Photo above: Dylan Scott’s FOH engineer, Brayden Dana (left), and production manager/monitor engineer, Jason Bjerg, showing off their tight trailer pack
This summer, Dylan Scott celebrated the seventh anniversary of his first number one hit on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, 2016’s “My Girl” on Nashville’s Curb Records. He’s the quintessential country music story: a young artist putting in the years and the miles to build a music career in a genre that expects that kind of gritty perseverance. So when Scott hits the road, logistics are as important as everything else. The narrative at a time when concertgoers are expecting high production values is: how much gear can we get into a standard trailer?
In Scott’s case, that trailer includes five set carts with video wall and lighting; an 8×6-foot drum riser with drums that stay built and wired, ready to be plugged in; a multipurpose rack that houses wireless transmitters and receivers, tracks playback, video playback, bass DI, and other gear; plus all of the usual guitars, pedal boards, and keyboards in their flight cases for the band. How to pack in enough production to make every show on the road look and sound as big as it can could be harder than writing that next hit. But Scott’s crew has figured it out; a pair of powerful but compact DiGiCo SD9 consoles for front-of-house and monitors, sharing an SD-Rack on an Optocore fiber loop, gives them big sound, efficient workflow, and fast setup and breakdown that takes up a relatively tiny portion of the trailer.
“Sure, we‘d all love to have the gear in an air-ride semi-truck instead of banging around in a trailer, but this is our reality of the road for now,” says Jason Bjerg, Scott’s production manager and monitor engineer. “We literally designed this tour around the trailer—what we could fit into it that would let us put on as big a production as possible without sacrificing any quality, and knowing the trailer had to be packed exactly the same way every night. The DiGiCo SD9 desks were the perfect choice; they’ve got a very compact footprint but still give us everything we need for fantastic sound.”
Bjerg got to know the SD9 on some grueling religious mission shows in Africa where, he says, the environment was the most challenging imaginable for a concert. “If you could have seen the dirt and dust that accumulated on those consoles there, you’d wonder how they ever worked,” he says. “But, every show, they came out sounding like they were right out of the box. They never missed a beat.”
Brayden Dana, who mixes front-of-house for Scott, had been a user and a fan of DiGiCo’s larger SD12, but quickly realized that smaller didn’t mean less power or performance when he migrated to the SD9. “Other than the smaller footprint and one less screen, there are no changes I had to make to adjust,” he says, noting that he easily added his own outboard second screen. “I just loaded in my show file and it was ready to go—plug and play.”
In fact, he adds, the smaller form factor meant that he could set up in more places in a venue—a critical flexibility to have when you’re second or third on the bill at a show—and have load in and out go much faster and simpler. “We don’t need to rock and tip the desk; just lift it up on top of the one rack I’m using,” he says. “And it’s the same workflow I’m used to from the SD12, or from any DiGiCo desk, really.” Dana uses Waves plugins on the SD9 but notes that the onboard processing is as good as anything out there. “It’s just one more way we’re able to keep the equipment compact and use the trailer space for production,” he says.
The compact SD9s, supplied for Scott’s tour by Clair Global, are the logistical cornerstone for an ambitious, aspirational young artist on the road with a band and a crew these days. High expectations for production and sound mean touring artists at any level can’t afford to cut corners. “With the SD9s we get phenomenal sound and the ability to carry production that punches above our weight, but with a level of simplicity that’s comfortably old-school,” says Bjerg. “If you can’t make it sound great with just your console, then maybe you need an SD9.”