We caught up with FOH engineer and Memphis native, Amanda Davis, at this year’s Lollapalooza to hear about working with Janelle Monáe and how she uses Waves tools in her live setup.
By Neal Gustafson, Waves Audio
Memphis native Amanda Davis has incrementally built up an impressive roster of artists over six years of professional touring, including Tegan and Sara, Jidenna, Wale, Nipsey Hussle, R. Kelly, and her longest touring client, Janelle Monáe. We caught up with Amanda at this year's Lollapalooza to see how she uses Waves tools to stay one step ahead of tight festival requirements and deliver sensational sound.
An unlikely live sound professional, Davis was surrounded by music culturally and grew up in the same place as the soul of Memphis. She took to music early on and concentrated on singing all the way through completing an undergraduate degree in vocal performance at Roosevelt University in Chicago.
In a sudden change in life direction, realizing she didn't want to sing anymore but still wanting to remain in the business of music, she enrolled in audio courses at SAE in Atlanta. Working at the school along the way, first as a lab tech, and then ultimately using her degree in music to teach music theory, she started various live sound gigs around the city until she got the call.
That call was from Jeff Cohran, Janelle Monáe’s tour & production manager. He explained that Janelle wanted to hire a woman for her FOH engineering job, and if she was interested, it was hers. That was six years ago. Today, Amanda Davis is the FOH engineer for Monáe, along with other high-profile clients and artists she’s worked with along the way.
Janelle Monáe dropped in on Lollapalooza 2019 for a sundown set on Friday night. Lollapalooza still brings in close to half-a-million people each year, over four days in the heart of Grant Park on Chicago’s lakefront.
A Waves user for “as long as I can remember,” we found out that Amanda gets her polished, brilliant sound by leveraging her academic music background and keeping it concise when it comes to effects processing. Running the Waves MultiRack plugin host with a SoundGrid Impact server through DMI cards on her trusty DiGiCo SD10, she works to find the right amount of sheen from a plugin, and when she does, she runs with it.
Which plugins have you been using for this show?
“For a lot of inputs, I’ve been sticking to my regulars like the H-Comp. On the bass, I’ve also incorporated the dbx 160 compressor. And on my L/R master, I have the API 2500—there’s something about it that just pushes my mix out past the PA. I barely touch any parameters on it, but as soon as I engage it everything just comes to life!”
What are you using in your vocal chain for Janelle Monáe?
“The Renaissance plugins: R-EQ, R-Compressor, and R-Vox. On background vocals I also use the PuigChild Compressor along with the R-Vox. For one song I even add GTR3 to the vocal chain to give me a distortion effect. Lately, I’ve been trying this with the OneKnob Driver as an alternative.”
“But the main thing is the R-Vox—it just puts the vocal right where I need it in the mix. I go pretty aggressive on it, almost to the point where it’s too much; but I’d rather have to dial it back over having a mix without the main attraction being heard!”
In addition to her accomplishments professionally, Davis is helping to pave the way for female engineers through a production program called LineCheck! Women in Production, where she invites young ladies, ages 16+, to come shadow her during soundchecks, providing exposure and access to places that don’t normally allow non-crew members. It serves as a place to educate young women about the many aspects of the industry and prepare them with proper information to decide whether to pursue a career in professional audio.
For more information about LineCheck! email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about dates.
Want more on live sound? Hear about Waves on tour with Rosalía.
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