By Bob Hamill
In show business, there is not a tougher job than being a sound man (well, except maybe cleaning up after elephants in the circus). Ryan Dill has that job (not the elephants) and he works at the Smoky Mountain Opry for the main show and the Blackwoods Morning Variety Show.
“I got interested in sound when I realized it paid more and was a longer lasting gig than being a musician,” he alleged. Ryan, or what I like to call him, “Sound Master,” is a very good drummer and guitar player.
“I grew up around sound because of my father. He owns a radio station. My father believed in variety, everything from big band to bluegrass, to opera, to show tunes, to classic rock and to oldies. He must be doing something right as the radio station is in its fifteenth year and still going strong.”
Ryan worked at some recording studios after he graduated from sound school in Ohio. He didn’t like the lifestyle of really late nights and boring retakes after retakes. He had a distant relative who was working at Dollywood and knew they were looking for another sound person. He drove 10 1/2 hours for a five minute interview with the entertainment director and the chief sound person. After the interview they informed him he might receive a call. One month to the day Dollywood called and offered him the job. He has been in Pigeon Forge since 2010.
Once you’re in the sound chair life does not get easier. Each performer has an opinion as to how their resonance should sound. All too often the sound the entertainer hears is not what the audience hears. The sound man has his tools and is in the audience. He hears what the audience hears.
I asked Ryan what was the best thing about being a sound person. Without an intake of air, he said, “The cast. You very seldom get an attaboy from management, but go backstage after a great show and the staff is so supportive. They make you feel like a rock star.”
Of course I couldn’t ask him about the good without the bad. “One thing my dad told me before I started doing this is you have to have a thick shell. You have to have a lot of patience. People don’t know all the things that go into being a sound man. My dad also told me to watch out for ‘Divas’ who just complain to complain. Fortunately at the Opry I work with professionals who let me do my job and they do their job.”
“One of the toughest shows to get started is a new act with a lot of sound cues. I like that challenge as it keeps me on my toes.”
Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Ryan is a 28 year old single guy. Ladies line up. And the next time you see a live show, when you pass the sound booth, give the sound guy a thumbs up and a thank you.