By Frank Wells
Nashville (March 2006)--On the west bank of the Cumberland River as it flows through Nashville is a handful of skyscrapers denoting the business center of the city, alongside the main areas of play for the tourists. The east bank does house The Coliseum, home of the Tennessee Titans, but before the residential areas start, there is a mostly industrial strip nestled between the river and Interstate 65. Amongst the warehouses and light manufacturing facilities is Soundcheck Nashville, billed as the "nation's largest" production and rehearsal facility.
Inside Soundcheck are four spacious rehearsal/production rooms, dozens of rented storage lockers and the offices of a community of live sound related companies, among them the Nashville office of Meyer Sound. The office is home base for Meyer Tour Liaison Manager and prominent SR engineer, Buford Jones, and, for Touring and Sales Support, veteran engineer Steve Cochran.
Steve Cochran (left) and Buford Jones serve Meyer Sound end-users worldwide from their Nashville base. The pins in the map behind them denote the locations of Meyer equipped sound companies.Since 2001, Jones has been paid to do something that comes naturally to him, espouse the virtues of gear he believes in as an end user, interfacing with FOH and system engineers, artists and tour management. "I look for people that are interested in Meyer products and try to direct them, answer questions" he explains, "and get them in front of the systems." Factory tours are arranged, visits are made to customers at venues, and both Meyer specific and system agnostic training sessions are planned.
Soundcheck compliments the efforts of Jones and Cochran. "It's a great place to interface with touring personnel," says Jones. "Traffic flow is pretty phenomenal here at the Soundcheck facility," Cochran confirms, with a steady flow of clients and potential clients--what Jones cites Meyer Southeastern Regional Sales Manager Rick Coleman as dubbing an "ongoing trade show."
The representation of Meyer in Soundcheck goes beyond the office base of Jones and Cochran. "We were able to take all four rooms and put a different product in each room," Jones explains. "That way we are able to showcase these products and let the engineer use them more in depth. I believe that in this setting it is much different, rather than if they were exposed to the new gear at a show date, where they are under a higher amount of pressure. Here, it's a more relaxed atmosphere. They can walk over here to our office and ask questions and obtain more information. They are welcome into our office and we can sit and talk. The environment here provides a much better way to show the product and for them to get familiar with it."
Room D at Soundcheck is rigged with Meyer Sound M1D Ultra-Compact Curvilinear Array Loudspeakers, eight per side, augmented by two 600-HP subs and UM-P series powered monitor wedges.The rigs available in the four rooms at Soundcheck include a MILO rig in the 80'x100' room A-four cabinets a side which can be hung but are usually configured in a ground stack. It's "a very powerful configuration for that room," says Jones, with 700-HPs for sub bass. Room B houses a CQ-2 x4 a side system with two M3D-subs, Room C has a 6x2 MICA system with four 600-HPs for subs and Room D is home to an 8x2 M1D system with two 600-HP subs. 20 UM-1P AND UM-100P powered monitor wedges are also available to move around the facility.
The Nashville base means that most of the acts that come through Soundcheck are country artists, but pop and CCM artists are also regular visitors to the facility, including acts based on the east and west coasts. Jones elaborates: "Nashville being somewhat centrally located--and it not being as expensive to set up here for several days as in LA, New York-it may be cost effective for them to rehearse here. These rooms are big enough to accommodate full stage setups, and we offer different PA systems in each room."
Buford Jones sits at the Digico D1 Live desk in the Sound Room in Meyer Sound's Nashville office. Jones says the Meyer UPJ-1P based 5.1 surround system provides a neutral environment that he often uses to check mixes from his personal studio.Expansion at Soundcheck is underway, with two large rooms on the drawing board that will allow full production rehearsals. Cochran reminds that the affordable studio infrastructure in Nashville can be an additional draw for Soundcheck. A case in point: Neil Young recently worked in Soundcheck concurrent with recording at Nashville's Masterlink Studio, prepping for a Ryman Auditorium live DVD recording date, with Dave Hewitt bringing a Remote Recording truck to the Ryman and the studio engineer on the project, Chad Hailey of Masterlink, overseeing the live recording to dual Studer analog machines.
The second room in the office, the "sound room," is equipped with Meyer UPJ-1Ps in a 5.1 surround set-up, along with HD-1 studio monitors and a Digico D1Live desk, provided by Digico in return for the ability to use the room on occasion for demos and training. The UPJ-1Ps were chosen as they were new at the time of the room's construction, but Jones says they've worked well for creating a neutral listening environment while also being "great for front fill" and finding use in other applications like clubs and theaters. Manufacturers like Shure, Stage Call, Crew One and Peavey also maintain offices at Soundcheck, soon to be joined by InnovaSON, with other offices occupied by related businesses like MooTV, touring support companies and Ed Beaver,a guitar luthier, with additional offices recently made available for rent.
After touring with Three Dog Night for Showco in 1971 as his first-ever live sound gig, Jones went on to tour with twenty plus bands ranging from Pink Floyd to Jackson Browne and George Harrison to Prince. That's added to a stream of studio and broadcast audio credits and a hard earned reputation as a helluva nice guy. In the midst of all this, Jones began formally representing Meyer Sound products. Cochran also has an impressive resume to go with an equally amiable demeanor. He had a 15-year association with Wolf Sound in Miami before relocating to Nashville, and eventually joining with Meyer in 2005. His resume includes working the FOH desk for Ricky Van Shelton, Julio Iglesias and LeAnn Rimes. In addition to manning the office, Cochran travels, working gigs and working with Meyer customers, spending recent weekends behind the console for up and coming band Hot Apple Pie. "When I'm on the road I'm still promoting Meyer," says Cochran, "doing all I can out there" to interface with sound companies.
Once Jones completes commitments with Clint Black and Counting Crows this spring, the main focus of his attention will be representing Meyer and the touring department of Meyer Sound out of the Soundcheck office. The office is listed on Meyer's web site, with Jones and Cochran available for consultation through direct and phone contact. Jones says the "very high rate of stacks and racks tours" means they have a role providing input for tour managers as to where Meyer systems are available on the touring circuit.
"One of the great things about Meyer speakers is the reliability, quality of sound and precision in each of the boxes. Consistency is extremely important and they are easy to setup and use in an industry where the size of production increases and sound setup time must be done very quickly," says Jones, and that taking advantage of that consistency can make life easier on the road, including when systems are picked up locally each date. The office is not in place to rent or otherwise provide systems to end users, but to aid and support the sound companies carrying Meyer gear in their inventories. "We want to see them have a Meyer solution, whenever possible," says Jones.
In the four-plus years he's been with Meyer, Jones reports an "enormous amount of growth with the company." He says that favorable experience with Meyer products could be found even with the fairly modest market penetration of his early days representing the gear, though, in many cases, he was introducing Meyer to the engineers. "I've seen this huge turnaround," he says. "I think Meyer's done a remarkable job over the years, of introducing their systems around the world."
Now, he says his job is more providing information and guidance than making initial introductions to Meyer's product line. Jones lauds John Meyer for never wavering from his vision of quality and consistency, nor from his commitment to making the sound engineer's job easier and more accurate. "There's a lot of complexity in today's sound systems," Jones elaborates, "and I think Meyer has reduced that and makes the highest quality speaker systems that are simple to use and completely self-contained. In the major touring market, if you have a chance to tune your PA, let alone have a sound check, you're doing good. We're simplifying the set-ups so it's going extremely fast, but in an accurate and reliable way." Cochran echoes the sentiment. "There's nobody that can touch Meyer's consistency," he said, "It's hard to make these boxes sound bad."
The answers you get from querying consumers about their concert experiences are often disheartening, says Jones, with excessive volume, unintelligible vocals and distortion among the frequent complaints. In Jones and Cochran, Meyer has a pair of peer ambassadors with a mandate to help their clients remedy those maladies, complemented by their embassy base in the heart of Soundcheck's live sound community.
By Frank Wells