Black Dog Recording is a music recording and production company owned by Pete Jacobs in Nashville, TN. At Black Dog Recording, we offer recording and production packages that independent artists can afford while ensuring the finished project is polished, professional, and powerful. We specialize in retro/vintage/rock/folk/pop styles.
Pete graduated Berklee College of Music with a degree in Music Production & Engineering. Since Berklee, Pete has worked with and observed the recording techniques of grammy-winning engineer, Joe Ferla (John Mayer, Esperanza Spalding, Roberta Flack, Norah Jones, Pat Metheny, etc.) and Matthew Ellard (Radiohead, Weezer, Black Sabbath, etc.). Pete has also toured as a supporting act for Jefferson Starship with his band, Dirty Blind.
At Black Dog Recording, Pete offers tracking, editing, and mixing services, tailored towards the independent artist that is looking for classic and retro rock, pop, folk, and americana styles. Our studio has top notch outboard hardware and software, as well as classic instruments. We also have a list of professional, local Nashville session players and vocalists to perform on your tracks!
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Interview with Black Dog Recording
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: I do a lot of tracking and mixing for Americana and Rock artists/bands, recording vocal, guitar, keyboard, bass, drum overdubs, and editing, including melodyne, drum edits, quantizing, comping, etc. I also do a bit of post-production work for radio ads, short films, concert videos, and music videos.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: Budget, musical style, length of the project, and client expectations.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: I think most people expect that an audio engineer is supposed to push this botton, turn that knob, and make magic out of whatever has been played. What I do most is listen. If I'm tracking and a kick drum doesn't sound right, I don't reach for an eq, compressor, or a "fix it" knob. I re-tune the kick drum and/or move a microphone, or switch microphones, or tell the drummer to hit it differently. Microphones are just the ears. The source is what makes the sound. My job is to make it sound in the control room like it sounds in the live room. When it comes to mixing, contrary to what a lot of people say, I do think some things can be fixed in the mix. I don't think everything can or should, but there are some tricks to making everything sound "sweet," which is the real goal, isn't it?
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: My promise is that I guarantee I will deliver you something that I think sounds great! I will not deliver anything to you that I am not satisfied listening to. If it would make my iPhone playlist, then it's ready to send back to you. I will absolutely do my best to make sure it caters to your musical aspirations and stylistic preferences!
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: "Can you just fix ______ instead of me playing it/singing it again?" (Usually referring to a bad drum fill, out of tune bass note, harsh vocal, etc.) My answer depends.... Often it's actually a yes, though I don't always prefer that way of doing it. "Crap in, crap out" can also sometimes be the case, and some things just shouldn't be fixed in editing.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: When some unexpected magic happens. I love when people suddenly have a spark of creativity and come up with something unique for a song or when a happy accident happens, and everyone really loves the result. I also love when I get to try/learn something new.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Eddie Vedder, Pete Townshend, Tom Petty, Crosby Still Nash and Young... As I see it, these guys have more soul in their pinkies than I can conjure up in my whole body, and I would LOVE for that to rub off on me a bit. Plus, I just can't get enough of their music!
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: I do mainly "musician" oriented popular music styles from americana and country to pop, rock, and blues. I dabble in electronic music as well and am happy to work on other styles.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: When I'm not working on music, I tend to listen to classic rock, 90s rock, and acoustic styles: The Beatles, The Who, Rolling Stones, Oasis, Pearl Jam, John Mayer, etc. I've always enjoyed working on other styles of music, and sometimes I find I can be more objective with other genres. As for production professionals, I've been lucky to befriend and work with some AMAZING ears like grammy winning engineer, Joe Ferla (John Mayer, Van Morrison, Pat Metheny, Esperanza Spalding, Norah Jones, etc.) and Matthew Ellard (Radiohead, Weezer, Black Sabbath, etc.), and they taught me a LOT of what I know about music production. I've also had the opportunity to pre-mix some tracks for Michael Brauer, and he is one of my biggest mixing influences.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: I work in a DAW (digital audio workstation), but I LOVE the vibe of working with analog. I've worked on tape, and it's a tactile and patient experience that often leads to more musical results (Using your ears instead of your eyes on a computer screen.) Analog isn't dead, but it is expensive and nowadays is often unnecessary. There are so many ways to emulate analog with astonishing results now that I don't worry about being "all analog." I do aim towards that vibe though with regards to how I conduct a session and how I mix.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: My studio has a live room with two isolation booths, and a guitar amp booth. My current setup includes Barefoot MM45 speakers, a Folcrom summing mixer, a Tubecore 3u compressor, Bettermaker EQ, and some wonderful mics and pres, including a Flea 47 and a Sonic Farm Creamer Plus pre. My mixing is all hybrid style, with my outboard comp and eq, and Softube Console 1, as well as UAD and other plugins.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I'm a big fan of organization and pre-emptive planning. I prefer to start by discussing what an artists expectations are, then discuss my expectations, and put a strategy together to make sure the project is completed efficiently and satisfactorily. I prefer to work with an artist to fine tune their "vision" for the tracks being worked on. When tracking, my goal is to make whatever I hear in the live room be what I hear in the control room. Creative sounds can of course be achieved if desired, but I always strive for "honesty and clarity" first. As for my mixing technique, I tend to throw all the faders up and just listen to the track dry for a bit at first, to get a feel for the song's "story," and then start dialing in a good feeling mix with volume and panning before I sculpt away at frequencies and add compression/fx.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I want to FEEL something when I lean back in my chair to listen. I'm both a purist and an instinct engineer. I'm not sure if the term "engineer" is really accurate for my way of thinking about it. I approach audio engineering as an art as much as possible, and my goal is to let the song tell the story. If I can close my eyes and be really IN THE MUSIC, I know I've done my job well.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: I think my ability to take an artists vision and enhance is as opposed to interfere with it is my greatest skill. I don't go into a project trying to make anyone sound like ME, nor do I want to sculpt away at it until it's sterile and bright and loud. I DO have a sound when it comes to mixing, and that's just a result of my instincts, influences, and lastly, the gear I use, but the artist is the customer and the customer is always right.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Go into a project with a vision and come out of it being pleasantly surprised. By that I mean, have a goal, but don't be afraid to try something new, and don't be too stubborn. That applies on either side of the glass, artist and producer/engineer alike. Just like life, plans get you going in the right direction, but you'll find amazing things when you take the back roads instead of the highway.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: I tend to lean towards warmer tones that breathe instead of hard, loud, and bright sounds. I'd say that I've got an "analog" ear with a digital workflow.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I have been a guitarist, singer, and songwriter myself for 15 years. Ever since I started writing music, I started trying to figure out how to record myself, using whatever DAW or tape recorder and crap microphone I could find as a kid. Then I got the opportunity to study music production and engineering at Berklee College of Music, and I jumped at the chance. I've been recording everyone I can ever since.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: I think of music as an art not a science, and collaborating often leads to wonderful, unexpected things. As long as all parties are open minded and enthusiastic, we'll make some great music!
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: I just finished producing and mixing an americana album for Will Payne Harrison, and I'm currently about to put out my own rock album as well.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: Flea 47, Beyerdynamic M88, Sonic Farm Creamer+, IGS Tubecore 3u, Bettermaker EQ. Let's make a record!
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I'm proud of my recent work on Will Payne Harrison's "East Nashville Blues." I co-produced and mixed this album. I went into this project having worked with/played with Will before, and I had NO idea the level of talent he had collected to bring to the studio. Every player contributed so much creativity, tastefulness, and musicianship. When a project goes smoothly like that, we all just relax and smile, and enjoy the process. It really shows in the end result. You can feel the comfortable and pleasant vibes that were in the studio on the CD.