Audio Engineer Alice Asbury on touring with Britannia Row’s support, why she chooses DiGiCo, and finding balance between IEMs and wedges for folk artist Marcus Mumford.
Where did your journey into pro audio begin?
I come from a venue background; I started off at The Engine Shed in Lincoln as technical crew while at University, where I studied Audio Production. Later on I became the Technical Manager at the O2 Academy in Oxford, and then began touring alongside that job. After a busy festival season off the back of the pandemic, I moved into freelance full-time in Autumn 2021. I toured with various artists including Joy Crookes and Mahalia. I also managed to deputise for other talented engineers in between those tours too, for artists such as Wet Leg and Nao.
You’re now working with long-time Britannia Row client Marcus Mumford. When did this collaboration begin?
This was actually my first time working with the team. I joined at the beginning of September ’22 where we spent two months touring North America before the UK & Ireland tour.
What kind of venues were you playing on that tour?
This was a more intimate solo project than the huge Mumford and Sons tours - we mainly toured theatres in the US ranging from 1,000-3,000 and then the UK with an average of 1,000 cap. We also did some festival appearances and promo shows for good measure.
Marcus is a multi-talented musician. How would you describe the relationship between his artistry and the monitor world during the shows?
Marcus explained that he wanted to see if he could use just wedges (having been used to touring with both IEMs and wedges in the past), and the session musicians had the same mindset. I believe this was coming from a place of wanting to be able to hear the spaces they were playing live on stage, as sometimes IEMs can be quite isolating. There’s definitely a lot of trust and communication built into this role, it’s fairly crucial to the job. There’s an added level of learning facial cues, and how people want their instruments to sound; monitor engineering ultimately being a lot more objective than subjective, so there was a lot to learn in a relatively short amount of time before we hit the road.
How many mixes were you generating within the group of musicians, and did their preferences differ a lot?
I started off with quite a lot, and we took enough wireless to enable everyone to have the choice between in-ears and wedges, just in case anyone was struggling with the sound of using one or the other. We settled on 8 x wedge mixes for the band members and 4 x IEMs for techs, so 12 x mixes in total. They do differ a lot between each person, but they didn't differ a lot during the shows as was snapshotting certain instruments for certain songs to make any necessary tweaks. Both the band and Marcus were comfortable and happy with just the wedges, and we actually got rid of extra IEMs we didn't need, leaving those solely for the techs.
Can you run through your rider to date?
We were running d&b audiotechnik M2's for Marcus and the rest of the band were on d&b M4's through D80 amplifiers. All of our wireless was Shure; PSM1000's for IEMs, Shure Axient 400 for the wireless microphone with an SM58 capsule. I was running my show originally on a DiGiCo SD10 with SD-rack, but then for the UK leg I swapped onto an SD12 -simply for the smaller footprint and extra screens. Equally, being able to assign the 2 x mains faders made my life a lot easier for my cue mixes!
Have you adapted your preferences at all for this year’s shows?
There are some exciting festival dates coming up for us in 2023 where I may look at taking DiGiCo’s Quantum range out.
Are you a consistent DiGiCo end-user?
Yes; I’ve been using DiGiCo desks pretty solidly for the last year with other artists so it was the obvious choice here too. I like having the ability to set it up exactly to my personal preference. I needed a lot of inputs and outputs for this show as sometimes our setups become a little more fluid with guests coming to perform in the shows. At our biggest at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville where I maxed out all of the inputs and outputs on the SD-rack - and then all of my locals on the board as well! The other band members from Mumford and Sons came to perform with Marcus alongside Brandi Carlile and many others for that very special show that I’ll always remember.
How has your overall experience of mixing these shows been?
It was certainly a game changer in getting my head back into focusing fully on wedge mixes rather than in-ears. Marcus had a lot of very beautiful, vintage acoustic guitars which came with a lot of different pick-ups, some being quite microphonic. In order to be able to get the best out of the wedges it involved a lot of working with our Backline Tech and FOH engineer, Ryan Wyatt and Chris Pollard, and focusing on each individual guitar, how it was played and to gauge where it would begin to feedback, and what level and EQ worked best with each guitar in the wedges. I'm also very happy that we managed to do the whole tour on purely wedges, as it really did help the vibe and musicianship on stage for this tour, and that was the ultimate goal from the outset. This has been a really wonderful experience, and getting to watch and be on stage with such immensely talented musicians was amazing. The crew also made me feel so very welcome and were super helpful when it came to getting the best out of each show.
How have you felt supported on the road with Britannia Row as your audio vendor?
It was actually my first time working with Brit Row properly, seen as I’d come from an in-house venue background. The quality of equipment and support from Brit Row is just wonderful. They also sent a brilliant addition to our touring team in the lovely Felix Threadgill, who was our Audio Tech for the UK & Ireland tour.
What’s coming up for you and this team next?
After a relaxing January and February, I’m back out again. Marcus had a few festivals starting at the end of February with the same set up as our Autumn tour. As the summer goes on, we’ve got some headline Mumford & Sons festivals which will be a larger set up, with all of our equipment, personnel and tour support coming from Brit Row.