Parnelli Awards Voting is Now Open – CLICK HERE to Vote!
x

Thomas Rhett

Steve Jennings (Photos & Text) • August 2019Production Profile • August 11, 2019

THOMAS RHETT © Steve Jennings

“Very Hot Summer” Tour

With four albums, 13 of Thomas Rhett’s singles have reached the top of the charts, including such hits as “It Goes Like This,” “Crash and Burn,” “Craving You” and “Look What God Gave Her.” Thomas Rhett is also known for writing singles for fellow country artists such as Jason Aldean, Lee Brice and Florida Georgia Line, to name a few. We caught up with Rhett’s “Very Hot Summer” tour in Houston, TX and spoke with FOH engineer Trey Smith, systems engineer/crew chief Chris Clark and monitor engineer Wesley Crowe.

THOMAS RHETT © Steve Jennings

‡‡         At FOH

On this tour, Trey Smith is using a DiGiCo SD5 console at FOH, with a channel count of around 140 for all inputs from stage, playback, talkbacks and effects. This time out, Smith has not been leaning as heavy on plug-ins because he says he wanted to try and utilize more of what the console has to offer. “I haven’t missed using as many plug-ins, as the DiGiCo EQ and compression sound great! Also, the onboard multiband compression and dynamic EQ have been really helpful to shape the mix, and it’s extremely convenient that every channel offers this as an option. Because DiGiCo has a very transparent sound in its EQ and compression, I have been using the DiGiTubes to help create some harmonics and warmth that I miss on some of the inputs. There are a few instances where I use Waves plug-ins for unique processing on select channels as well as PSE [Primary Source Enhancer] for Thomas’ vocal. I’m also using Waves for some effects.”

Racks of outboard gear — a relative rarity these days. THOMAS RHETT tour photo by Steve Jennings.

Smith is packing a good amount of analog outboard gear as well. He’ll take Rhett’s vocal through a BSS DPR 901, then into a Tube-Tech CL1B. Smith is also using Empirical Labs Distressors and a dbx 160 on snares and Buzz Audio SOC 20 optical compressors on bass and lead acoustic. “To get the sound of analog, while keeping the advantages of digital, I decided to sum the mix through a Rupert Neve 5059 Satellite summing mixer,” Smith explains. “To do this, I send each of my groups from the console into the 5059, summing all band groups into Stereo 1. I run that mix through an API 2500, and return it back into the 5059 to sum with vocals. On some of the band inserts I am using various units from Overstayer. These have been so much fun to implement as they have such unique sonic characteristics. I’m now at a place where I don’t want to do a show without them.”

THOMAS RHETT © Steve Jennings

The output of Stereo 2 on the 5059 is routed through a Tube-Tech SMC2B, SSL G Series Compressor, then into a Burl B2 for A/D conversion. “We’re actually able to send Dante out of the Burl at 96k into our Outline Newton processor. I’ve been on this setup for about eight months now and I’m loving it.”

A Telefunken M82 combined with an internal Shure Beta 91A provided the punch for the kick. THOMAS RHETT tour photo by Steve Jennings

When Smith started the tour last fall, Smith decided to change out the drum mics to some models he was more familiar with. “For kick, we have a combo of a Shure Beta 91A and a Telefunken M82, which I felt captured the natural tone and sound of the kick drum the best,” he says. “On snare we use an SM57 on top and a Shure KSM 313 on the bottom. Using this ribbon mic on the bottom captures a really fat sound of the snare. I mic the hi-hat from underneath with an SM57. Toms have Sennheiser 904s; and on cymbals, we’re using a combination of some under-miking with Shure KSM181s as well as Mojave MA-201 FET as overheads. We also recently changed the lead vocal mic to the DPA d:facto 4018V.”

THOMAS RHETT © Steve Jennings

At the time when Smith started with Thomas Rhett last fall, Spectrum Sound was already onboard. Smith had previously worked with Spectrum for many years, so it was an easy transition for him to join the team and get the FOH control setup how he desired. “I love working with Spectrum and our account rep, Bobby George, because they put the client first. No request is too little or too big. With our busy schedule, it’s vital to have great support, and Spectrum fulfills this need quite well.”

THOMAS RHETT © Steve Jennings

In terms of the overall sound, “Thomas Rhett wants a ‘pop’ mix for his shows, but we do also have some songs with more of a country-western feel. So it’s been fun merging pop elements, which is where my background is based, and then going to more of a country-western approach for others. I’m very blessed and thankful to be a part of this tour, and working for Thomas. It’s been an awesome experience to grow as an engineer and to work with a great artist, band and crew.”

The audio crew. From left, FOH engineer Trey Smith, P.A. tech Sean Eacott, patch tech Ashley Burns, monitor tech Jeremy White, monitor engineer Wesley Crowe, systems engineer/crew chief Chris Clark.. THOMAS RHETT tour photo by Steve Jennings

‡‡         The Systems Approach

For Chris Clark (systems engineer/crew chief), the day starts at 7 a.m. when Clark, tour riggers and other department heads enter the building. While the riggers chalk the floor for rigging points, Clark uses his Leica Disto D810 Touch Laser Distance Meter to take venue measurements. Dimensions are entered into d&b audiotechnik’s ArrayCalc prediction software. This is the most critical part of the day for him, as d&b’s ArrayProcessing relies completely on the accuracy of venue models for its predictions. “Once my venue model is complete, I usually relocate to catering to optimize the rig for the day over breakfast,” Clark explains. “After the day’s system configuration is complete, I distribute P.A. information to our audio team so they can get the entire rig deployed.”

Spectrum Sound selected a d&b audiotechnik GSL8 system for the main P.A. hangs. THOMAS RHETT tour photo by Steve Jennings

As the team is finalizing trim for the P.A., FOH control gets set up. The current “front end” of the P.A. consists of d&b ArrayCalc software for prediction and d&b R1 for amplifier control. These softwares work seamlessly together to provide updates to ArrayProcessing throughout the day. “This year we made a system processor changeover to the Newton by Outline. I use a combination of hardwired iSEMcon and Earthworks microphones for tuning, as well as a Lectrosonics Venue 2 RF system with another iSEMcon mic for timing necessary P.A. elements such as the sides, 220 and front fills through SMAART V8.” Clark added that using Focusrite RedNet MP8R Dante-enabled mic preamps, “I have been able to move my entire tuning interchange to a complete Dante system including the SMAART signal generator and tuning music directly into the Newton via an Audinate Dante Virtual Soundcard. The MP8R has also helped me maintain microphone calibration for SPL logging as well.”

THOMAS RHETT © Steve Jennings

All of Thomas Rhett’s tours since 2017 have carried a P.A. package supplied by Nashville-based Spectrum Sound. For the spring of 2017, the configuration was a very large V-Series rig with mains, sides and flown subs from d&b’s V-Series with a smattering of J-Subs and J-INFRAs on the ground. In the fall of 2017, the package evolved up to a large J-Series rig. “At the turn of the 2018 tour year, we were introduced to the SL-Series and were immediately sold with its impressive power and full range directional control. Our current configuration consists of 18 GSL per main hang, 14 KSL per side hang and for arenas — 12 Y’s on our 220 hang. We have 18 SL-Subs on the ground in a broadside array across the downstage edge accompanied by six Y10Ps for front fills. Audio is distributed from the Outline Newton at FOH, via Dante to all d&b DS10s that convert Dante audio to AES3 to drive all 52 d&b D80 amplifiers.

“The SL-Series has provided fantastic acoustic control in every style of venue that we’ve played over the last two years. This year in particular has been a great study in the capabilities of the SL-Series, as we have played most major amphitheaters and arenas around the U.S. and Canada. The SL-Series has far exceeded our expectations and has been purely impressive both in front of the P.A., where we want consistent coverage, as well as behind, where the cardioid control has greatly improved our artist and band members’ experience in personal in-ear monitoring throughout the show.”

Wesley Crowe at monitors. THOMAS RHETT tour photo by Steve Jennings.

‡‡         The Monitor View

Monitor engineer Wesley Crowe says the DiGiCo console has been his board of choice for about seven years. Crowe had the SD5 out with Rhett for the past two years and the SD10 dating back to 2015. “The SD5 definitely has a better workflow and more information at your fingertips, but the main reason for using DiGiCo consoles for me is the Macro system. I can use them to program talkbacks to certain mixes for very quick swaps. I can have a button that allows a guest artist to sing into their mix while the band is playing without them hearing it. For rehearsals, I have macros programmed to turn every send off in a mix so each band member can practice their part without hearing the other. It opens up a lot of flexibility and options to make different situations as quick as a button press.”

To Crowe’s right, at monitorworld, is the audio I/O rack. “It consists of our power distro for audio control and stage power, two SD racks with all 32-bit preamps and enough outputs to handle his needs plus 16 for FOH. “On the right from top to bottom I have my Waves computer, redundant Waves Extreme Servers, three of the five Shure Axient Digital AD4Q receivers (for eight RF vocal mics and four beltpacks), eight Shure PSM 1000 J8 range IEM transmitters with an antenna combiner, 10 Shure PSM 1000 G10 range IEM transmitters (with combiner), a D80 amp for the stereo wedges and battery backups for the I/O rack, monitor desk, and our SL main stage tech.”

No amps, please — guitar sounds came from two Line 6 Helix Racks. THOMAS RHETT tour photo by Steve Jennings

For this show, Crowe says the band isn’t using any guitar amps, and the only thing that is live onstage besides the drum set is the wedge mix. “Our guitarists use a combination of the Kemper and Line 6 Helix for all their sounds. Our SR backline rack houses all these and the two other Shure AD4Qs for all the guitars on stage (bass, three electrics and four acoustics). The Kempers and Line 6 Helix are connected with our Tracks rig and during the show, patch changes are made by MIDI commands from the Tracks rig. It’s all automated. It allows the guitarist to have a wide range of different sounds at any given time.”

The band’s keyboard setup is quite intricate and has a dedicated tech to operate. Off stage left is a mainstage rack with a rig for the stage right keyboards with redundant computers and the same for the stage left keys. From stage only, three of them send audio directly and all of them send MIDI to mainstage world, which has multiple outputs per musician. It is also controlled from the tracks rig with MIDI for patch changes from song to song and within songs. “We have a stereo synth bass for the bass player down stage right, two stereo keys and a dedicated B3 for the upstage right utility player. Downstage left, we have one stereo keys and one stereo dedicated organ as well as a SPD pad for playing percussion sounds. Then up stage left we have three stereo key lines for the keys/sax player.”

Crowe has been with Rhett since 2015 when the artist was the support act for Florida Georgia Line and Jason Aldean. “Now we’re in our third year of headlining, and with that, the show has grown exponentially. It’s been great to see the success for Thomas, and this job always brings new challenges and pushes me as an engineer.”

Spectrum Sound is celebrating 40 years in business. The company has succeeded for that long by working closely with its clients to ensure they always have top quality technicians, reliable equipment and 24/7 support. Bobby George (of Spectrum Sound) notes that, in today’s world of ever-changing technology, there’s no “standard” way to build a system. “Over the years, we’ve developed a team that allows us to work closely with the end users by designing and building custom packages to closely fit each show, artist and engineers needs. I read an article years ago and it said something that I’ll never forget, ‘we’re in the business of building relationships, we’re not in the business of building a business.’ That’s exactly the case here. Anyone can buy gear, but the level of care from the people within is what makes that gear great!”

Thomas Rhett “Very Hot Summer” Tour

AUDIO CREW

  • Sound Company: Spectrum Sound
  • FOH Engineer: Trey Smith
  • Systems Engineer/Crew Chief: Chris Clark
  • Monitor Engineer: Wesley Crowe
  • Senior P.A. Tech: Sean Eacott
  • Monitor Tech: Jeremy White
  • Patch Tech: Ashley Burns

P.A. GEAR (arena configuration)

  • Main Hang: (18) d&b audiotechnik GSL8 line arrays/side
  • Subs: (18) d&b SL-Subs in broadside ground array
  • 220° Hang: (12) d&b Y10P/side
  • Front Fills: (6) d&b DS10
  • Amplifiers: (52) d&b D80
  • Software: d&b ArrayCalc, d&b R1, SMAART v8
  • Drive: Outline Newton

FOH GEAR

  • FOH Console: DiGiCo SD5, Waves plug-ins
  • Outboard: BSS DPR 901, Tube-Tech CL1B, Empirical Labs Distressors, dbx 160, Buzz Audio SOC 20, Rupert Neve 5059 summing mixer, API 2500, various Overstayer units, Tube-Tech SMC2B, SSL G Series Compressor, Burl B2 ADC, (2) Bricasti M7 reverbs. Eventide H3000 UltraHarmonizer

MON GEAR

  • Monitor Console: DiGiCo SD5 with 32-bit preamps and two SD racks
  • DSP/Effects: Waves Extreme Servers
  • IEM Hardware: (18) Shure PSM 1000
  • Wireless Mics: (5) Shure Axient Digital AD4Q receivers
  • Wired Mics: DPA d:facto 4018V (vocals); Shure Beta 91A/Telefunken M82 (kick), Shure SM57/KSM 313 (snare); Shure SM57 (hi-hat); Sennheiser 904 (toms); Shure KSM181s/Mojave MA-201 FET (overhead)

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment:

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!