Kenny Chesney truly has a sounding board in Bryan Baxley.
The band monitor engineer since August 2008 for every live show by the country superstar lives in North Myrtle Beach – where he grew up – so he’ll be home on the weekend when Chesney headlines the Carolina Country Music Fest on June 10.
Baxley, bringing up his “Opie” nickname, called himself a “red-headed talking guy from a little town,” just as a young, happy Ron Howard portrayed on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
With Chesney doing “festival shows” this summer, Baxley said his schedule is a little lighter, and he’s looking forward to four weekends in a row with time off in July.
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He joked that sometimes when he talks of being on Kenny’s team, people might first think Kenny Rogers and forget it’s another superstar Kenny.
Seeing the process of a Southern gospel group’s album recording in North Carolina – including the whole mixing process – bent Baxley’s ears in the best way. With a degree in music and show production from Full Sail University in suburban Orlando, Fla., Baxley said the first place he shopped his resume was the Alabama Theatre in North Myrtle Beach, and the management “hired me to work that night.”
Spending 5 1/2 years there, Baxley met so many star guest performers, and through those channels, connections with Chesney emerged, starting on a 2004 as a sound tech, then that autumn, he joined the crew for Dolly Parton’s “first cross-country tour in four years.”
“I got to work for both artists in one year and never stopped,” Baxley said, praising both for their kindness and ultimate professionalism.
Baxley said touring with “older, established artists,” he’s fortunate not to be part of a team setting up and taking down for “278 shows a year and visiting every radio station along the way.”
“Luckily for me,” he said of Chesney and Parton – owner of “Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show” in North Myrtle Beach – “they like to be at home, too.”
Flying home to give ‘Daddy day care’
With 2-3 days worksdays a week with Chesney’s tour, Baxley gets to fly home almost weekly. That’s more important than ever, the Mullins native said, because he and wife Kelley Baxley, a professional counselor, have a 7 1/2-month-old daughter, Brynley, and he delights in giving “Daddy day care” when he’s home.
He also extends his love and perfection for entertaining sound work on smaller stages in communities when he’s not on tour. Through Baxley Sound & Multimedia Solutions, he’ll goes into a school, church, or any other place that has a sound system, he said, and tune the system installed there, equalizing all the inputs to eliminate feedback and “make it all sound as good as the system possibly can.” His services also include teaching and training for a venue’s team.
On tour, Baxley said it all boils down to “the loadout” for each concert, how quickly all the wares are shifted to trucks, so “you get yourself in bed, wake up in a new city, and start the whole process again.”
He said “so many people travel with a show as big as Kenny Chesney’s,” even this year with a festivals circuit, with less equipment, because for an arena or stadium, “we have to bring everything with us except the seats,” and setting up the stage, lighting and other elements will take all day, if not longer. Then the band instruments have to be set up, “we come in with sound and wire it all, ... and before you know it, it’s 8 o’clock” and show time.
“It’s a choreographed dance,” Baxley said, “if it’s done correctly, and it takes an army to make that fluid and smooth.”
Bringing 3-4 trucks, vs. 19 for a stadium stop
For this Myrtle Beach concert, Baxley thinks this Chesney tour stop – for which rehearsals for shows this year began in mid-February – will haul the whole music and sound equipment load in “three or four trucks.”
Yet, “on a stadium day, we’ll have up to 19 trucks,” he said, “and that’s not even counting what’s been done before we get there.”
For an NFL team’s stadium, a stage is built across an end zone with cranes, Baxley said, and that stage travels in 50 trailers of its own, with set-up taking as long as seven days.
“It’s pretty much like a circus coming to town,” he said, comparing it to a caravan.
Asked for his favorite Chesney recording, Baxley said right away, “The Good Stuff,” from the “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems” CD, released in 2002.
“Whoever wrote that song,” Baxley said, referring to Craig Wiseman and Jim Collins, “you can close your eyes and see everything going on.”
Other hits from that album included the title track, as well as “Young,” “A Lot of Things Different,” and “Big Star.”
Detailing his concert and audio mixing role into a definition, Baxley said he aims to make every show “sound the same for the band every night, whether we’re in a stadium, festival or club.”
He also salutes the road and set-up crews as MVPs, because they’re “the first people in and last to leave” at every site, making “this show tick and go on time.”
Contact Steve Palisin at 843-444-1764.
If you go
WHAT: Third annual “Carolina Country Music Fest”
WHEN: June 8-11
WHERE: On Myrtle Beach’s Ocean Boulevard, between Eighth and Ninth avenues North, with main entrance in corner near Ninth and Kings Highway (U.S. 17 Business.
SCHEDULED PERFORMERS: Alternating between two stages –
▪ Thursday – “Kick-Off Concert,” with Montgomery Gentry (Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry), Brett Young, Trent Tomlinson, Darrell Harwood, Walker McGuire, and Taylor Norris.
▪ Friday – Darius Rucker, Billy Currington, Kip Moore, Parmalee, Morgan Myles, Luke Combs, Lewis Brice, and Kennedy Fitzsimmons.
▪ Saturday – Kenny Chesney, Lee Brice, Granger Smith, Chris Lane, Lanco, Davisson Brothers Band, Love & Theft, Kevin Mac, and Lauren Jenkins.
▪ Sunday – Jason Aldean, Chris Young, Big & Rich (“Big Kenny” Alphin and John Rich), Gretchen Wilson, Drake White and the Big Fire, Jordan Rager, Runaway June, Jordan Davis, and Zach Seabaugh.
BUY TICKETS: Details at 877-435-9849 or www.ccmf.com
MORE FESTIVAL INFORMATION: 704-358-1004