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In Profile: Riley Vasquez

A "young gun" who's steadily making his way up the concert touring FOH ladder

By M. Erik Matlock November 11, 2015

Riley Vasquez

Riley Vasquez has deep roots in the music business and production work. The grandson of Bill Hardin, founder of Bill Hardin Music stores, he grew up in Georgia surrounded by instruments, gear and musicians, and with a foundation in church production, he quickly learned the ropes and discovered a passion for mixing live shows at front of house.

After graduating from Middle Tennessee State in 2011, Vasquez quickly established himself as a tour manager and engineer for the likes of indie rock trio Colony House, Leagues, Matt Kearney, Hawk Nelson and American Authors.

I caught up with him during a break from splitting his time mixing and touring with both American Authors and Colony House, which had just finished a 44-show run across the U.S., including stops at Red Rocks and the Greek Theatre.

Making Decisions
“People might think I haven’t had time to pay my dues, but I have,” Vasquez notes from the outset, referring to his relatively young age compared to his current status. “From an insane amount of hours bouncing around in vans to sleeping on floors across the country, I already have my share of stories.”

His “big break” came with sacrificing a prestigious career of waiting tables to accept his first paid gig with Colony House. “I was playing in a band with Scott Mills while I was in college, and he ended up playing guitar with (brothers) Caleb and Will Chapman, who formed Colony House. Once they began to get more shows, Scott asked me to mix one night in Atlanta, and it went from there.”

At the time, in addition to food service, Vasquez was also working with a local church that rented a movie theater for its services, requiring him to handle load-in and out for every service. Neither job paid well, and both were stressful. “When Scott asked me about the mixing gig, I told him I had to ask off work. The manager refused to give me that day off, even with a week’s notice. So I quit to lock in a single $50 gig. Obviously, though, it ended up being one of my best decisions.”

Vasquez at the board on the road with American Authors.

The role with Colony House worked well, extending into a regular gig, and along the way he met Matt Manix, monitor engineer for OneRepublic. On a sleepless night, they shared an interesting conversation: “We discovered that we’d both lived in the same town, rented the same house, and even claimed the same bedroom while there. Too weird.”

Manix became a mentor and later introduced him to the tour manager for American Authors, who offered him the front of house position after the previous engineer moved on. The first gig was in Brussels (Belgium), and since then, he’s gone on to work in 17 countries around the globe.

Sonic Ideas
American Authors is largely doing one-off fly dates at present. “We carry pretty much everything in 15 pieces of luggage, advancing the rest of the gear with local backline and production companies for each show,” Vasquez explains. The band’s riders include gear that has served him well over the years, including Avid consoles, Shure microphones and Radial direct boxes.

“My first choice for mixing is always an Avid Profile. It’s been the most user-friendly console, and I feel like I’m right at home whenever I walk up to one,” he says. A self-proclaimed “reverb junkie,” he’s also a fan of the console’s plugin flexibility and all the options that presents.

“I just love reverb. Lots of reverb. Probably too much, but when the effects are layered and textured right, it just makes the show for me,” he expounds. Specifically, he has a passion for plates and halls, generously seasoning specific instruments and voices: “I have certain ways that I want the drums and vocals to sound – specific textures and tricks to create the depth and separation in the mix.”

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About M. Erik

M. Erik Matlock
M. Erik Matlock

Senior Editor, ProSoundWeb
Erik worked in a wide range of roles in pro audio for more than 20 years in a dynamic career that encompasses system design and engineering in the live, install and recording markets. He also spent a number of years as a church production staff member and Media Director, and as an author for several leading industry publications before joining the PSW team.


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