A Look Back with Rascal Flatts - ProSoundNetwork.com

A Look Back with Rascal Flatts

Over the last decade, Rascal Flatts has become one of the biggest acts in country music. Each album has its share of songs about good times, and every ensuing tour takes that spirit to heart, delivering a party for all in attendance. That’s made the road-charging trio a perennial favorite, going out like clockwork every summer for a run that goes through the following spring. With the 2011 journey set to start next month, here’s a look behind the scenes of the Nothing Like This tour—you know, the one that ended last month
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Over the last decade, Rascal Flatts has become one of the biggest acts in country music. Each album has its share of songs about good times, and every ensuing tour takes that spirit to heart, delivering a party for all in attendance. That’s made the road-charging trio a perennial favorite, going out like clockwork every summer for a run that goes through the following spring. With the 2011 journey set to start next month, here’s a look behind the scenes of the Nothing Like This tour—you know, the one that ended last month.

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Rascal Flatts’ lead vocalist Gary LeVox belts into
a wireless SM58, while bassist Jay DeMarcus and
guitarist Joe Don Rooney sing into AKG 520 headset
mics going through Shure UHF-R packs.

Rascal Flatts has had sound equipment supplied by Sound Image for all its major tours, and the audio consistency doesn’t stop there—Stuart Delk became the band’s monitor engineer nine years ago, while Jon Garber took over the band’s FOH position a year later. Both engineers mix on Studer Vista 5 digital consoles, having first gotten their hands on the desks three years ago. “It’s very versatile,” said Delk. “Everything’s on the touch screens, you can lay the desk out any way you want to, and it does 84 mono inputs, 20 stereo. Studer told us we were the first people anywhere to tour with them; Celine Dion was in rehearsals for a world tour, so they got ’em first, but we got on the road before she did. I got the desk, and two weeks later, I was doing a show with it!”

Of course, live sound is less about the gear and more about what you do with it. At the FOH position, the Studer desk gets put through the paces to create heightened versions of the band’s greatest hits. “I want to replicate what they’re doing in the studio, but with a live feel,” said Garber. “I use delay as reverb mostly, but I try to keep it very simple because I don’t want to clutter what they have going on onstage. I use Harmonizing on background vocals, a drum verb, vocal verb, acoustic verb and that’s basically it. For me, I want you to hear every little transition. The people in the audience are listening because they know on the record, that bell sounds like that every time—so I have to make it sound like what they’re used to it. I don’t want to clutter it up.”

A clarified mix is a necessity, but on no song more than one of the band’s staples, “Me and My Gang,” which Garber noted has “a lot of electric guitars, fiddle and a banjo, so there’s all these different concepts that have to be there musically for it to work. I enjoy mixing that one a lot.”

On the band’s tours these days, the audience hears that mix via a sizable JBL VerTec line-array system; the most recent tour sported 78 4889 boxes, 32 4880s and a dozen QSC Widelines for frontfills. All that was powered by Crown I-Tech 8000 amps. “All the processing’s done within the amps, the control’s from the Lake processing, we have our dbx DriveRack and we’re ready to go,” said Garber. “We used to have frontloaded boxes; now we’ve gone into line array so we can control these rooms a little bit better and zone in on the mixes a little bit better.”

Additional JBL VerTecs are typically used as flown sidefills on stage, bolstering a selection of personal monitor systems, from Sennheiser G2s to Shure PSM700s, and a PSM900 system for multi-instrumentalist Jay DeMarcus. “I like the Shures because they offer a 900 MHz range and there’s not a whole lot going on up there now,” confirmed Delk. “I rarely have to change frequencies or battle with wireless issues; I think I’ve changed the channel on these things maybe three times since I’ve had them. On all of the systems, we’re using Ultimate Ears UE11 earpieces. They have a real nice, round sound—pretty smooth, flat-sounding.”

Jon Garber (left) and Stuart Delk with the Studer Vista 5 at the Rascal Flatts FOH position
There’s typically a lot of Shure gear on the Rascal Flatts stage, in part because the band are endorsers.Lead vocalist Gary LeVox belts into a wireless SM58, while DeMarcus and guitarist Joe Don Rooney sing into AKG 520 headset mics going through Shure UHF-R packs. Among the five-member backup band, Radial DIs rule the day (“They’ve helped us out a lot,” said Delk), the new Shure Beta 27 captures backing guitar (“We put it on the rhythm guy’s rig and it sounds awesome,” said Garber) and Beta 27s, 91s and 52s nab the drums, as well as KSM132s, which are used on ride cymbals and overheads.

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Rooney is known for his guitar playing, and as a result, capturing his tone requires more than typical miking procedures. “Over the years, we picked up some of the techniques of their producer, Dan Huff,” said Delk. “We used to just put 57s on the cabinet, we tried everything— large-diaphragm mics and stuff—but in the studio, they’ve got this signal chain where you’ve got a dry cabinet for guitar, you double-mic it with a 57 and a Royer ribbon microphone, then all his effects go through a mixer and come back through two other stereo cabinets, and you mic those with 57s. We have that arrangement out here now, and it helps Jon and I; instead of dealing with all these delays and reverbs on his rig, we get to mix that. It’s a cleaner, more directional sound. Out in the house, Jon doesn’t need to use as much of the delays and reverb as I do, and since I’m trying to create a space in Joe Don’s ear mix, there’s a lot of delay and reverb, because he wants the grease of the effects on the guitar.”

With all the mics and personal monitors on hand, the band has 39 channels of wireless going at any given time, all of which contend with the numerous video screens that accompany the band’s jaunts. To combat dropouts, Delk is using PWS Helical Antennas. “They work great, and at long distances,” he said. “We started using them because the band used to do an acoustic set behind Jon at FOH—we needed to make that long-distance throw and these things will reach out that far. I’m a big fan of them; I’ve convinced the band techs and everyone, and now it looks like a Helical farm around here.”

That’s not the only thing that’s been growing over time—so has the band’s audience. “The girls who have been going to the shows since they were teenagers, they’re getting older, so some of them are bringing their kids,” Garber mused. “They’re also bringing their parents, so it’s a huge age range. That’s the best— when you look around and see a whole family swaying back and forth and hugging. Rascal Flatts music makes you feel good; it’s good-hearted music. That’s what I love about live sound: watching people having a good time. If they’re having fun, then I know I’m doing my job right.”

Vitalstats

Rascal Flatts

Sound Image (Escondido, CA)

FOH Engineer:
Jon “Jon” Garber

Monitor Engineer:
Stuart Delk

Crew Chief/Systems Engineer:
Landon Storey

Assistant Engineer:
Pete McDonough

Techs:
Jeremy Peters, Jason Blackburn

FOH Console:
Studer Vista 5

Monitor Console:
Studer Vista 5

House Speakers:
JBL VerTec (90) VT4889, (32) VT4880 subs; (1) QSC WideLine

Monitor Speakers:
JBL VerTec (6) VT4889; (4) Sound Image 1 x 18” sub bass cabinets

Personal Monitors:
Sennheiser G2; Shure PSM700, PSM900

House Amplifiers:
Crown I-Tech 8000

Monitor Amplifiers:
Crown I-Tech 8000

FOH Equipment:
TC Electronic 5000, D-Two, PCM96; (3) dbx DriveRack 4800

Monitor Equipment/Plug-Ins:
(9) TC Electronic M-4000

Microphones:
Shure; AKG; Royer