Ryan Huddleston, Technician to the Stars

Ryan Huddleston is a professional audio engineer, technician, and backline specialist, as well as an accomplished recording and performing musician. He's been a key figure in world tours, recording sessions, and production designs for hundreds of clients, including Taylor Swift, Linkin Park, Kelly Clarkson, and Michael Bolton. He's currently on tour with Train.

Hi Ryan, Nice to Catch up with you.  What are you up to today?
Today was an amazing day!  I am in New York City with Train.  This morning Train performed three songs on Howard Stern’s radio program at 9am, then we went and did a multi-camera shoot of a live performance of the full record, Led Zeppelin II.  After that we loaded the trucks and got on the tour bus, headed to the Mountain Jam music festival tomorrow in Hunter, NY.

 What do you have on your schedule for the rest of the year?
I'm currently on tour with Train, and I go to every Train concert.  Train is releasing the record Led Zeppelin II this week, so we will be touring through the rest of the year all over the US & Canada.  We just got back from Bordeaux, France, and will probably end up in the UK & Australia towards the end of the year too.  I love traveling and seeing the world, while working with the best musicians in the business.

What is something that most people have no idea goes on behind the scenes to pull off a live show?
Well, my job is one most people have no idea about and is critical to every live concert and recording process.  I am a Backline Technician.  Backline is the equipment that musicians use, such as drums, guitars, amps, keyboards.  My specialty is guitars and playback systems, but I am versed in dozens of instruments.  I generally dial in the guitars and amps for sound check, and do the hand-offs with the guitarist just before each song at a live concert.  I also operate the playback system, which runs automation through programs like Pro Tools.  This includes sound fx, click tracks & cues, backing orchestration, fx processing, MIDI instrument control, time code to Audio/Video/Lighting/Pyro, and more. 

What is the most memorable tour you’ve been on and why?
Wow, there’s been some magical tours, but I would probably go with the Michael Bolton tour.  We went to about 60 countries in the 4 years I worked with him.  There were so many great experiences, musicians, friends, and major productions.  We did shows for royalty, presidents, major corporations, sporting events, festivals, and more.  That’s also where I met my girlfriend Ruki Garuba—she's Michael’s fashion stylist. 

How did you get your start as an audio engineer and technician?
My father owned several music stores in Oregon when I was a child, but school is where I found my footing.  Getting a solid technical background with six vocational degrees and loads of specialized classes and certification programs, opened a lot of doors.  That’s also why I got my first real gigs at String Masters and Sound Productions, when I was 18.  By the time I turned 21, I’d finished my training and was on tour with Green Day, The Go-Gos, Joss Stone, John Mayer, and so many more.  I always meant to go back to school, but I just haven’t had a break from A-leveling touring in 12 years. 

Why do you think is it important for musicians to understand how to properly maintain and repair their own instruments?
That’s a great question.  An instrument is a tool—knowing how the tool works will always give you better results.  Knowing about setups will give you better tone, make the guitar feel incredible & look better for longer, and increase the value of any instrument.  Understanding why things break and how to prevent failures is essential for any serious musician. Taking proper care of an instrument will avoid embarrassing experiences on stage and in the studio, make you a better player, and save you time and money.  You'll also be the hero of the day the next time other musicians are in need of real experience, accurate procedures, and rock star secrets.