Jim Howell is a seasoned musician who has toured internationally on Blue Rose Records (Germany). His studio experience is as a musician, producer and engineer can be found in many credits spread across multiple genres. He operates his own custom built studio in Tucson, Arizona.
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Interview with The Jim Howell Music Studio
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: John Moreland. Man, can he write some songs!
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Use your ears and not your eyes. Whether this is in the playing of an instrument or the engineering. How does it sound? Doesn't matter what is happening on the computer screen if it doesn't make a good sound naturally.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Roots based rock, country, americana, and blues.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: Getting a song to sounds cohesive and as if the entire production is meaningful and true to the song.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: Great ears and attention to the mood, theme, intention and meaning of the song. I like to connect music with the lyrical content in an expressive way that complements rather than overtakes.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I like to start with tracking some main rhythm instrument (like acoustic or electric guitar or piano) with Logic Drummer and a scratch vocal. Then a band can track live to that with as many instruments as they need or layer things from the bottom up individually. Sometimes saving the drum set overdubs for the end even works if the groove of the Logic Drummer works well with the song.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I have one main recording room with an open control area in the corner. I like to hear the instruments in the room and not be isolated while tracking. This works great since I often do a lot of overlays or tracks where I am recording myself and in the main space. I also have a couple of adjacent room where I can isolate amps or a singer when separation is needed. I use a iMac computer with a Mackie 1640i analog to digital mixing console. I have several mics for each type of application and a variety of in house instruments, amps, drums, digital keyboards/controllers and a baby grand piano in an adjacent room to the main studio room.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: I really love roots music and find the production of Dave Cobb to be superb. I have always liked how Rick Rubin can bring out the best in bands/artist while getting them to simplify and be more precise to the needs of the song. and for his work with The Beatles and David Bowie, Ken Scott.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: I am often found playing drum set and percussion for bands while producing/engineering their band. Another feature I have done is drum tracks to replace a click or demo drum machine that then get exported to a hard drive or sent out digitally via Dropbox as individual WAVE files for each track/mic to be mixed into the song. Some bands track here either live, partially live or part by part to some pilot tracks usually recorded to a metronome or Logic Drummer. Since I also play keys, harmonica and guitar/bass and sing harmony quite well. So there are times where I'll hear that perfect layer instrument and get to add it to the song pulling the whole thing together.