Sound Engineer Brandon Blackwell knew at an early age he wanted to be in the music industry. Blackwell started his passion for live sound at age 11 for his local church in New Jersey. A graduate of Full Sail University, Blackwell has an extensive resume working with artists such as A$AP Rocky, Camila Cabello, Kendrick Lamar, Lizzo, Big Sean, and many more.
Blackwell published his first children's book, "The Beat in My Head," based on his life and journey to becoming a sound engineer. The book has been named among the best in family-friendly media, products and services by the Mom’s Choice Awards®. Blackwell and his wife, Ariel, brainstormed a creative way to bring awareness to live sound engineering. "We learned very early that there were no children's books on audio engineering, so we decided to focus on my journey to becoming a sound engineer," says Blackwell. "The Beat In My Head" is now the first and only children's book on sound engineering!” They have also created a movement called, “Black Audio Engineers Do Exist” to bring awareness to the existence of the small but very talented black audio engineering community.
Blackwell is blessed to travel worldwide and mix shows in places he never dreamt of traveling to. While freelancing in New York City, Blackwell got a crash course in mixing monitors for many artists such as Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle, The Isley Brothers, and Angie Stone. Blackwell's first R&B gig was mixing monitors for R&B artist Ne-Yo. During his stint with Ne-Yo, Blackwell mixed monitors at the White House and met President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. After a few months of working with Ne-Yo, Blackwell then went on his first tour with TLC as the Monitor Engineer and Production Manager. One of Blackwell's most recent successes was mixing a headlining act at Glastonbury Festival 2022 with an attendance of 210,000. "Not many African American sound engineers have mixed a headliner at Glastonbury. My mix wasn’t only heard at the festival but also worldwide on BBC’s stream," says Blackwell.
Blackwell says there is much to be done to bring diversity and inclusion to the live music industry. He partnered with Diversify The Stage, a 501(c)3 public charity founded by Noelle Scaggs, co-lead vocalist of Alt-Pop band Fitz And The Tantrum, to bring artists and industry professionals together to invest in the next generation of live music industry leaders. Blackwell says that African American live engineers are categorized to only mix certain genres. Blackwell had a few obstacles to becoming an engineer. One of his experiences was being a typecast. Blackwell used to only get called to mix for hip-hop artists. Blackwell says he can mix all genres. Music is music. He can mix it all. Blackwell says few African American engineers get the opportunity to mix football or baseball stadium tours. He wants to see that number grow in the near future.
Blackwell wants young people to know that there are many careers in the touring industry. He says the touring industry has opportunities but the awareness of these roles are not spotlighted much. “During my tour travels, I was blessed to experience different countries and cultures. I grew up reading about these different countries in textbooks, and now I have traveled all over the world and spent much time in many of the places I once read about," says Blackwell.
Blackwell hopes that both children and parents receive many takeaways from “The Beat In My Head”. “For the children, being misunderstood is ok. Grade wise I wasn’t the best student but once I found my passion for live audio engineering, life started to fall in place. For the parents, always remember to sow and invest in your children’s interest even when you can’t see their vision,” says Blackwell.
Blackwell advises future audio engineers to always be a student of their craft. Working professionally for ten years, Blackwell continues to learn and grow. "I spend much time researching new mixing techniques, both live and studio, to help me achieve the best mix possible.” He also shares his knowledge with other engineers through personal mentorships. “My goal for every concert is to bring the best sound experience to the fans,'' says Blackwell.
"The Beat in My Head," is available for purchase online at, Barnes & Noble, Target, Amazon and Walmart. To purchase a signed copy, go to brandonblackwell.com.
Tammy Gibson is a black history traveler. Find her on social media @sankofatravelher.