Phil Scobee comes across as a man who has everything he wants, right where he wants it. “As long as we’re moving audio from point A to point B, I like it,” he notes. “I’d like to see the company get bigger and bigger, and I hope I’m doing this for many more years.”
In the 11 years since he first signed on with Morris Leasing, it has grown from a four-person firm to a full-service production services operation with roughly 50 full- and part-time employees and a national reach. And over that time, the Nashville-based company has helped revolutionize the look and scope of big country tours, taking a decidedly “rock” approach to touring infrastructure and substantially raising the bar in terms of sound and lighting production.
“It’s not your daddy’s country. Today people want flash and more bang for their buck,” notes Scobee, whose current role is director of operations.
Born in St. Louis, he moved often as a child, ultimately staying longest in Monett, MO. “I always wanted to be in the audio business, and was a DJ in high school,” he says, adding that he built his first PA at age 15, even before he had his driver’s license. “My first gig was a wedding, but there was only one hitch—somebody had to come pick me up.”
After studying electrical engineering at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Scobee moved to Kansas City, briefly working at Executone in telephone circuit repair before taking a gig at Superior Sound in 1988. “That’s where I got my feet wet in sound,” he says, “I spent a lot of time doing blue-line drawings for the PA systems we’d sell, rent, and install.”
As assistant to Ken Patterson, head of engineering at Superior, Scobee also mixed live shows in clubs and serviced a large regional market of churches, clubs and industrial clients. Another stop at Sounds Great, based in Springfield, MO, led to working with a diverse client base, including the burgeoning live performance theater market in nearby Branson.
While there, he met the people who would ultimately lead him to his current gig, multiplatinum country band Alabama and manager Dale Morris. “They needed someone to come and be head of audio, and I started working with Dale at that point,” he explains, adding that he stayed with the band until they called it quits following their 2003 farewell tour. “When I began, we had a couple of truckloads of gear that went on tour.” That soon changed: “Working out of a truck wasn’t working anymore.”
Although other arms of the company have also grown substantially, Scobee really enjoys the technical side of things: designing, building and maintaining systems for both Morris’ stable of management clients and other artists, including Kenny Chesney, Gretchen Wilson, and Big and Rich. His most recent system design in the market right now is for Sugarland.
As we spoke, Morris Leasing staffers were actually offloading that system at the company’s Murfreesboro, TN warehouse. “The tour’s got three days off, so we’re going to use that time to take the gear—an EV Xlc rig with a Midas XL8 console—and give it a spring cleaning before it goes out for the rest of the year,” he says.