(Photography: Adam Elmakias)
Virtuoso violinist, YouTube sensation and New York Times Best Selling author, Lindsey Stirling recently embarked on a North American tour and, just before she took off, we had an opportunity to meet her front of house (FOH) engineer and production manager, Rob McWhorter.
Lindsey began studying classical violin as a child and was catapulted into the limelight as a performer in the 2010 season of America’s Got Talent, when she became known as“The Hip Hop Violinist.” Although she was voted off the show during the quarterfinals, her unique fusion of Celtic folk and classical violin, dubstep and dance struck a nerve. Lindsey’s signature sci-fi- and fantasy-themed videos have garnered more than a billion YouTube views, while her hits have topped the Billboard charts, and she’s enjoyed a series of sold-out concert tours. Her third studio album, “Brave Enough,” is slated for release on August 19.
During her live show, Lindsey twists and twirls alongside four dancers while switching between four violins. “The fact that Lindsey can play as stably as she does while she’s moving is amazing, but working on her violins can still be complicated,” said Rob. “A violin is an acoustically based instrument but, with the band’s EDM, dubstep, electronic and pop dance style influences, we have a lot of volume. We can’t keep a live mic in check with Lindsey and instead need to run all of her violins direct.
“Always having a direct signal means there’s a lot you need to do to make the sound as big and natural as possible,” he said. “One of the key elements of Lindsey’s violin sound is reverb, and I have a pair of Lexicon PCM 96s on this tour to help give me the biggest, most spacious and ambient reverb as possible. That way, I can run them very wet and still sound natural.” Rob also deploys the Lexicon PCM 96s for Lindsey’s vocals and the drum kit.
Rounding out Lindsey’s violin sound, Rob uses two dbx 676 Tube Microphone Preamp Channel Strips. “I have slightly different settings for each violin—various combinations of reverb, EQ, compression and different pre-amps—and two of the four instruments rely on dbx processing,” he said.
Having worked with Lindsey since her debut tour four years ago and also serving as her production manager, Rob uses JBL speakers for the onstage monitoring. “All of our monitors are JBL, and we’ve been using them since day one. In the four years that we’ve had them, I’ve never had to replace a driver. We use a drum sub, wedges at the keyboard position and side fills for the dancers. That way, if any of their IEMs go out, I know they’ll still be able to hear the mix. The JBLs are solid and never let me down.”
Asking Rob to define Lindsey’s unlikely amalgam of styles and how it impacts his mix, he said, “She has really carved out a totally unique niche that can’t be classified. I try to create a different vibe for every song that fits the theme of what’s going on with the video, the costuming, the dancing, the music and the energy in the room. Lindsey’s very involved with every aspect of production, and it all comes together in a really remarkable way.”
Many thanks to Rob for sharing his insights on working with Lindsey Stirling! Are you a FOH engineer who works with artists who incorporate extensive movement into their performances? Share your challenges and solutions in the comments.