flightcases       Setting up

There are two things that I’ve always wanted to do with my life, one of them was to make my living as a professional singer and stage performer and the other was to learn the art of sound production…. so I did. I went and got my degree in Recording Arts and also attended trade school for the art of recording and mixing. One thing I’ve never, ever wanted to do however, is live life on the road rolling road cases in and out of trucks and wrapping cables every night. Although, you can’t have a successful career in the live audio production business without “doing your time” busting hump, rolling road cases, wrapping cables and working long hours. I have always been fascinated in finding out what makes that life so attractive to other people. I have many friends in the live production business and I decided to interview my friend Austin Schroeder.

Austin and I go back several years where we worked together at a sound production company in the heart of Amish country Pennsylvania. I remember him being tall and young with a head of wild hair. His license plate said Iowa and he drove a battered and abused car. He had the typical bad boy rocker look, you know, the type of guy you are afraid to take home and meet your Mom. My job at the production company was to book production work, write contracts and take care of travel for the production guys. Austin worked on the production side and I watched him more than once get used and abused and worked to the point of exhaustion. All to get severely underpaid for his efforts; but he kept coming to work and pushed through because that’s how he rolls. Six years later he is still pushing on and has taken on full time traveling production work. I asked Austin if I could pick his brain and this is what he had to say….

First of all, I hate the term “roadie.” When I think of a roadie, I think of a dirty, out of touch with society, carnival worker type of person. I’m a tour manager, production manager, or audio engineer. I’m educated, responsible, and take showers every day!

How long have you been living life as a roadie (or rather… a tour manager, production manager, or audio engineer?)
“It’s been a good 6 years.”

Why did you choose this profession?
“I always knew I wanted to be involved with music in some shape or form. And I didn’t want to spend my life sitting behind a desk, being bored out of my mind.”

What is your background and where did you get your start?
“I started out playing music in bands and working in recording studios, and decided that I needed something more than that.. which led me to the world of live concert production.”

Who are some of the biggest named artists you’ve worked for?
“Cee Lo, Christina Aguilera, Dawes, Train, Queens of the Stone Age, Sara Bareilles, Blues Traveler, Hanson, JoJo, U2, Donavon Frankenreiter the list goes on….”

Have you ever been star struck?
“Honestly, it’s never really phased me. I look at “stars” as just normal people. Which is exactly what they are! Being around it all the time and getting to know these people gives you an overhead perspective.”

Have you had any “oh shit” moments? Like… “Oh Shit— Why is Bono is giving me crazy eyes? What’d I do wrong?” or “Oh shit… Sheryl Crow just threw a bottle at my head cuz’ she hates her monitor mix”
“Haha, I have those moments every day! That’s sort of what keeps me enticed, and keeps me on my toes. Doing live sound is a constant barrage of things going wrong and having to fix them as quickly as possible. Its intense, stressful, and I love it.

What is a typical show day? What do you do after a show is over? Do you go party or go back to a dingy hotel room and drink Jack Daniels and pass out?
“There’s a pretty wide spectrum of a “typical day.” The type of tour I’m doing and the budget that is involved plays a pretty big part in how the day pans out. Usually load in will happen early morning/mid afternoon. Then a sound check will happen to make sure all the gear is working and everything is dialed in and tuned for the show. After the show and after load out happens, where everything gets packed up into the truck or trailer or whatever we have… I’m usually so exhausted from the long day that I’ll go find someplace to chill and relax and take it easy. People’s perception of party life out on the road is usually pretty skewed. It’s a job, just like any other job. We have a lot of responsibilities and things that we have to make sure happen smoothly and efficiently. If we’re drinking jack and partying down all the time it makes it a lot harder to do a good job, and in MY eyes makes you look unprofessional.”

What are your co-workers like? Do you get along?
“I’ve worked with every kind of person you can imagine. Most people that tour are pretty down to earth and easy to get along with. But don’t get me wrong, there a lot out there who AREN’T..

Are you in a relationship? If so, how is it working out with you on the road?
“Currently, no. The first few years I started touring I was in a relationship, and believe me, its tough… it takes a lot of trust, patience, and perseverance.”

What is the hardest thing about your job? The easiest?
“The hardest thing, or the thing that frustrates me the most.. Is having to rely on other people at venues or anywhere really, to help your day go seamless and stress-free. You get let down a lot, and that’s just part of the game. Taking a crappy situation and making it a great one! The easiest part is looking like a bad ass while you’re doing it. ;)”

Do you have any tips for travel? How do you keep from getting sick? Do you have any travel secrets?
“I’ll usually have a stash of some sort of multi-vitamin or drink mix. Emergen-C is a great one. I drink one of those every day. I make sure to try my best to get good sleep, even if it means finding a hideout to take a little nap during the day. And eat healthy! Its so easy to go after the greasy fried bar foods and late night after show fast food stops. You have to resist the urge! Lots of fruits, veggies, and water. I also recently started getting into yoga and doing stretches as often as I can to stay limber. Your body really starts to feel it after sleeping in a bunk on a bus for a few weeks.”

Do you want to do this for the rest of your life?
“Absolutely not. I come across a lot of the old crusty guys that have been touring for 20 or 30+ years and every single one of them seems to be miserable. Living on the road takes a big toll on your body and soul and I see its effect on people all the time. I’m definitely in the infancy of my career, but I’ve already started thinking about the future and what I can do once I start to feel a little crusty.”

Anything else you’d like to add about the “secret life of a roadie” that I haven’t asked…..
“Don’t give the sound person any “suggestions” during the show! They don’t care!” (I’ve heard this one before! Reference my last blog A Golden Ears Perspective: What Your Sound Engineer REALLY Thinks)

This is certainly not a job for the weak or weary, the person who likes the comforts of home or consistency. This type of job takes a strong will, a strong mind and you must have a passion for it. Quite frankly, just the thought of having his job gives me slight anxiety… I’ll stick to the stage or being cooped up mixing behind a computer at home. Got get em’ Austin.

*Photos courtesy of Austin Schroeder

Katie Robinette

Business Development & Mulitmedia Design at Talent Provider Network
She has been called "ubiquitous" and there could be no better word. Katie Robinette enjoys all aspects of the music business and likes to keep active in as many avenues as possible. This includes actively singing Jazz, Blues, & Mo-town to 80s Pop/Rock and Dance covers and actively works behind the scenes in the industry with the Talent Provider Network.

During the boy band era she sang and danced her way in front of Universal and Virgin Record Execs and performed in front of thousands for the famed Showtime at The Apollo.

Meanwhile, Katie discovered another love; the love of writing music. Katie attended the famed Musician Institute in Hollywood, California for Commercial Recording and finished out her college years at York College of Pennsylvania with her Bachelors in Music Industry & Recording Technology all while improving her vocal chops with diverse and innovative training in the Classical, Jazz Blues & Pop arenas.

Katie has been a member of outstanding corporate bands and entertainment entities from Philly to LA and Dallas to Chicago.

She is currently working on writing, recording & producing her first full-length solo album.