Friends in High Places

Webster alumnus engineers Garth Brooks’ latest album

September 16, 2014 – When a major recording artist announces a tour and an album, it’s rare that the audio engineer receives any attention at the press conference. But at a July press conference for country music superstar Garth Brooks, Webster University School of Communications alumnus Matt “Buster” Allen was surprised to hear Brooks say, “We got a young kid . . . called Matt Allen and he's a fantastic engineer and is growing every day so it's nice to see this young man become his own guy and who he is as an engineer."

“I was pretty blown away when I heard it,” said Allen. “It’s very rare to get mentioned because you’re the guy in the shadows, just helping the producer and artist make the album happen. It was a feeling of validation.”

Allen is working as a main engineer on the first album Garth Brooks has released since his retirement in 2001.

“Mark Miller was Garth’s previous recording engineer and now he is the producer,” Allen said. “He’s been training me over the past years to fill his position. It’s a lot to take in as a young gun but they’ve all really helped make me comfortable in my new position. Garth is one of the most sincere and honest people I have ever met, and one thing he does is continually thank his whole team for helping him, because he knows that we're all in this together, helping get it done, and he's grateful for your time.”

Allen previously engineered a Garth Brooks compilation four-album box set titled “Blame It All on My Roots.” He’s also worked with Trisha Yearwood and has served as an assistant engineer on a Don Henley record.

Allen has lived in Nashville since 2006 where he moved shortly after receiving his undergraduate degree in Audio Production. He worked at two different internships and made a number of connections in the music industry.

“I have an interesting gig traveling with Kevin Costner as a stage and guitar tech,” said Allen. “He has a band of really great friends and we’ve been able to travel the world playing his original music. It’s been some of the greatest times I may ever have in my life.”

Throughout this busy time, Allen also worked at occasional assistant engineering gigs with Mark Miller to learn more about recording sessions. He said that the advice he would give to current students would be to practice as often as they can.

“If you're not recording and mixing, then you are not developing your ears in the way they need to be developed,” he said.

While he continues to learn and practice as a working professional, Allen has positive things to say about his time at Webster University.

“I think overall, Barry Hufker [Chair and Professor of the Audio Production Department] was a big guiding force for me. He always took the time out of his evenings to write back to all of my e-mails. And Bill Porter [late instructor and audio engineer to Elvis Presley] was the whole reason I moved to Nashville. His classes were gems of knowledge and I was so glad I was able to spend my time with him.”

The other advice Allen would give to students is something that can’t be found in a book or from a mentor. “It helps if you are nice, fun person to hang out with,” he said. “The control room can turn into a really small place after a number of 16-hour days, so you want to walk in and still have a laugh the next morning with everyone.”

Allen is busy finishing up on the newest Garth Brooks album, which is expected to be released this fall.

“In the gaps of recording with Garth and Trisha Yearwood, I'm working with a local band, doing tech work and enjoying the free time when it's available,” he said. “Life is short; you can't work all the time.”

For more information on the Audio Production program, please visit their page.  

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