Brandi Carlile performs alongside Joni Mitchell, both using a Sennheiser SKM 6000 / Neumann KK 205 capsule combination (Getty Images/Kevin Mazur)
USA - History is often made at the annual Grammy Awards ceremony and this year was no exception, with legendary 80-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell performing on the live broadcast for the first time in her decades-long career.
The historic performance, also featuring Brandi Carlile, Jacob Collier, Blake Mills, Allison Russell, Lucius and SistaStrings, was captured with a variety of Sennheiser microphones, including Carlile and Mitchell’s own custom gold SKM 6000 handheld transmitters with Neumann KK 205 condenser capsules.
Also on the awards show, which was broadcast live from the Arena in Los Angeles on 4 February, rapper Travis Scott performed a medley of songs from his latest, Grammy-nominated album using an SKM 6000 with a Sennheiser MD 9235 cardioid dynamic capsule, a combination that his monitor engineer, Justin Hoffmann, calls “a game-changer”.
Mitchell has won 10 Grammy Awards since taking home her first in 1970, for her second album, Clouds. The album includes Both Sides Now, one of Mitchell’s best-known songs, which she performed on this year’s broadcast. Prior to the broadcast she won her latest Grammy, for Best Folk Album, for Joni Mitchell at Newport, a live recording from the 2022 Newport Folk Festival, an event she first played in 1967.
Mitchell accepted the award with Carlile, who, as the album’s producer, also won a Grammy - her eleventh.
Working with the Grammy audio team, Sean Quackenbush, Carlile’s front-of-house engineer for the past eight years, put Sennheiser microphones on most of the musicians for Mitchell’s performance, which featured everyone seated in a semi-circle, with Collier at the grand piano.
Carlile, who owns a pair of gold-plated SKM 6000s with KK 205 capsules and Digital 6000 receivers, gifted Mitchell an identical set last year for her 80th birthday, reports Quackenbush, who brought all four mics and receivers to the Arena for the show following rehearsals at Mitchell’s house the day before.
For background vocals, he continues, he chose Sennheiser MMD 935 dynamic capsules for Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius, and Chauntee and Monique Ross of SistaStrings. “We put a pair of e 906s on Blake Mills’ amp for stereo; he’s just a genius artist. And we put a Neumann KM 184 condenser mic on Allison Russell’s clarinet, which sounded fantastic, and a KM 184 on the cello, which sounded beautiful.”
Except for Mills and his electric fretless guitar all the musicians played acoustic instruments, Quackenbush also notes that he wanted to make sure that the FOH mixer was able to get enough gain before feedback with everyone monitoring through floor wedges. “But from the moment Joni opened her mouth it was just brilliant. There’s so much power in her voice, it’s amazing. That microphone captures and projects as if you’re standing right next to her singing in her living room. There’s no colouration. It’s the purest sound that you can possibly get.”
Quackenbush also won a Grammy Award - his first - for his role as recording engineer on Joni Mitchell at Newport. The album captured Mitchell’s surprise first public performance since suffering a brain aneurysm in 2015, which temporarily took away her ability to walk or talk. “It’s Joni’s moment and Joni’s award, and I’m just fortunate enough to be a part of it,” he says.

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