Both Melua and October concur that the deep bond they share has resulted not only in a commitment to technical excellence, but an innate trust between the two and the rest of the band that can only be attained over time.
“It’s absolutely essential to have someone at FOH who completely understands what it is you’re trying to do, how you want to get the sounds to come across, and how you want the energy of the songs to come across,” says Melua. “It’s essential. You could be creating the greatest magic onstage, but if that isn’t being conveyed through the speakers to the thousands of people there, there is no point. So, it is vital that we work really closely together and keep honing that to make sure the quality is excellent.”
For October, the openness that exists between her, Melua and the rest of the band makes for a fruitful dynamic that doesn’t always materialise between artist and crew.
“It’s fantastic to have a really good ongoing relationship with an artist, as there is huge trust and you know that you can take risks,” she says. “When you’re out there and you feel something, you can just run with it. With Katie and all of the band, if I feel something could be improved, or I feel that something could be done slightly differently for the stage sound, I know I have that kind of relationship with them where I can say that, and it isn’t going to put someone’s nose out of joint.
“I make a big point of making sure that the source is right, as that can be the cause of many problems. And you do sometimes rub musicians up the wrong way because the way they are doing something doesn’t translate in a live situation, and you have to say, ‘no, I know what I’m talking about, and I need you to change the way you are doing that’. We don’t have that friction with this band. There is a lot of mutual trust and appreciation.”
“That’s really important,” adds Melua. “We want honest feedback from Bryony because she is the only one hearing the show the way the audience is.”
That sense of collaboration and dialogue which exists between the two recently manifested itself in the form of a joint decision to incorporate a barely road-tested brand-new microphone from Shure – the KSM11. Such was its quality that Melua and October were in agreement that it had to be drafted into their touring itinerary.
“I’ve had a long relationship with Shure, and with the KSM11 they approached me about trying out a prototype that didn’t even have a name at the time, and I was about to go out on a run of summer dates with Katie,” says October of how they came by the mic. “We decided we’d give this new mic a shot on the last hour of the last day of rehearsal, just so I could say that I’ve tried it, and then maybe we’d try it again in soundchecks once we were up and running.
“We tried it and we were instantly like, ‘ooh, that sounds nice’, so we went with it straight away and used it on the first show, which is quite risky, as you’re taking it into the completely different context of an outdoor show. But it seemed to get better and better, even in the uncontrolled environment of an outdoor show. I’ve never known an artist to react to a microphone like that, but Katie was particularly enamoured by it straight away. My usual philosophy with live concerts is to take the low-risk option, because there are so many variables and you need to keep as many things consistent as you possibly can. But we’d had such a positive response in rehearsals that we wanted to just go for it.”