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Above It All: Barry Damron & His Team Build A Growing Production Company In Ohio

A look into one man's journey from musician to engineer to production company owner.

By Kevin Young October 6, 2017

Above Sound's Barry Damron (left) and Kevin Campbell, stage manager of the Palace Theater in Columbus, joined by an RCF TT+ rig.

Audio and music have been life-long passions for Barry Damron, owner/operator of Hilliard, OH-based Above Sound and Lighting – passions that were encouraged by his grandfather and that ultimately led to founding his own production company in 2007.

“My grandfather was a musician growing up,” Damron explains, “so I’ve been around music my whole life. His band would practice in the basement, and I would babysit the little PA they owned.”

Born and raised in nearby Columbus, he pretty much had the run of that basement, where he learned to play drums in addition to watching his grandfather’s band rehearse. He also spent a lot of time buying electronic parts and pieces from the local Radio Shack.

During high school, Damron played in bands and also used his grandfather’s PA to DJ at local events, also working a local electrical firm. Highly interested in the science of sound, enough to research it on his own, these early explorations were again fueled by his grandfather, who let him do whatever he wanted with the gear at hand.

“I learned about phase, throw and loudspeaker placement,” he notes. “Then I started doing research. Unfortunately that was pre-Internet, so it involved lots of books. And I got lucky with the band I played in. We’d go to various clubs and theaters, and I got to be around some really good sound people in town and pick their brains. I was never afraid to ask questions.”

In 2001, Damron moved to Las Vegas and for the next four years ran sound and lighting for the Bellagio’s fountain and interior conservatory shows. He also continued to play drums – mostly at his local church – but because of his schedule and workload at the casino, not nearly as much as he had previously.

“It was amazing,” he adds. “I worked with a great group of people and learned a lot, and in Vegas, they have money to do whatever they want. I got to know some of the people from Cirque du Soleil, and when they wanted to do 120 channels of surround sound, they made it happen.”

Mutually Beneficial

When his grandfather suffered a stroke, Damron returned to Ohio to be close to family, and began working at an electrical firm again for a time. Ultimately, however, he and bandmate/recording engineer Joe Viers decided to set up shop and founded Sonic Lounge Recording Studios in Grove City, OH.

“I’d accumulated a lot of really nice recording gear in Vegas – as a hobby – so Joe and I partnered up and started Sonic Lounge,” he explains. “Honestly, Joe runs the studio, that’s his baby. The live sound thing took off for me and I went in that direction. I own Above Sound on my own, but we’re still partners in Sonic Lounge.”

While the two entities are independent of each other, they started about the same time, which in itself was a challenge, he notes, but they actually contributed to each other’s growth. “Bands would come in to record and we’d get to know them and they’d need live sound and vice versa,” he says. “We also worked with national artists coming through town when they needed to do overdubs or other recording.”

Members of the Above Sound team at the company’s shop. Back row, left to right, are Luke Wells, Barry Damron, Cory Scott, Kenneth Buckingham, and Rex Buckingham, and in the front are Sean Gannon and Dallas Bowshier.

Above Sound started with a small PA that he deployed for friends’ bands on weekends and on tour with a regional country band. He also took an opportunity to work at a local venue where – after handling multiple shows with Jay DeMarcus (bass player for Rascal Flatts) as well as DeMarcus’ father’s band – he decided that if he was going to be in the audio business, he needed to step it up.

Damron began devoting more time overall to Above Sound and investing more money in gear with the purchase of two consoles, a Midas Sienna and an Allan & Heath GL4000, along with an Electro-Voice QRx Series loudspeaker rig.

“When we first started, it was in my garage, and we did that for about six months,” he adds. “Then we moved to a building behind Sonic Lounge that was about 1,000 square feet, and then last year we added lighting to our inventory and are currently in a 10,000-square-foot facility ¬– but we’re out of space.” As a result, he’s considering either moving to yet another larger space, or building a facility for the company.

Initially he ran things on his own before hiring the first staff member, Cory Scott, who’d previously worked at the studio. “Cory started to do some shows with us, just helping, and he’s still with us now,” Damron says. “He’s like me on steroids, builds preamps, compressors, microphones, and is really into electronics.”

Managing Growth

By 2009, Damron upped the game again, moving to the digital console realm with two Yamaha LS9s joined by an EV XLC line array system; a large investment, but one that led to an increase in the client base, which now ranges from local sports teams to theaters, festivals, and clubs featuring national touring acts.

While most of the business – roughly 80 percent – is within the state, travel has ranged as far as the Bahamas with an Ohio-based charity called Buckeye Cruise for Kids – shipping gear to Florida, where it’s then loaded onto a cruise ship and is managed by Above Sound for a week-long cruise. “We’ve done it for four years,” he notes, “so our people get to go somewhere warm for a week while serving a really good cause.”

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About Kevin

Kevin Young
Kevin Young

Freelance Music and Tech Writer, Professional Musician and Composer
Based in Toronto, Kevin Young is a freelance music and tech writer, professional musician and composer.
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