Daychia Sledge, Audio Engineer, R. O. C. U. (Part 3)
By Liam Klenk
Daychia Sledge is a successful audio engineer. She has experience as a recording engineer in the studio, as a live sound engineer, and as a sound engineer for television. As part of an interview series with members of Roadies Of Color United (R. O. C. U.), this story in three parts focuses on Daychia. She tells us about her life and how amazing circumstances, great timing, hard work, grit, focus, and determination aided her in making her dreams come true. This is the last part pf Daychia’s inspiring career odyssey: Part 3.
During the slow months of January through March 2000, I had become a fully-fledged sound engineer. At this point, I was only working at the Apollo theatre. Every Wednesday night. In my free time, I was trying to push my way into the industry.
I started looking up all the contact sheets that I had kept from all the shows I did in the Apollo theatre.
These sheets had all the numbers of tour managers etc. I put a list of tour managers together. Promoted myself. Put myself out there.
Told them, I had engineered before. I lied. Because no one would ever let me be alone behind a desk. So, I put in my resume that I had already engineered.
I ended up having interviews with Jennifer Lopez and a couple others.
Remember the original manager at the Apollo theatre, Mike Jenkins, whom I had mentioned before? What happened was, he worked for Freddy Jackson as well. And Freddy Jackson was looking for a monitor engineer at the time. So, Mike asked me, “You wanna give it a shot?”
That’s how I started my first actual audio engineering job. Being Freddy Jackson’s monitor engineer.
The first show I had with him, I had everything set according to what they had told me in advance. It was a private affair. Three mikes and a tape deck. I set the whole thing up. Then, at the last minute they said, “We have a special guest. Diana Ross is going to be here tonight.”
I wasn’t prepared for fast changes. The sound vendor who had supplied the equipment that night had sent it with an engineer to make sure their equipment was safe.
This sound engineer saw I was green behind the ears. But instead of embarrassing me, he just walked me through it. I got through it and learned something new that night.
As I continued working with Freddy, I began to realize that different engineers do things differently. Because what he did was quite different to what the other engineers I had known up until then had done.
This got me thinking of developing my own, unique strategies. I wrote it all down in my notebook.
And that’s how I started to get really good at being an audio engineer. I started cutting my engineering teeth by working with Freddy Jackson, while also still working at the Apollo.
Then, one day, we were doing a show at the London Apollo theatre. They told me to get on a plane. We were opening for Chaka Khan.
I was thinking, “I wonder if I might be able to start working with Chaka.” I got on the plane and prayed to God about it, “When I leave London, I wanna leave with two gigs, Freddy and Chaka.” I didn’t even think that she already had a team. I was just determined. My mind was made up. I wanna get this gig.
I arrived in London. We did the sound check. After the sound check, I watched Chaka’s sound check. After that, we opened and did our show.
While we are opening, I felt this little body of a person standing next to me while I was mixing. I turned to my left and it was Chaka Khan standing there. Apparently, her road manager, Simone Morrison, had told her, “There is a young lady here mixing for Freddy Jackson. In want you to check her out.” Because they were looking for a monitor engineer.
I had no idea. I just knew I am mixing, and Chaka is standing right next to me. She was cool. Just stood there shaking her head, listening to the music. And then she left.
After our show, Chaka’s road manager approached me and said, “Would you like to stay and watch our show? I’d like to talk to you after.”
I stayed on the side and watched the whole Chaka Khan show. Then I went home in their bus. Because my bus had already left. And I’ve worked with Chaka Khan ever since.
With Chaka, I really became the sound engineer I was looking to be.
Now, I’m starting to work with other people I had contacted before and asked for jobs. Some eventually called me back. Some as much as a year later.
I worked with this weird Rap group who were contracted by Sony International. They were a big group in Germany called The Spooks. I was doing a small run with them in Europe. And low and behold, after ten years, I bumped into Rebecca Foster in Amsterdam of all places.
I was like, “Becky, how’re you doing?” I was basically on the same level as her then.
To this day, she still doesn’t know that I’ve always looked up to her. And we still never get to have a conversation. Each time we meet she’s like, “Yeah, good to see you.” And then she’s out.
So, there we were, with all these groups in the middle of Europe, but my highlight was working with Rebecca on the same gigs.
For a couple years actually, we kept working for the same gigs.
Then I got to this point where I was working but I experienced the freelancer life where you have money some months… and other months you have not. I realized, I needed to start figuring my way around that.
That’s when I put out my resume in television.
I figured, in this way, I can fill in my no-work-on-the-road time doing television work in New York.
So, I was looking for that. On yet another day in the Apollo theatre, I worked at Showtime at the Apollo. I was mixing and Mike Jenkins got a phone call from Charlie Jones. Mike was standing next to me when he got this call. And I heard him say, “Yeah, I know somebody. Yeah, hold on a second.”
He turned around, and asked, “Hey Daychia, are you interested in television work?”
He had no idea I had just made these decisions. That I was looking. And that I had talked to God about it.
Down at CBS studios at the time, there was a talk show they were building for Ananda Lewis. She was a big Television VJ and she was given her own talk show. As they were setting it up, she specifically requested a black female sound engineer for her show.
The only two women existing were Rebecca and me. And Rebecca never had five minutes to talk to anyone, me or anyone else.
So, Charlie Jones called Mike. And Charlie was also ultimately the one who hired me for the CBS Ananda Lewis show.
I began working at CBS studios. They had music, bands coming through. I did that for a couple of years. Now I had money coming in when I wasn’t with jobs on the road. It was pretty cool until two years later Ananda lost her show and I had to find another gig.
At this point, I was a well-rounded audio engineer. I had been a small-time recording engineer. I was a decent live sound engineer. And I was in the process of making a name for myself as a television sound person.
My resume was out in all these different big studios.
That’s when I got a call from ABC. They hired me as a freelancer for whenever they needed me. I called it my “permalancer” job. It was kind of like a permanent-freelance position.
I was with The View for a good number of years.
During that time, I met an engineer named Troy Hightower. He also worked at Fox News Network. And he said, “Give me your resume. I’m gonna get you in.”
Sure enough, I got a phone call shortly after. I did the interview.
And here is the biggest kicker: The interview was in the same location where the lady at Sam Goodies music store used to sit.
I got hired by Fox, and one night while I was mixing for them, I realized I was sitting in the section where the lady at Sam Goodies had said to me, she wouldn’t give me time off, fifteen years before.
Imagine, if I had made the decision to keep that apron on that day. And I had never gone to the Apollo for that internship, had never been given that phone number from Rebecca, never worked for African Roots, etc. In the end, I wouldn’t even have had a job at Sam Goodies anymore, because they went out of business.
So, I am sitting physically in that same basement, mixing that night.
It’s my lesson in following your heart, your passion. For me, if it wasn’t gonna be basketball it was gonna be something in Music. That’s how I got where I am now.
And once I found myself mixing sound for Fox News in that same basement, coming full circle in a way, it was the full confirmation for me that I had accomplished what I had set out to do.
I mixed at Fox News for a while. Kept it moving from there…
I am still engineering, still doing TV, still doing live sound. I also finally accomplished having my own recording studio in New Rochelle, NY.
You can find my Recording, Live Sound Systems and Production Services on this website.
I am building a whole network of studios. You will be able to book all studios that pass my test of high quality etc., through my website.
As of this moment, I have three studios in the network already. Mine in New Rochelle. One in Staten Island, New York, and one in Atlanta, Georgia. One more from Ossining, NY, way upstate is considering coming onboard, too. More will surely follow.
Eventually, if you’re anywhere in the world, in London for example, and you need a studio, you can book it through my website.
The last few months, because of Covid and the concert world being in limbo, I spent a lot of time in my studio, working on developing a system to record through Zoom.
I still work with Chaka Khan and have also worked with John Legend for a number of years. Also, Deborah Cox, etc.
At the moment, again due to Covid, the only work I have is the Tamron Hall Show on TV. She is a big-time news journalist who now has her own talk show. And I am her sound person.
That’s been my saving grace gig during Covid. It just came through a couple of months ago. They figured out how to Zoom in the audience so we are live.
Other than that, I just keep building my Mixwell network. My studio. I am also now building a class part. Over the years, a lot of people have come to me for emergency help. The good thing is, all those questions I asked over the years and put in my notebook, all that knowledge is now engraved in my head. Ready to be shared with others.
So, I’m building Mixwell university. I plan on launching it fully by September 2021.
It will be a place where professional sound engineers can go and learn everything about professional audio.
I’ll have tutorials about everything. All the stuff people always ask me. The things I used to have lots of problems with. Everything I learned over the years.
I am creating my own curriculum, covering all those things. It will be good to share, to support, and help others make their dreams come true, just like I was able to do through hard work and the support of those around me.