech Ryan Stots. A little drum reverb. Some compression. The band knows what they like from the studio. He gives them the sound, washing it in analog through the Midas pre’s, without re-creating the track.

“We treat it like a rock show, guitar-heavy,” Richner says. “Jason likes a lot of guitar, a lot of his vocal, and a snappy kick drum. I might do a little overall mix compression so he doesn’t have to reach in spots, but never very much. Sometimes I’ll chase Jason a little bit simply because of the range of his songs, from rock to ballad. The rest of the band is pretty straightforward. They’re a great band, and they’ve been playing together for a while.”

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