Tempe, Ariz., Sept. 22, 2016 - Logan Hanna isn't out of control. He just has to be ready when things do go out of control. As the Front of House Engineer for rising Country/Western artist Frankie Ballard, Hanna is responsible for getting Ballard’s sound right, whether it’s in the studio or on the road. It’s a big responsibility and one that Hanna says his education at the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences (CRAS) helped prepare him to face.
“Live sound is something that I really enjoy doing,” Hanna said. “It’s the spontaneity, it’s the meticulousness of getting everything right. It’s live! Anything can go wrong without a moment’s notice and you have to be totally prepared to react. You have to cover all your bases every day and make sure everything is 100 percent operable. When you're live, there are no second takes. There can be no mistakes. I really like that challenge.”
Finding music wasn’t a challenge for Hanna, who took up the guitar as a youth and played classical guitar in college. But when his parents gave him some recording instruments as a gift, Hanna found a new way to explore music.
“My parents bought me one of the first Firewire-based mixers that plugged directly into my computer and could record two tracks,” he said. “They also got me a microphone and a couple of XLRs so I would just sit in my dorm room and record my guitar tracks. I got really excited about the tech side of audio engineering, including some theater audio. As I did more, I began to feel that being behind the console made more sense for me, that I felt more at home and it felt more natural.”
Hanna said a friend of his found CRAS and the two decided to apply together. However, his friend never sent the application, so when Hanna was accepted he moved to Arizona by himself. At the school, Hanna became immersed in the science of sound recording, and it was a new world. “I had done some mic packs and other stuff but I didn’t have an understanding of what any of it really was; it was just the basis for the live sound audio world in general and the recording studio behind that was the real reveal,” he explained.
After completing his schooling at CRAS, Hanna was selected for an internship at Sound Stage Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. When the internship was over, he was hired by Interface Audio where he refurbished decommissioned SSL boards.
“My first job was a studio tech…I’d take consoles apart, clean them, fix leads and components, put them together and test them for the client,” he recalled. “I got into audio engineering by moonlighting at a club downtown and found that there was a lot of work and a pretty good paycheck, too. That’s why I stuck with live audio.”
Others in the “Nashville Network” noticed Hanna’s skills as a Front of House engineer and he soon became a sought-after live engineer. “I met a lot of players and a lot of musicians and that just fed into the network,” he said. “It forced me to work on training my ear and understanding sound. When you get known as a club engineer, people start to pass your name around and soon they’re asking if you can do a three-week road trip. Then a higher profile artist needs a sound guy so the manager says, ‘You’ve got the experience now; why don’t you try this out with us,’ and that’s a new set of challenges as an engineer. You’re out there where money is now a factor and there’s more on the line, so my responsibilities are much greater. I like the challenge that presents to an engineer, to deliver to the artist and the audience what they expect of you.”
In Hanna’s case, he’s probably delivered more than what was expected. In addition to keeping the equipment working, including fixing boards on the fly and making sure the batteries are fresh (“Batteries will kill you every time. Always make sure you have new batteries installed before the show,” he said.). But with Frankie Ballard, Hanna’s work ethic and performance is just what a new artist needed to help advance in the music industry.
“The one thing I knew about Logan was that he had a lot between his ears, and that’s really why I hired him,” Ballard said. “There’s not a lot of budget when you’re getting started and you just can’t hire four or five guys right out of the chute even though you need them. What you have to do is find one guy who can wear a lot of hats – he can run monitors, he can run the front house and he can do all kinds of engineer work for you.
“Logan had those diverse skills and talents, from managing the stage all the way out to the front house and more as we find out all the time. That was the biggest thing that attracted me to him as a potential employer, was his knowledge base.”
Those extras that Hanna brought to Ballard included rebuilding the band’s entire monitor mix. “We had this older M7 that we dragged around and we got into a space and he just sat down and dialed all that in for us,” Ballard said. “On a day-to-day basis, he sets up the entire monitor rig, including the desk, amp rack with our wireless unit, all of the wireless frequencies for our ear mixes, dials in our wedges, and then drags out the long cable and mixes up our front house. He’s pretty busy.”
Now that Ballard is making a name in Nashville, including three No. 1 songs from his debut album, “Sunshine & Whiskey,” Ballard is able to bring on another hand to help Hanna.
Dave Carlton graduated from CRAS six years after Hanna and was also working in Nashville. Hanna’s CRAS cap caught Carlton’s eye one night and the two struck up a conversation. As both advanced in Nashville, the two kept in touch and ultimately Carlton was able to join Hanna and Ballard.
“CRAS taught me that there’s an entire world of audio engineering out there, which is awesome,” Hanna said. “They teach the foundation and the basis of what anybody needs to know to become a successful engineer. What you need to do in the real world is develop your personal technique and find your style, that’s what it is. This is an awesome job. Every night I get to take a sweet band and I get to work them at 110 decibels every night. That’s awesome! I get to sit in front of these giant speaker arrays and just blast them and throw the sound pressure at the audience. I absolutely love what I do.”
The Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences is composed of two nearby campuses in Gilbert and Tempe, Ariz. A CRAS education includes broadcast audio, live sound, film and TV audio, music, and video game audio, all taught by award-winning instructors who have all excelled in their individual fields, including sound reinforcement, audio recording and production, digital recording, troubleshooting/maintenance, and music business.
The 11-month program is designed to allow every student access to learn and train in all of the Conservatory’s studios which are comprised with state-of-the-art audio recording and mixing gear, the same equipment used in today’s finest studios and remote broadcast facilities, including Pro Tools 11, API Legacy consoles, SSL AWS consoles, Studer Vista consoles, and much more. All students must complete a 280-hour industry internship to graduate from the Master Recording Program II that may ultimately lead to industry employment.