For the Last 24 Years, Pearl Jam’s Soundman Has Been a Woman

Meet Karrie Keyes, the woman who makes sure Pearl Jam sounds as good as possible whenever they play live. As one of the few (only?) female sound engineers working at this level, it’s definitely worth getting to know her. This is from NPR.

Lots of people have jobs where they make their boss look good. But for over two decades, Karrie Keyes has been making sure her bosses sound good. Keyes is a sound engineer, and her bosses just happen to be Pearl Jam.

“Half our fans, they know who I am because they see me come out on stage,” Keyes says. “The ‘microphone girl,’ because I’m checking the mics.”

Keyes (whose last name rhymes with “eyes”) is Pearl Jam’s monitor engineer, which means she doesn’t deal with the sound the audience hears. Rather, she mixes the sound the individual band members hear, through earbuds and speakers, while they’re playing live.

“Sometimes it’s easy and everybody wants to hear the same thing,” she says. “And sometimes it’s really difficult, because none of them want to hear the same thing.”

From offstage, Keyes communicates with the band, especially lead singer Eddie Vedder, mostly using hand signals. The conditions for her work are unpredictable: Everything from weather and humidity to crowd size and sweat-drenched microphones can change what the musicians are getting in their ears. Over time, she’s redesigned her monitor system specifically to suit the band’s needs.

Keyes has been with Pearl Jam for 24 years. Hey career dates back to when, as a punk-loving teenager at a Black Flag show, she met a sound engineer who offered her a job.

Read on.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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