‘Attitude is 99% of the gig’ – sound engineer, Lee Kuhn

Sound engineer and musician, Lee Kuhn, reflects on his pathway to mixing FOH for Chris Janson and monitors for Darryl Worley after recently passing out of The Blackbird Academy in Nashville.

FOH Engineer for Chris Janson, Monitor Engineer for Darryl Worley and The Blackbird Academy alumni, Lee Kuhn. Photo: Josh Daubin

How were you first introduced to a career in live sound?

“Recording and playing music is my passion but I never considered it to be a career until I stumbled across The Blackbird Academy in Nashville. I enrolled in two seperate six-month courses on studio recording and live sound. The latter was based just across the road from Clair Global in Nashville, where I would visit and learn something new every day. I was able to get hands-on with the equipment and start my learning from the ground up. Once I graduated and mixed at a few local bars around Nashville, I began touring and mixing live sound for Chris Janson and Darryl Worley, which is a testament to The Blackbird Academy.”

How did you land your first gig?

“I owe everything to Blackbird Academy. I cultivated a relationship with my teachers and they trusted me a lot. While studying, I was invited to mix a VIP lounge in GEODIS Park, home of Nashville SC, as well as mixing some bands in bars and clubs in downtown Nashville. Amber Gray [Career Services Manager] at The Blackbird Academy helped me land the Darryl Worley gig.”

What lessons have you learned on the road?

“The number of people you meet on the road is incredible and it’s important to network with those who have a wealth of knowledge and have been on the road for many years. There is also nothing like a baptism of fire. During my second week on one gig, my production manager broke his ribs and collar bone, and I was thrown into the deep end and asked to mix live sound. You definitely learn from those moments. The thing I’ve discovered and improved on the most is, as simple as it sounds, being able to use my ears more. Mixing live sound is a constant learning process.”

How does Avid fit into your mixing setup?

“I mixed around 27 shows in two months with Chris Janson and we carried an Avid S3 on the road. Despite the fact that it is more compact than many other consoles, it is still powerful and intuitive with VENUE software. You can travel anywhere in the world and find Avid consoles, which is a huge benefit when you’re on the road. They are omnipresent, intuitive and if you need to swiftly load a file to soundcheck for monitors, its consistency is unrivalled – and of course, the backwards compatibility with other models is a huge plus.”

What is the best advice you have received?

“Attitude is 99% of the gig. I start every show with that mantra, and sometimes things go wrong and the hours are long and arduous, but the end result is always rewarding. I would also stress to be humble and know your worth because touring is a huge sacrifice to your personal life. Balancing work and a personal life is important to me and learning that while also cutting my teeth in touring will be a challenge, but I will find a way. Above all, never be discouraged, trust the process, network and ask questions.”

Where would you like to see yourself in the next five years?

“Ideally, I would like to be working consistently as a live sound engineer with the ability to carve out time in my year to be in the studio and record bands operating in the DIY music scene in Florida.”