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The Same And Different

An interview with Dan Heins and Troy Milner about mixing sound for Garth Brooks' first concert tour in thirteen years.

By M. Erik Matlock July 3, 2015

Garth Brooks and his band live in concert this year after a long hiatus. (Credit: Steven Wolf)

Garth Brooks is back.

Following a 13-year hiatus from touring, the Garth Brooks World Tour with Trisha Yearwood has been on the road for several months in support of his latest album, Man Against Machine, continuing on an open-ended basis in selling out arenas across North America.

Prior to announcing his retirement in 2001, Brooks had undoubtedly been the top-selling recording artist on the planet for a decade.

His first album, released in 1989, peaked at number 2 on the U.S. country album chart while reaching number 13 on the Billboard album chart.

Total album sales are now more than 134 million. Meanwhile, co-bill Trisha Yearwood, who wed Brooks in 2005, is a top performer in her own right, with eight number 1 singles and twenty top-10 hits.

Brooks has also been a top draw on the concert circuit, noted for high-energy live performances of his unique traditional country infused at times with pop/rock flair. His recent return to touring picks up where he left off, greeted by packed houses at every stop, including numerous multi-show engagements.

Times Have Changed
As he has since 1989, Brooks’ long-time front of house engineer Dan Heins is providing the artist and band PA mix, while monitor engineer Troy Milner signed on last year after more than a dozen years with Bruce Springsteen. Clair Global is the sound company for the tour.

Things have changed a bit in terms of sound reinforcement technology since the big tours of the 1990s, when both house and monitor desks for Brooks were ATI Paragon analog desks. Now, both Heins and Milner are utilizing DiGiCo SD7s – the first tour ever for Brooks mixed on digital consoles.

Additional modern technology touches can be found in wireless world. The band and Yearwood are outfitted with JH Audio JH16 in-ear monitors fed by Shure PSM 1000 personal monitoring systems. Milner’s also using this combination for himself in the course of providing 16 separate stereo mixes in all. 

Wireless microphone systems for all performers are Shure Axient, including transmitters, receivers and spectrum management working in tandem with the Shure Wireless Workbench 6 platform that also accounts for the wireless PSM 1000 monitoring systems. It makes coordinating the tour’s dozens of frequencies in the increasingly challenging RF environment – particularly present today in metropolitan areas – a much more manageable task for Milner. 

The stage layout on the current tour. (Credit: Steven Wolf)

“I come in every day, set up the antennas, put in my numbers and hit deploy. The program pretty much does it all for me,” he says. “I don’t consider myself an RF guy by any means, but the system works absolutely great. We’re very happy with it.”

Operating in the UHF band, Axient is designed for advanced live concert and event situations, offering comprehensive remote control of all transmitter parameters. Audio is transmitted simultaneously on two independent frequencies, with interference detected in milliseconds. It also provides the ability to continuously monitor, prioritize, queue and assign compatible frequencies.

On stage is a veritable a sea of loudspeakers, including Clair CM22 wedges that Brooks prefers in a big way – to the tune of 44 of them. They’re joined by Cohesion 8 side fills (12 per side) and CP218 subwoofers. “The CM22 is a beast. I’m always amazed at what comes out of that box and how great it sounds,” Milner says. 

Of course, keeping stage levels at the high volume Brooks prefers while maintaining control and delivering quality mixes is a balancing act. “It’s essentially one common stereo mix for all 44 stage monitors, but it keeps me busy, constantly riding the faders to keep each zone hot as he moves around on the stage,” he adds.

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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 several years as a production staff member and team leader for the largest non-denominational church in central Georgia, and served as an author for several leading industry publications before joining the PSW team.


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