Touring Success: 10 Tips from a Nashville Professional

Last month, after our first editorial blog called “Let’s Blog This Out,” we got lots of great responses from some really great people. To each of you who reached out to us, we are so grateful to be resonating with such quality people as you!

Over the next few months, I’m asking some of these quality people some questions that are important to work, life and career. And today, I have the privilege to share an interview with one of those super-quality folks, an industry great, Chris Lisle.

Professionally, Chris has risen to heights in his career working with such artists as OneRepublic, Miranda Lambert, and Robert Plant just to name a few. He also has done the Music City July 4th production which this year was nationally recognized as the largest in the U.S. These are among his many other professional accolades. All of that to say that Chris is an astounding Lighting Designer. But even more than that, he’s a great person.

He gives to others with his time and expertise. He collects donations for Toys for Tots each year. He regularly serves as an Adjunct Professor at Belmont University in Nashville, where he imparts his experience to young aspiring touring professionals. Chris is a co-founder of the Touring Career Workshop, which has a mentoring and networking component. The Touring Career Workshop is designed to serve and educate those in the touring music industry. I am blessed that Chris is a friend and colleague who goes above and beyond in his support for us and for our business. Without further adieu....The Interview

Q1) Having worked in this industry over many years, what drew you into the live event industry in the beginning of your career? Chris: After a failed attempt at college, I sort of stumbled upon this industry. Immediately I was taken in and knew it was the career path for me. Lighting Design encompassed three things that I loved dearly: art/creativity, music, and travel. The absolute perfect fit!

Q2) What keeps you staying in this career tour after tour? Chris: The constant challenges and changes in technology. There are no "Groundhog Days" in our industry, and every day is different. With the developments of entertainment technologies, we are finding fun new ways to keep the audience enthralled during performances.

Q3) How have you seen the industry changing over the years? Chris: Without a doubt, LED technology has been a great asset to our industry - it has changed the worlds of live video and lighting for sure. Also, the touring industry as a whole has changed - Artist are not selling records like they used to and must tour to make real money - so things are busy!

Q4) What are the biggest challenges you face in your line of work? Chris: The ability to not be repetitive - to not copy something you (or someone else) has done before. We are always striving to find ways to do something new and exciting visually.

Q5) What do you do to stay ahead of the curve and to see what's coming up next, keeping things fresh and current. Chris: Really, just keep a pulse on the industry - keep in contact with the lighting, video, and scenic manufacturers. Make sure that I know what new is coming out, and the potential for its uses. I watch other designers as well and try to challenge myself creative to keep doing new fresh stuff.

Q6) As far as scenic elements, what are you looking for when deciding on your stage set? Chris: We love unique pieces that people will remember and talk about for sure, but I also keep in mind the technicians that are dealing with those pieces on a daily basis. Are the pieces durable? Do they get dirty easy? Do they transport easy? We also deal with the typical issues of budget, space, and time. We weigh all of these to try to come up with something that work f

Q7) What kind of challenges you have when using backdrops and scenic? What kind of product do you wish was available? (Better service? More interesting, innovative choices? Do you need products that are easier to use and travel with?) Chris: Sort of same answer as above :) I love when "artist" create scenic pieces - where I can go to a scenic company with a broad strokes vision, and their in-house "designer/artist" can run with the concept to present unique ideas.

Q8) We have seen many stages becoming almost completely LED. Is there still a place for soft goods in the market or is it all going to LED as they get more affordable? Why would someone use a soft goods product versus an LED product? Chris: LED is important and will be around for a while, but the one thing that LED cannot create is DEPTH. I can use the depth of drapery, scenic elements, tiles, etc to create visual depth - something that I truly go for in my designs. We use a ton of LED up and down lighting to highlight the scenic elements, so they both play well together.

Q9) We are attending and exhibiting at LDI For the first time this Fall. Do you have any tips for navigating all the workshop options and the exhibit floor? Chris: LDI is sensory overload! Its like a big smoky fun theme park! I personally am so busy on the floor that I rarely am able to attend the workshops. The floor is where a ton of networking gets done, and is a great time to take a good pulse on the industry to see whats new and whats coming up. It is hard to see everything - even in three days. I look at a list of vendors ahead of time and plan out in order which one are my priority to spend time with.

Q10) Are there any other questions that you think of that we should have asked? haha Chris: No questions - but did want to leave you all with one final comment - Blue Nova is awesome and I LOVE working with them on my projects!!

Thank you again, Chris, for being great at what you do, for being down to earth and for sharing with us today. There are several things that Chris said that I will take with me that will literally change how we look at our own products.

I love the part about the differences between soft goods and LED lighting. Chris pointed out that LEDs will never be able to provide DEPTH. Now, that is truly insightful. I will look at each of our products differently now having this idea in mind. Each product will be looked at through the qualifier of depth. I want to make sure that our scenic pieces will add value and interest to the Lighting Designers world. Thank you for reading and sharing your time with us! I hope that this interview with Chris Lisle has given you some new insight as it has for me. These are fun times that we live in! We get to use these new technologies in innovative ways. We get to go to work everyday and use our creativity to come up with something that surprises. Let's get out there and do something great!

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