A unique Luton van conversion featuring a Martin Audio sound system has enabled singer-songwriter Olivia Dean to perform live in her local East London area during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Conceived by Olivia Dean and Emily Braham with the help of Rob Sinclair and tour manager Andrew ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson (of Sinclair Wilkinson), the From Me To You truck tour has appeared in some unusual locations to help promote Olivia Dean’s new album of the same name.

Olivia Dean on her From Me To You ‘truck tour’

The Martin Audio rig was supplied by Wales-based CS Audio. Wilkinson had met the sound hire company’s MD, Paul Hatt, when he had provided an audio control package and was handling monitors on the Clean Bandit tour. As well as mixing monitors for other high-profile bands, for the past four years, Hatt has also operated Martin Audio PAs increasingly in his hire inventory.

‘We bought MLA Mini and grew the stock from there because I was so impressed,’ he says. ‘We do a lot of package control and monitor systems so we added 12 XE500 and 12 LE100s. For a long time we were just doing small PA hire, but the time came when we needed bigger boxes. Having had a good experience with the MLA Mini we purchased [Martin Audio] WPM and an iK42 amplifier infrastructure that would give us more flexibility of deployment. We then purchased WPS for a series of theatre shows – but almost overnight they were cancelled because of Covid.’

Then came the Olivia Dean challenge, and he was presented with the old Luton van in which to build the PA. ‘The brief was to quickly provide a compact PA, not too heavy and with a low power draw,’ he says. ‘I selected the [high-output, two-way, wide-bandwidth XD15s] in case we were unable to use the PSX subs.’

In the event, he was able to place three of the compact 15-inch self-powered Martin Audio subs in front – while the stage was sufficiently large to accommodate Dean and three backing musicians providing drums, bass and keys all on IEMs. The sound system’s plug-and-play preset provided an additional advantage for the sound engineer.

Olivia Dean live during the Covid-19 lockdownProduction had earlier turned to Matt Snowball, who played a significant role in the renovation process and he fabricated custom brackets to mount the XD15s to the sides of the van. FOH engineer Mat Collis mixes the show on an iPad and also drives the truck, while tour manager Wilkie Wilkinson controls the lights from an iPhone app.

‘We needed a sound system that would provide coverage for five people in a café, up to 200 people at a drive-in cinema,’ Wilkinson says, explaining the rationale behind the unique enterprise. ‘The XD15s and PSX subs throw a surprising distance ,which was really helpful on some shows that had the audience spread out so far. The sound quality was great too, everything was crystal clear even when pushing the system; a nice tight low end as well.’

Collis was able to virtual soundcheck at every location: ‘Luckily I had rehearsals to mix monitors and FOH so we had a good starting point but when we installed everything into the truck there was a lot of noise inside due to it being basically a fibreglass/metal box; therefore, some adjustments were needed,’ he says. ‘The plug-and-play preset was ideal for this, as I don’t have a lot of time to set up each gig – I have to scan RF and check 30 channels of FOH and six channels of RF before starting, so anything that saved time is a massive bonus. Everything is electronic including the drums, as the least amount of stage noise the better.’

More: https://martin-audio.com

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