Quickly becoming on the of the hottest stars in country music today, Cole Swindell has recently set out on the “What the Hell World Tour” with fellow country music superstar Dierks Bentley. Fresh off his very successful “Down Home Tour”, Swindell and his production team were looking for a fresh tour design to take on the road in 2017. Once again working with tour provider Elite Multimedia, production manager James “Mo” Butts began the process of finding the ideal tour design and in the end, it was the creativity of Sooner Routhier at SRae Productions that was chosen to highlight the Academy of Country Music award winner.
“When we started outlining the new tour design we chose four designers that we really felt were doing great work and asked them to submit design proposals for a completely new production design,” began Butts. “As an artist, Cole loves video and it’s a primary request in his designs. He also likes a wooden, industrial look to his tours, and Sooner really did a great job of applying her own interpretation to the design requirements for a creative, new tour design.”
“When Mo contacted us and asked us to submit a proposal for the tour design, we started by asking the questions about what the artist wants, and what he likes to see on tour,” added Routhier. “With this being our first time working with Cole, we needed to find out what style of show he wanted and we then went back through his previous designs to make sure we were giving him a completely new look within the guidelines provided.”
Now on board, Routhier and the design team at SRae Productions got to work to make the design concepts a reality. Starting with the set design, she drew her inspiration from the rustic, earthy design materials the artist wanted to see, and then applied her own unique since of style.
“With the set design, we were inspired by wooden and metal architectural elements. We wanted to find creative ways to incorporate those into the staging,” continued Routhier. “Rule number one in scenic lighting is ‘light the scenic’. We did so with small LED up lights along the set carts and larger wash lights downstage.”
Continuing the production design process, Routhier next turned her attention to the lighting design that would best showcase the artist and his music. Since the production has a long-standing relationship with Elite Multimedia, Routhier had her first introduction to the Nashville-based tour provider.
“We are very vendor neutral and since Elite Multimedia already has a great relationship with the production team for Cole, we were excited to be working with them for the first time as well,” explained Routhier. “As we began piecing the lighting elements together, they sent us an inventory of what they had in stock, and they had everything we needed to make the design exactly what we wanted it to be.”
Working together, Elite Multimedia and SRae Productions decided upon a tour lighting package that included Clay Paky Mythos, Elation Professional ACL 360i, and Martin MAC Aura Wash luminaires.
Routhier continued, “When designing, we like to have a minimal amount of types of fixtures, but a good quantity of those specific fixtures to create bigger and more cohesive look. Since Cole would be opening for Dierks Bentley, we didn’t have the ability to put a lot of lights in the air, so we needed to make sure we were using a fixture that had a lot of capabilities. For this, we chose the Clay Paky Mythos to operate as both a wash and beam fixture with its gobos and prism capabilities and they are our only fixture across the top. We then needed a versatile effect light to place inside the set so we chose the Elation ACL 360i with its continuous rotation and its ability to create asymmetrical focuses for beautiful fan effects that shoot through all the wooden elements.”
Now that the lighting and set design were complete, there was one final design requirement that needed to be implemented; the LED video. As an artist, Swindell likes to have a significant video presence on his tours, and working with video designer Andy Reuter that is exactly what Routhier and Elite Multimedia provided using a PixelFLEX FLEXCurtain HD 12.5mm LED video wall.
“In the design, Mo also requested a video surface for content but we wanted to make sure we provided a new look. We designed a long LED video wall that extends across the entire set,” said Routhier. “We then contacted Andy Reuter who does a great job creating original video content. Together, we make the relationship between video and lighting as cohesive as possible so that there are not a million crayons on stage.”
“When we started creating the content, we looked at what Cole has had in the past and what best fits his musical style,” admitted Reuter. “One of the things that was a bit tricky was that we would need to design the content to a wide 1920 x 606 aspect ratio, so we kept the content as one large composition with a lot of mirroring, and then we also use a lot of IMAG during the show as well. I had never worked with the PixelFLEX LED technology before and it was really cool to have the curvature in the screen so that it wasn’t simply a flat wall. It gave the stage a really big look bringing everything into the center and focused everything on Cole and the band.”
With the “What the Hell World Tour” now out on the road, country music fans are once again embracing the soulful artist who is playing sold-out out crowds across the country. Backed by his powerful new tour design, the production team is excited to have given the artist a creative backdrop for his impactful music.
“Our vision is that the production design is there to support the artist,” added Routhier. “In the end, we want the audience to be excited about what they heard and saw, but the focus has to be the artist and the music.”
“This is a sizeable production and we have about 12 minutes to complete the changeover on the road, but it works,” explained Butts. “When I started with Cole, it was me, him and the band and we were in one bus and trailer with very little gear that was mostly sound equipment and back light. We have now grown to three buses and a semi-trailer playing some of the largest venues across North America, and it has been great that Elite Multimedia has been there to support us the whole way.”
Elite Multimedia is a privately-owned, leading supplier of the most up-to-date audio, video and lighting technologies today. With a combined 85 years of industry experience, our team of dedicated professionals knows how to pair the right technology with your vision whether partnering with you in a rental, systems installation, or sales relationship. Through an unconditional desire to make your production or project a complete success, our passion and knowledge to innovate knows no bounds. For more information on how Elite Multimedia is the right partner for you, visit www.elitemultimedia.com, follow us on Twitter at @EliteMultimedia or find us on Facebook or Instagram.