What happens BEFORE an artist hits that stage? More than most of us realize. It takes an army to get a show from town to town and from stage to stage. As history demonstrates, every army needs a good leader... a good sergeant to take his men into battle. This battle runs the white lines of expressways and roadways across America, as Mark "Sarge" Yuhas leads Colt Ford's crew across the country on the current "Crank It Up" tour. As this platoon of backstage soldiers entered Flint, MI to do battle at The Machine Shop, the fearless leader Sarge took time out to chat with us about this tour, what it takes to do this job, and even give a little insight as to what makes him tick...
Sarge: I'm all yours, buddy. What's going on?
Toddstar: What's going on, Sarge? How are you doing?
Sarge: Just another day in paradise.
Toddstar: Let's talk about that, man. You're at one of my favorite joints. You guys are playing at The Machine Shop tonight. How does it feel?
Sarge: Absolutely, I love this place. It's one of my favorite places that I ever come to.
Toddstar: What is it about Flint, Michigan and The Machine Shop that you like so much?
Sarge: I think it's the people, especially the owner Kevin. He's just a great guy. He always takes care of everybody, plus he has the nicest crew. He got a bad-ass joint. This place rocks.
Toddstar: Agreed. Let's talk about what you do. You're the tour manager for Colt Ford. You're the guy behind the scenes that gets everything done and make sure everybody is where they need to be. For a group like Colt Ford, how big a job is that?
Sarge: It's not too bad. It's like herding with wet cats really. That's a pretty bad joke, I know. It's not bad, it depends. It depends on what we're working with. If it's a club like this that we've been to a bunch of times, it's really just a two-minute phone call and a minute and a half of me and Kevin just catching up with each other. If it's a place we've never been to, it's a little bit longer, maybe 45 minutes, half-hour phone call. If we're on tour, those are even easier because it's the same people day after day after day and everything just runs real smooth.
Toddstar: What's your favorite part of coming into a place that you're familiar with, whether it be The Machine Shop or another club that you're playing with?
Sarge: Just catching up with friends and seeing people you haven't seen in a while. Usually you don't get around to the places like these only once a year, so it's good to catch up with friends and catch up with everybody.
Toddstar: Sure. What's a typical day for you? Other than making sure everybody is where they need to be at showtime, what's a typical day for Sarge?
Sarge: I usually get up 10 or 11. We get to the venue. Make sure my hands are ready, everybody else is ready when you load in. Get the drivers to the hotels. Get all the meet and greet stuff, all the bus stock ready, make sure the kids are ready, do sound check. Make sure Colt goes off and do all his media stuff, if he's got anybody that day or a phone or his interviews, yada-yada-yada. Dinner, meet and greet and show, it's me and Jager.
Toddstar: That happens to be one of my favorite parts of your routine as we've experienced in the past.
Sarge: [Sarcastically] No.
Toddstar: No, never, never. You've had a lot of experience in the country music world. You've been with Colt for a while now and before that you were Luke Bryan. But when Sarge needs to decompress, what does he listen to?
Sarge: Good question. I go from everything from Johnny Cash to Frank Sinatra to Nine Inch Nails to Marilyn Manson. Maybe a little Patsy Cline thrown in there.
Toddstar: Okay, that's a good mix.
Sarge: I'm a pretty eclectic guy. I go from one extreme to the other.
Toddstar: Cool. I know a little about that extreme, but everybody knows you as Sarge, explain that.
Sarge: When I moved in Nashville, I was working for a production company called Clair Brothers which is back then was called Clair MD. It was one of the larger production companies in the world. They do all the big tours. I was helping, I just started, and there used to be a thing in Nashville called "Dancing in the District" which was a show they put on every week, I think it was every Wednesday or Thursday. It was on a barge down on the river, it was a pretty big deal. Clair Brothers always had that show. We're onstage and I'm just there to help push gear and get stuff away. There's a person on the stage, they called the patch monkey or the patch person, and this individual just wasn't getting the job done nor was the stage turnovers doing good, you know what I mean? You get six bands onstage and you tend to get turnovers. If you don't have somebody able to direct the traffic, it could be a real cluster. The individual that was up there doing that job that day wasn't doing a very good job, so one of the Clair Brothers guys said, "Hey, it's your chance." I went up there and just started, not yelling, but speaking very loudly about what needs to get done, and someone turned around goes, "God damn, drill sergeant." There you go. The next day, everybody's calling me Sarge. Plus I was in the military, so I don't know if that has anything to do with input.
Toddstar: It might have something to do with maybe your tone and your gestures.
Sarge: It could be.
Toddstar: The tour that you guys are out on now, how hectic is your life when you're hitting a lot of the same spots? Do you pretty much go on auto-pilot anymore being so familiar with Colt and his routine and the band?
Sarge: Unless we're going to a new venue or we're out on a big tour, the first couple of weeks of a big tour, everyone's on their P’s and Q’s and just making sure everything goes right. After that, yeah, especially after end of the 12-week tour last year, it was such a good hang and good group vibe, I really didn't really have to worry about much. You do end up on auto-pilot, you just go through motions and make sure everybody's happy.
Toddstar: As the TM and the guy who gets shit done so to say, how big a task was the DVD production that Colt did last year?
Sarge: It was a lot of pre-prep work but the day of is pretty easy. There was a lot of phone calls, a lot of conference calls, a lot of e-mails. Before that, setting up what the camera guys needed, lights, sound. And lucky I have a pretty good production manager in Michael. He's a great production manager and Front of House (FOH) guy. The day of, we did a run-through which was good because the night of the show, we got rain, it rained hard. Some of the audio stuff dropped out because it was so wet and humid and so much rain. When we ran through the show in the morning, we recorded all that audio so it covered everything up. The DVD on the day of was a fairly easy day, a lot of work beforehand though. If you did all your prep work, your day of is going to be super, super easy.
Toddstar: Cool, very good to know. Again, you've worked with a couple of big boys in the industry, Colt Ford, Luke Bryan. Is there anybody else out there that's on your wishlist if you didn't have this Colt Ford gig?
Sarge: Yeah, Clare Dunn. She's an up and coming country artist, but she's a bad-ass. She used to drive a truck. She went to Belmont. She plays a hell of a guitar. She sings, she rocks. I've never really worked with a female artist and I would like to do something like that.
Toddstar: Okay. Talking about you a little bit more, when you get ready to go on the road, Sarge, what are the couple of things you look around your place at home, when you think, "I got to take this with me. I can't forget this."
Sarge: Let's see, cellphone, 222’s. [Toddstar laughs] Do you know what 222's are?
Toddstar: I do - AC&C's, yeah.
Sarge: My bagful of goodies, yeah.
Toddstar: For those who don't know, it's aspirin with codeine. We're not talking about anything illegal here.
Sarge: No, Tylenol with codeine.
Toddstar: Okay, so you pack light. You mentioned about bringing your cellphone. If somebody were to go through your cellphone contacts, what are the one or two numbers somebody might be tempted to steal out of there?
Sarge: Other than Colt's? Probably Luke Bryan or Dierks’ [Bentley] or Eric Church's or Blake's [Shelton]. I don't think I have Miranda [Lambert]. Miranda changed her numbers so I don't think I have her number. Kid Rock, I don't know. Those are probably the main ones.
Toddstar: Based on that list, don't put your phone down in front of me. All right, man, I know you're busy trying to get everything cool and catch up with Kevin, Minty, and everybody. One more for you, with everything going on...
Sarge: Shoot, I scheduled an hour for you so you better take it up.
Toddstar: I'll tell you what, what I don't use now, we'll use up later.
Sarge: There you go.
Toddstar: With everything you got going on, man, you got this tour and Colt's always a busy man, he always keeps you on the go.
Sarge: Yeah, the name of the tour is "Crank It Up."
Toddstar: The Crank It Up tour. With everything going on, what do you do to crank yourself up through the day?
Sarge: Jager Bomb.
Toddstar: Jager Bombs.
Sarge: I don't know. I have no idea. What keeps me motivated? Just the love of the music. Just the love of music and doing my job. I love what I do for a living. I'm always in a different place every day. It's not the same thing. I'm not in a cubicle somewhere, I'm just not built for that.
Toddstar: If anybody ever saw you or was in the venue, they would pick you out in the crowd just because like you said, you do enjoy the music, you've always got a smile on your face which is nice to see.
Toddstar: With all that said and with everything you've done, meaning your military career and then working your way up through the production in the music world, for you at this point in your career and your point in life, what is the meaning of life for you?
Sarge: That's a damn good question, the meaning of life.
Toddstar: Jager Bombs.
Sarge: Yeah, that's my standard reply to everything but I'll go with this. It's advice that I got from my granny many, many years ago, she said, "Take what you love and make that your job." A job has such a bad connotation to some people like, "I hate my fucking job. I hate my fucking job." Just take what you love in life and make that your goal and ambition. Incorporate what you love and make it a part of your life. For me, it's music. I love music and I could go with any band in any world and be a happy camper.
Toddstar: You can't break it down any simpler than that.
Sarge: Do what you love to do as a hobby and make that your gig. If your hobby is you love taking pictures, find a way to make that your life, what you do for living. If you like to draw, go draw. If you like to go drink, move to Vegas, become a bartender, whatever.
Toddstar: Sure. At the end of the day when all is said and done, Sarge, what's the one thing that you're most proud of and that you want to be remembered for?
Sarge: The guy who always makes it happen no matter how bad or how shitty the venue is, or how bad the promoter is, I always get the job done, I never lost a show. That and I'm always walking around with a smile and the Jager Bomb and I like to make everybody happy. I'm the happy guy, I make everybody happy.
Toddstar: You're the happy guy that gets shit done.
Sarge: I'm the happy guy that gets shit done.
Toddstar: I think we just came up with the toast for tonight. Again, I know you're busy, so I am going to cut you loose and let you do what you do. I will see you in a few hours.
Sarge: Yeah, we'll see you tonight. We'll have a couple of cocktails.
Toddstar: Sounds good. Talk to you, Sarge.
Sarge: See you, buddy. Have a good day.
And by the way... we toasted to the happy guy who gets shit done a few times that night!!!
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