2019 CVMA WINNER ‘BEST SOUND ENGINEER’
By Noe Gutierrez
There are many overlooked champions in the Coachella Valley and High Desert music scenes. One such hero is sound guru Gregory Little, winner of the 2019 ‘Best Sound Engineer’ Coachella Valley Music Award. Little is a Team Leader and Corporate Trainer for PSAV, a company founded in 1937 that provides impactful meeting, trade show and event experiences through creative production, advanced technology and staging services. Going up against nominees Nigel Dettelbach, Jon Ballard, Jeff Mazur, Jason Maxfield and Chris Unck, Little does not underestimate his cohorts and it was evident in his acceptance speech where he placed the emphasis of his win on others. Isn’t that just like Greg to put others before himself? Once again, congratulations Greg!
We connected with Little while he was “working” in Philadelphia.
CVW: Congratulations on your ‘Best Sound Engineer’ win. The sound engineer is one of the the least glamourous titles in the music business. They are the unsung heroes of the music world. Why is it important to put a spotlight on sound engineers and what they do?
Little: “All tech specialists want is to make each event the very best it can be. I think it’s important for people to know that the more information they can share with the engineer, the easier it is to have a great show. I also love that I know most of the local engineers and they are all like-minded people who just want to do a great job. I’ve had a blast working with just about everyone on the nomination list.”
CVW: Your wife Laura is your biggest supporter. What can you tell me that we don’t already know about how you feel about her and how has she helped you become so successful?
Little: “Laura is definitely my better half. She allows me the freedom to jump into projects at a moment’s notice. She encourages me to stretch my boundaries, which sometimes means that we have eight projects going on at once. We met via the Boy Scouts. At one point we had all four boys in the scouts. We are proud to say we got one that made it all the way to Eagle! She’s there for better or for worse!”
CVW: You are big on helping others and teaching others the craft of sound engineering. It’s part of your job but it’s also apparent that you are passionate about it. Other than the obvious, why is it important to have teaching as part of the profession?
Little: “My mom was an English teacher and on weekends she was involved in community theater. She was also in charge of the theater department of our high school. My father was a chemical engineer who said, ‘I hate this job so I’m going to follow my passion and become a magician!’ He has also been a lifelong teacher in the magic community. So, I had some pretty big shoes to fill. They both told me early on, the most important thing is to love what you do, and you have to pay it forward. During my entire career I have been fortunate enough to have people guide and help me. So, in return, I have made it one of my priorities in life to MAKE the time to help others. It has become such a passion that I can’t even go to Best Buy without helping someone pick the right TV or surround sound system. It is my nature!”
CVW: You’ve facilitated sound for so many artists and venues in the Coachella Valley and beyond. What artist, venue or event has been the most memorable?
Little: “I am so very grateful for all of the opportunities I have had. As kids we grew up watching concerts at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. At 19 I got to do my first show in that venue, and it felt so good. A little later there was a show at Foresgate Country Club in North Jersey where the promoter and I flew in his plane to Northeast Philly to get some extra equipment. On the way back he thought it would be cool to show me what his twin engine Baron could do, so he dive-bombed the stage from 10,000 feet, much to the surprise of my crew! This other time my friend Bob and I were mixing the ‘B’ stage at the Creation Festival. I was front of the house and my friend Bob was running monitors. Bob had a bad attitude one day, so I sent Bob to talk to the band, within 5 minutes they were ‘laying hands’ on Bob to remove his evil spirits, good times indeed. I have enough corporate stories to fill a book. The corporate shows are some of the coolest parties you’ll never hear about unless you were there. Fast forward 30 years and I have a funny feeling that there are even better times to come!”
CVW: What is the most important aspect of sound engineering that the layperson needs to know about the profession?
Little: “A good engineer is always learning new things. They should be well-versed in theory and handy with electronics. Most importantly they should seek input and guidance from the people they are working with to assure the artist’s visions are aligned. Last but not least this is supposed to be FUN!”
CVW: Give us your company and peer shout-outs that helped you achieve the 2019 CVMA for ‘Best Sound Engineer’.
Little: “That’s an easy one, my buddy Ron and Chip who, back in high school, took me from doing sound for theater to doing sound for rock bands. Next Zeo Brothers Productions, Dan, Phil, and George who gave me my first job and a ton of guidance. My corporate job for the last 20 years at Swank Audio Visuals and PSAV have allowed me to raise my family while doing what I love to do. They also got me involved in corporate training 15 years ago and it has become one of the favorite parts of my job. I met Phil Lacombe and Tracy Dietlin from Coachella Valley Weekly six years ago. At that time, I hadn’t been mixing bands in quite some time. Phil was in a bind for someone to do sound and asked if I could help him on a project and of course I offered to help where I could, the rest is history! I jumped back in and haven’t stopped since. Since then I have discovered what an incredible music community we have in the Coachella Valley. I have made so many friends and been fortunate to work on some killer projects. From The Pedestrians to 5th Town, Blasting Echo to House of Broken Promises I have had a BLAST! I could fill this whole page with incredible musicians who have reinvigorated my creative spirit by allowing me to help them get their message out through the PA.”
CVW: You are also a family man. Are any of your kids showing interest in the music industry?
Little: “One of my four boys, Kurt, works shows in Denver, Colorado. He’s been doing corporate AV for about five years now. My other boys are hard at work finding their way in this world. I love them all deeply and I’ve made sure to tell them the same thing my folks passed along to me; make sure you love what you do and pay it forward.”
CVW: You are so well-respected by Coachella Valley artists. I have been in pow wows with other musicians and the conversation turns to how have you not won this award every year? What can you say about working with the desert’s finest?
Little: “I am humbled by that question. When I watch someone invest everything they have into their music I am energized. Folks in the Coachella Valley give their hearts and souls to what they do. They share their talents with each other. They go to each other’s shows in support. They even lend their equipment and sometimes volunteer themselves to help a fellow musician with a gig. How cool is that? That does NOT happen in most places I’ve been to. I will always be grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given. There is always something good going on, so it’s hard not to have FOMO!”
CVW: Anything else you’d like to add?
Little: “I want to give a huge shout out to those venues who support our music community. I’ve been fortunate enough to operate a consulting business too. This has allowed me to help upgrade AV and install systems in all kinds of great places. Lisa Lynn Morgan and Ken Hanna do such a great job over at the Big Rock Pub and I am grateful for them. Kristen Reinhagen Ortiz kicks some major ass at the Date Shed and she throws some other fun parties out there too! I miss Dennis and Kathy Ford too! Josh and Linda Heinz do such great work with their Concert for Autism benefit, I look forward to doing it every year. I’ve had great fun with BB Ingle and jimi FITZ Fitzgerald. Our hotels throw some of the coolest parties you’ll never hear about, it’s NEVER boring. There is so much going on in the Coachella Valley. I see some big opportunities for large show productions on the horizon, so hold on tight, I think things are going to get even cooler out here.”