Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
In 1997 I co-produced the album Timeless Treasures of Country Music with Ricci Mareno and Jerry Gillespie. It was a 20 song collection of classic country hits re-recorded using the best technology available at the time. The artists featured were Kitty Wells, Johnny Wright, Bobby Bare, Jeannie C. Riley, Lacy J. Dalton, Jack Greene, Jim & Jesse, Leroy Van Dyke, Donna Fargo, The Jordanaires, The Kendalls, Tommy Overstreet, Don Gibson, Ernie Ashworth, Stonewall Jackson, Hank Thompson, Billy Walker, Jimmy C. Newman, Hank Lochlin, and Ferlin Husky.
I was responsible for much of pre-production and logistical planning for the album, including hiring the musicians, booking the recording facilities, coordinating with the video producer (much of the recording process was videotaped as well). The three of us shared the tracking, overdub and mixing responsibilities for the project.
I am proud of it because it utilized all of the production skills I had gained to that point, and through that I learned a lot about myself. I also had the chance to meet some amazing artists who I might otherwise never had the opportunity to work with.
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm currently working on a country rock album project with Mike Green at Studio C, as well as an ongoing mixing project involving updating old demos / masters for a local publisher.
Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
I just got to SoundBetter, so it may take me a bit to be able to answer that question.
What's your 'promise' to your clients?
To do my best to help them accomplish their objective. When they shine, I shine.
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
My career path has been interesting. I started working with producer / songwriter Ricci Mareno in the mid 1980s. I started in the tape room and worked my way up. He and I began co-writing in 1987, and starting in 1989 I worked as his assistant producer. Along the way I gained experience as a self taught engineer in our demo studio, where we would typically work through pre-production arrangements before renting other studios to record masters. By the mid 1990s I was co-producing various projects for our small production company and record label. In 2000 that company closed its doors and I became a freelance producer. Over the next decade I continued some writing and production work while working full time outside of music. In 2011 I decided to go back to school to earn my audio engineering degree. I graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in August of 2015.
Can you share one music production tip?
Let the song / project tell you what it needs. A good example is Chris Stapleton's Traveller album. All of the tracks are guitar centric, and most of the songs have little to no discernible keyboard parts (aside from some organ parts to add "glue"). This allows for a more open sound where the acoustic guitar caries the tempo with the bass and drums. In turn the vocals have much more room to shine because they're not fighting for the "middle" of the record. It also aids in the transition between uptempo songs and more the stripped down ballads. Sometimes less is more.
What do you bring to a song?
First and foremost I am a huge music fan and always have been. My personal taste in music ranges greatly. I am an ongoing student of the craft, and I believe I have a good sense of when a song "works." In truth, its all educated guess. I suppose the thing I bring to someone else's song is objectivity and constructive feedback.
What's your typical work process?
Though every project is different, the approach is similar. I first try to gain an understanding of what the desired outcome is in order to identify what needs to be done to accomplish it. Then I figure out what steps are needed to get there. As a producer it means taking a look at the material to be recorded or possibly finding material to be recorded. If this is a tracking project it means figuring out what instruments are to be recorded and when. The same applies to vocals and background vocals. I'm most comfortable working from an outline that I share with the artist and / or client.
Analog or digital and why?
At this point, digital. I spent years working with tape, and though I'll always have a soft spot for it, it isn't practical now. It costs too much to buy tape, and once purchased it has to be temperature and humidity controlled. Even with that, the tape will eventually break down and require baking and transfer to digital anyway. In the digital world there is non-destructive editing with multiple levels of undo, as well as the ability to duplicate any track so as not to effect the original performance. This opens the door for immense editing creativity and adjustment in the modern digital audio workstation.
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
Though I know it is not always possible, try to be clear both with yourself and your service provider about what it is you're trying to accomplish with your song - i.e., how you hear it sounding (mood / instrumentation); who are you trying to reach (audience / genre); and perhaps most importantly to keep an open mind - sometimes happy accidents or last minute adjustments during the recording / mixing process can be just what a song needs.
If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
Given the island had power, I'd take a 15" MacBook Pro Retina (2.8 GHz Intel Core i7), a Universal Audio Apollo Twin Solo audio interface, an AKG C414 B ULS Mic, a pair of headphones and an acoustic / electric guitar.
Though bare bones, that would allow me to write, record and or mix (sort-of).
How would you describe your style?
I am what the project needs me to be. If I'm working with a band that has a good handle on what they are trying to do then my role as a producer will be more advisory, guiding them toward their vision both musically and sonically. If it is an individual who needs help assembling all of the pieces of the project - i.e., songs, arrangement, musicians, etc.- I can wear that hat as well. My overall approach is to serve the end result; how we get there depends on the project. In all cases I try to keep the vibe constructive and creative.
What type of music do you usually work on?
Since I'm in Nashville it will come as no surprise that I've worked on a lot of country music. However, my musical tastes are broad, so over the years I've also recorded / mixed both rock and metal acts as well.
What's your strongest skill?
Tell us about your studio setup.
I have two rooms I work in - the first is Studio C Nashville, which is an in-the-box tracking and mixing facility in the heart of Nashville, located about a mile from Music Row. It is a purpose built recording facility with 10 foot ceilings in the main tracking room. It has a great collection of microphones and mic-pres allowing the producer / engineer a wide pallet of sonic "colors" to choose from. The second is my home studio, West Side Sound, featuring the same DAW software as Studio C. It is set up as a home control room with an added vocal booth. I do a bit of my editing, tuning and mixing work from there.
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
George Martin, Dave Cobb, T-Bone Burnett, Michael Wagener, Alan Parsons, Jeff Lynne
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
Right now I'm doing more engineering work, consisting of tracking, overdubs and some mixing.